Phantoms move forward on captains


Returning players Apap, Esposito joined

by newcomer Pooley as elected leaders

By Tom Williams

williams@vindy.com

BOARDMAN

Youngstown Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson wasn’t surprised when returning forwards Tommy Apap and Alex Esposito were selected as two of the team’s three captains for the 2015-16 season.

He expected it.

“If you had asked me before the season who our captains would be, I was [certain] they would be [selected},” Patterson said Thursday after the team’s practice at The Ice Zone.

The third captain is one of the team’s many newcomers, but he brings USHL experience. Last season, forward Austin Pooley was one of the Fargo Force captains.

“He’s an energetic guy who not only leads on the ice but off the ice,” Patterson said.

Patterson said his policy is to have players and staff vote on the team leaders. He was pleased to see that his instincts matched what others viewed.

“Excited and honored” was Apap’s reaction after the vote was announced.

“Last year, we had some great leaders and we really looked up to them,” said Apap, referring to captain Matt Alvaro and assistants Matt Miller, Chase Pearson and Lekas Craggs.

Normally, Apap will be sporting the C on his jersey. But this weekend because of an injury, he’ll be watching from the stands, giving Esposito and Pooley a chance.

“Tommy is probably one of the greatest kids you’ll meet,” Esposito said. “He cares about his teammates, he cares about his friends — a great leader.

“He puts the team before himself — couldn’t ask for a better captain.”

A year ago, Apap and Pooley were teammates — in North Dakota before Apap was sent to the Phantoms.

“Tommy has some great leadership attributes to him,” said Pooley who is living in the same billet home as Apap. “We’re trying to get this team going in the right direction.”

This weekend, the Phantoms (0-1-0) return to Plymouth, Mich., to play Team USA’s U-17 squad. Last Saturday, the Phantoms opened the season there with a 5-3 loss to Team USA’s U-18 team.

Four of the team’s six returning players won’t be on the ice. Forwards Noah Lalonde and Garrett Hall are nursing injuries while Esposito’s younger brother, Eric, has a two-game suspension stemming from a fight in the opener.

Patterson made his debut as head coach in that game, but it wasn’t exactly a new experience. Twice in the past two seasons, he served as head coach when Anthony Noreen (2014-15) and John Wroblewski (2015-16) served suspensions.

“They treated me as an equal,” Patterson said of his experience leading up to his promotion.

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