By Tom Williams
For the second straight game, the Youngstown Phantoms surrendered a goal in the final minute to force overtime.
This time, their bonus hockey magic ran out.
Jake Jackson’s goal with 57 seconds remaining in overtime lifted the Des Moines Buccaneers over the Phantoms, 4-3, Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.
“We’ll talk about this one on Monday,” Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen said. “They know what happened, I don’t have to repeat it to them.”
Jackson’s shot in the high slot eluded Phantoms goaltender Sean Romeo, who finished a busy night with 39 saves.
“I don’t know how many quality chances he saw, but he did a very good job with his rebound control,” Noreen said.
One of Romeo’s best stops came about a minute before the winning goal. Buccaneers forward Danny Elser was perched about six feet in front of Romeo, who stuffed his shot with his goal pad.
“He was excellent as far as eating pucks up,” Noreen said.
In the third period, Kyle Connor and Tyler Spezia scored to give Youngstown a 3-1 lead with with eight minutes to play.
It quickly melted. A minute later, Jack Jenkins pushed the puck past a sprawled Romeo to slice the lead to 3-2.
Then with goaltender Billy Christopoulos pulled for an extra attacker, Jenkins struck again, tying the game with 53 seconds remaining in regulation.
“We never should have let it get to that point,” Noreen said of the collapse. “We should have had 10 on the board ... at least six or seven.
“Credit [Christopoulos], he played really well,” Noreen said. “We had as many premium, Grade A-quality scoring chances in that game as probably we’ve had in a game all year and we didn’t bury the puck.”
It was the Phantoms’ third overtime game in seven days. Last Sunday, Kyle Connor scored in overtime as Youngstown defeated the Chicago Steel in Bensenville, Ill.
On Thursday here, the Phantoms had a 4-3 lead against the defending USHL champion until the Dubuque Fighting Saints scored with 10 seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. JJ Piccinich’s goal in the shootout gave the Phantoms (14-29-5, 33 points) a 5-4 win, their sixth victory in February.
But instead of continuing the trend, March is off to a rough start similar to what the team experienced in the season’s other five months.
“The bottom line, our guys need to close out games,” Noreen said. “We didn’t close out the game when one of our veteran lines was on the ice for the second and third goals against.”
Late in the first period, Kiefer Sherwood’s 12th goal gave the Phantoms a 1-0 lead. The scoring play originated with a two-on-one break as Spezia carried the puck into the Buccaneers’ zone, then passed past defenseman Jimi Kuronen to Sherwood in the slot.
Early in the third period, the Buccaneers (18-22-7, 43 points) tied the game by converting on an odd-man break. Elser skated into the slot, took a feed from Brandan Shane and flipped a backhand shot high into the net over Romeo’s glove. Connor Schmidt also earned an assist.
“All three of those [third-period] goals started with the puck on our stick and ended up on theirs and in the back of the net,” Noreen said. “They are a good team, they work hard, we let them hang around and that’s what happens.”