Team USA schools Youngstown in front of Valley students


Team USA schools Youngstown in front of Valley students

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Youngstown Phantoms were on the wrong end of a second period in which neither goalie made a save.

Team USA’s National Team Development Program took just five shots in the second period and scored on each one en route to a 6-2 victory Thursday in front of a school-day crowd at Covelli Centre. The morning events included an appearance by Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, who addressed the crowd.

The Phantoms had zero shots on goal in that regrettable stretch, losing a matchup of teams that weren’t using their full complement of stars.

“I’m not going to point the finger at our goaltender. I thought [USA] had sustained pressure for a good span,” Phantoms coach Brad Patterson said. “I thought through the second period that our want and our drive wasn’t always there.

“Once we got that back, the score was a little out of hand, but I liked our product afterwards.”

Team USA switches between its 18-U and 17-U sides in the USHL depending on when the 18-U team departs for international play. Team USA was the league’s top team on the strength of the 18-U team which went 24-4-0-1 and features a potential No. 1 overall pick for the 2019 NHL draft in center Jack Hughes — which went 24-4-0-1. The 17-U side is 17-14-0-0. With the 18-U team preparing to play in the IIHF World Championships in Denmark in May, the 17-U side will represent Team USA in the USHL playoffs.

“This is probably the best 17 team that they’ve had years,” Patterson said. “There’s a reason they have a first-round bye.

Ryder Rolston — the son of former NHL forward and Olympic silver medalist Brian Rolston — got the run going with a goal five minutes into the second period after entering it down 2-0. Trevor Zegras, Ryan Siedem and Patrick Moynihan each scored in less than a minute. Michael Gildon had the fifth goal with less than five minutes left in the period.

The Phantoms suffered another setback in the third period when goalie Wouter Peeters was injured by getting hit in the head with a stick. Ivan Prosvetov replaced Peeters — who left the ice on his own — and made eight saves in the game’s final eight minutes, conceding a goal to Danny Weight, the son of New Islanders head coach Doug Weight.

Patterson said he needed to confer with team staff to determine the extent of Peeters’ injury, but the initial assessment is he should be ready for the playoffs.

With just a game to spare in the regular season, there was little at stake save the possibility of being the higher-seeded side in a potential Clark Cup final. Youngstown (32-20-5-2) clinched a No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference on March 31, but has no way of leapfrogging the Western Conference’s top three seeds: the Waterloo Blackhawks, Omaha Lancers and Fargo Force.

With that in mind, the Phantoms used the game to give some of their younger players ice time. Forwards Jonathan Young, Tristan Amonte — the son of five-time NHL All-Star Tony Amonte — and Henry Wagner as well as Muzyka made their Phantoms debuts. John Larkin appeared in his 14th game.

The first-time players were called up from the Phantoms’ affiliate list. This is made up of players whom the team drafted but are playing with their respective school or junior hockey team. Once the players’ school or team obligations are done, they can play for the Phantoms.

“The three forwards played together in the third period and I thought they generated,” Patterson said. “Their feet were moving, they were consistent and on the back end, the only one who has played a lot is Larkin. [Muyzka] came in and played a great game as well.

“I’m happy with those guys. I wish we had a better result for them, but they’re apart of our future and to give them a taste of the action is big for us.”

Phantoms captain Eric Esposito had the first goals of the game. He scored twice in the first period — the first came at even strength and the second was on the power play.

The Phantoms — who suffered just their second regulation loss in 14 games — will close out the regular season against the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday before waiting to see who they face in the second round of the playoffs.

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