By Dan Hiner
Youngstown Phantoms forward Max Ellis only scored one goal through the first 13 games of the season. But he scored two on Saturday to give Youngstown an overtime win over the Chicago Steel at the Covelli Centre.
With two minutes to play in overtime, Ellis grabbed a rebound and scored from the right side of the net to give the Phantoms a 4-3 win.
Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said Ellis has made “tremendous strides” since last season. Patterson also said Ellis is valuable to the team because he can be played in multiple situations.
“Not only is he an offensive force, but he’s good away from the puck,” Patterson said. “He’s dominant on pursuits and he’s rewarded offensively. He’s got such good speed that he’s able to find those opportune areas.”
Chicago entered the game with the best record in the USHL Eastern Conference. The win over the top team in the standings not only gives the Phantoms some confidence, but also helps the team get over a 8-5 loss to Team USA from Friday night.
Youngstown (6-5-2-1) had a 3-2 lead in the third period, but a goal by Chicago’s Blake McLaughlin tied the game after grabbing a rebound on a break. Patterson said the game-tying goal was a result of miscommunication.
“Our fourth guy up didn’t realize there was a defenseman in the rush,” Patterson said. “[He] didn’t hold up soon enough, they get a break the other way, [goaltender] Ivan [Prosvetov] made the initial stop but they tap and rebound.”
Patterson said it was “tough” to see the Steel tie the game, but he like what he saw from his team because multiple players stepped up to get the win.
The Phantoms needed to improve on defense after its loss to Team USA. Including overtime, the Phantoms held the Steel to 27 shots on goal — they allowed 34 in regulation to Team USA.
“It was something we keyed on in our defensive zone today,” Patterson said. “You can look at it last night and be frustrated, and we are, but it’s pretty rare that you have 22 shots and eight go in the net. It was one of those freak nights, and with that being said, we needed to be better.
“There’s no excuses about it, I thought we were better from the back out. That started with our goal tending and worked out to our [defensive] core and up front as well.”
Alex Barker got the Phantoms on the board when he scored with 5:57 remaining in the first period. Liam Dennison and Andrew Petrillo were credited with assists.
Chicago (9-2-1-1) tied the game at 1 after Baker Shore scored 15 seconds into the second period.
But Ellis helped extend the lead to 3-1 in the period after he stole the puck from Chicago at center ice and scored an unassisted, shorthanded goal with 11:48 to play in the period.
Prosvetov was pulled after the first period against Team USA. But Prosvetov bounced back with a 24-save performance.
“He had a much better night,” Patterson said. “It was a bounce back, he was frustrated the way things went last night.
“He’s a competitor and he’s gonna be called upon in any game. In this league you’re gonna have to make two or three big stops, and I felt he did that. The guys rallied around him and that’s big for us.”
Phantoms center Curtis Hall said the team needed an “energy boost” coming off the loss.
“Yesterday we were a little bit sloppy, and just weren’t doing what we needed” Hall said. “Tonight we definitely did a better job. It started off kinda slow, but we got some energy and the boys came together and we got a win.”
The Phantoms will play three games in four days starting on Wednesday. Hall said the team will carry some momentum into the upcoming week.
He also said the team’s high-scoring offense during the start of the season is beginning to become the team’s identity and they need to stay aggressive offensively.
“I think we have a lot of skill on our team,” Hall said. “We’re working hard, we’re playing together, we can [score] a lot of goals. But we’re also a hard working team. We’re the team nobody wants to play against. That’s part of our identity as well.”