Phantoms next test is against USHL’s best team
Omaha has won 8 out of 10
By Dan Hiner
Heading into one of the biggest weekends of the season, the Youngstown Phantoms will be without one of their top defenseman.
Last Friday, Jake Gingell returned home to Gregory, Mich., after his brother Christopher died.
“Jake Gingell had an unfortunate situation,” Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said. “We love him, he had some unfortunate things happen with his family. When the time’s right he’ll be back and join us, but in the meantime, [other] guys will play significant minutes.”
Gingell missed both wins against Waterloo, the second-place team in the USHL’s Western Conference. Those wins put the Phantoms (22-15-4-1) in a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Their opponent for Thursday and Saturday at the Covelli Centre is the the Omaha Lancers (28-11-2-1), the top team in the league.
The first game of the weekend series was originally scheduled for Friday, but was moved up due to a scheduling conflict with the arena.
The scheduling change won’t have any impact on the team’s preparations. Patterson said the players are used to playing on varied schedules and the team will be ready come Thursday.
Both teams enter the game with eight wins in the last 10 games.
With Gingell out, the newest players in the Phantom’s rotation will continue to see more playing time.
Last week, the Phantoms moved John Larkin onto the active roster from the affiliate list. Patterson said he was impressed with the way Larkin has performed with the additional time.
“You saw it [last] weekend where maybe some guys gets some minutes on a penalty kill when they don’t a whole lot,” Patterson said. “Liam Dennison had a great week and Larkin [as well] off our affiliate list. Jason [Smallidge] and Mike Callahan, both coming in a few weeks ago, they were both thrown into the fire.”
On Feb. 7, the Phantoms traded for Callahan and Smallidge from the Central Illinois Flying Aces.
“To use them and play them in key situations has brought the best out of them, as well as [their] teammates,” Patterson said. “Something like that, you gotta rally behind and everybody’s got to do their part and pull the rope.”
Patterson said the Phantoms need to be the “best that we can be” and not obsess with the Lancers’ record.
“At the end of the day, it’s all falls back on how we’re gonna play — the pace we’re gonna play with, the energy we’re gonna have, the compete level,” he said.
“When those things align in your own locker room, I don’t wanna say you don’t have to worry about what’s on the other side, you gotta have your implementation of what you want to do as a team,” Patterson said. “I think we all know as a Youngstown Phantom you gotta wear your heart on your sleeve, play the right way, and when you do, good things happen.
Patterson said the two games will be a “hard-fought battle” and the team has to be ready.”
“[The Lancers] are good. They’ve obviously been on the right side of things for the last couple months — really driving the pace,” Patterson said. “I saw them in pre-scout against Waterloo, against Tri-City a couple weeks ago. Very high-tempo game — everybody can skate. [They] have good goaltending. It’s gonna be a very good test.”