Phantoms win to clinch No. 2 seed in playoffs
Youngstown clinches No. 2 seed in USHL
By Dan Hiner
With the Youngstown Phantoms leading 4-3, the Chicago Steel appeared to tie the game. But the goal was waved off due to goalie interference.
After the call was made, the Phantoms decided to put the game out of reach.
Youngstown scored four goals in the third period in a 7-4 win over the Steel on Friday night at Covelli Centre.
The win also gave the Phantoms the second seed in the USHL playoffs and a first-round bye.
Phantoms forward Max Ellis scored twice in a two-minute span to give Youngstown breathing room.
“That’s experience coming through,” Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said. “Max went through this last year and he’s been consistent for us all year, not just in the offensive aspect. He hunts pucks all over the ice.
“He’ll be the first one to tell you it’s not like the goals we got tonight were the prettiest things. He makes a second effort, gets after things, dives at a puck. Those are second-effort goals and that’s what you need this time of year.”
Matthew Barry finished with two goals and an assist, and appeared to put the game out of reach early in the third period.
Barry scored on a breakaway for a short-handed goal to put the Phantoms up 4-2.
With the game tied at 1 in the second, Youngstown regained the lead after Barry and extended the lead to 3-1 on a score by Eric Esposito in the final minute of the period.
Minutes into the third, the Phantoms played 5-on-3 after an interference call on Esposito and a delay of game call against Max Ellis.
The Steel capitalized with a power-play goal by Aaro Vidgren to cut into the lead. But Barry scored seconds later.
Phantoms goalie Ivan Prosvetov made 31 saves, including stopping a potential game-tying score with 11:30 left in the third.
“Ivan makes a couple big-time stops when it’s a 4-3 game and those are game changers,” Patterson said.
The Phantoms are 5-0 against the Steel this season and scored at least four goals in each meeting.
“Chicago’s a really good club so I’m not surprised every time we played them this year,” Patterson said. “Even back to last year, they’re always hard-fought games, tight games.”
The Phantoms have never had the second seed in the playoffs. During the 2014-15 season the Phantoms were the top seed and won the Anderson Cup.
Ellis and Barry’s goals helped the Phantoms regain control in the third. Patterson said there were several moments when the game could have swung one way or another.
“I felt like there were some big momentum swings in that game — for us an for them,” Patterson said. “To come out with two points, that’s big for us.”
Patterson isn’t looking forward to any matchup when the playoff start. He’s more concerned with getting the team ready and having some extra time for preparation.
“The biggest benefit of that two seed would be having a couple extra days off — we’re not off, but a little bit of rest opposed to jumping into a playoff series,” Patterson said. “Our mentality is to finish every game we have. Finish it the right way, play the right way and the chips will fall where they may.”