Saturday, May 12, 2018
By Tom Williams
With the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms skating as far away as home as possible, the coolest place in town on Friday was Quaker Steak and Lube’s Patio Room.
There, Phantoms staffers, off-ice officials and host families gathered to watch Game 1 of the Clark Cup Final from Fargo, N.D.
A laptop receiving the USHL game feed was linked to three screens as about five dozen patrons jammed in to watch the Phantoms’ first game in the junior hockey league’s championship round.
What made the viewing party extra interesting was how the two side screens were about 30 seconds behind what those watching the center screen saw. So when the Phantoms came close to scoring late in the first period when the puck was sitting just outside the goal crease, cheers grew louder then spread like a wave as others knew something interesting was on the way.
Girard’s Leanne Lee, the Phantoms Booster Club president for the past two seasons, had a seat where she could almost see the main screen while the others at her table couldn’t.
“We hear them yelling and we can’t wait to see what’s happening,” Lee said. “That’s the way it’s been before when we’ve watched [Internet feeds].
“It’s nice that everyone is excited about the game.”
Boardman’s Dan LaCivita wore the Jack Malone jersey that was auctioned off after the Breast Cancer Awareness game. The LaCivita family [wife Natalie, son Danny and daughter Jordan] is hosting Malone.
“Great,” LaCivita said of the hosting experience. “He fits right in — it seems like he’s part of the family.”
LaCivita said he’s been pressuring his wife “for years” to consider being a billet family.
“I’ve always liked hockey and my son plays,” LaCivita said. “I thought it would be good for the kids.”
Linda McCallum’s family hosts Dalton Messina, who received a checking from behind penalty plus a misconduct in the first period.
“That’s his second home,” the Boardman resident said. “As he says, he’s the protector of his team.”
McCallum is anticipating next weekend at Covelli Centre when the Phantoms will host their first Final game.
“This is so exciting,” she said. “I hope Youngstown realizes how cool this is. This is something to celebrate, that we have such an awesome opportunity.”
LaCivita said he had access to the game at home. He’s glad he didn’t stay in.
“To come out with all the people is fun,” LaCivita said.
Depsite a 4-1 loss, spirits were positive.
“This is awesome,” Lee said.
McCallum said she wishes more Mahoning Valley sports fans appreciated how some players might one day end up in the National Hockey League. Kyle Connor, the Winnipeg Jets forward, was a Phantom from 2012-15, then was a Hobey Baker Award finalist the one season he played college hockey for Michigan.
“This is an awesome experience to be a part of their journey,” McCallum said.