Phantoms’ goal: Picking two new netminders
Phantoms are without returning goalie
for first time in six USHL seasons
By Tom Williams
During the Youngstown Phantoms’ past six training camps, there has been one constant — a returning goaltender.
That streak is over as Florida Panthers draft pick Ryan Bednard is at Bowling Green and three-year veteran Colin DeAugustine is at Ohio State after turning 20 and exhausting his USHL eligibility.
Over the next two weeks, new Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson and his assistants Tom Upton and Jeff Potter will be watching their net closely as Darion Hanson, Connor O’Brien and Ivan Kulbakov battle for two roster spots.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years to have returning goalie,” Phantoms General Manager Jason Koehler said at Wednesday’s Media Day at the Covelli Centre.
Koehler said there “was a hope” Bednard would return.
“But when you are a NHL pick and have all those tools ...” Koehler said.
Koehler considered trading for a goalie with USHL experience, but wasn’t overwhelmed with the market.
Instead, they are about to test three newcomers to the league.
The Phantoms are most familiar with O’Brien who played for Potter last season with the North American Hockey League’s Lone Star Brahmas.
“He had a pretty good first junior season,” Koehler said.
Hanson also has NAHL experience, playing last season with the Aston Rebels. Kulbakov is from Belarus.
“He’ll be joining us [soon],” Patterson said. “We have three great [options].”
Patterson, who replaced John Wroblewski as head coach in June, said the coaches have plenty to watch as the USHL’s Fall Classic approaches. The preseason tournament will be staged Sept. 15-17 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa.
Over the next 12 days, the Phantoms must reduce their current roster of 33 by 10.
Seven players return from last season: five forwards (Garrett Hall, Noah LaLonde, Eric Esposito, Alex Esposito and Tommy Apap) and two defensemen (Ty Farmer and Carter Ekberg).
“He’s going to be a great [head] coach,” Hall said of Patterson, a seven-year assistant with the Phantoms after playing two season with the Youngstown SteelHounds. “I like his style — he’ll give you room [to be creative] as long as you are willing to work.”
Three other players have USHL experience: defenseman Jake Gingell (Omaha) and forwards Austin Pooley (Fargo) and Evan Wisocky (Sioux City).
“The more experience, the more proven the player should be,” Patterson said. “We look for players who have played in the league and have a big upside. I think that’s what we have.”
This won’t be the first time since their inaugural 2009-10 season that the Phantoms have lacked USHL experience in goal. Jordan Tibbett was in the team’s second training camp then accepted a scholarship to play for Mercyhurst before the USHL season began.
That opened the door for Matthew O’Connor, now a goalie in the Ottawa Senators’ system. O’Connor played two seasons with the Phantoms and led the team to its first of three playoff berths.
Koehler said his model has always been “a go-to guy and heir apparent.”
Sean Romeo (two seasons) and DeAugustine (three seasons) followed O’Connor as the team’s veteran presence in training camps.