Phantoms’ late rally comes up short
By Tom Williams
The Youngstown Phantoms’ power-play unit kicked into high gear in the third period of Thursday’s USHL season opener at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
Trailing by three, the Phantoms scored twice with the man-advantage in the final frame.
It wasn’t enough as the Phantoms lost to the Tri-City Storm, 5-4.
“Both ways, I think there was a little bit of puck luck,” Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson of the high-scoring contest. “There weren’t a lot of clean goals.
“I like the way the guys did not quit.”
Phantoms defenseman Gianfranco Cassaro scored a goal and set up another in his first full game since Jan. 20, when he tore a quad muscle.
“It felt awesome,” Cassaro said. “We’re going to build from this, Sunday, we’re coming out hot.”
Forwards Liam Robertson and Matt DeMelis scored goals in their first USHL games.
“There’s nothing better,” Robertson said of his first-period goal that tied the game at 1. “But we’re here to win and we did not do that today. We have to get better next time.”
The Phantoms’ special teams were at their best in the final frame. First, the penalty killers foiled two Storm power plays that overlapped by four seconds, keeping the score 4-2.
But the game appeared to be out of reach when Benji Eckerle scored for a three-goal lead, his second goal of the game.
Minutes later, the Phantoms had a two-man advantage and DeMelis beat Storm goaltender Jake Barczewski on an assist fron Joey Abate.
Ninety-six seconds later, Cassaro scored from the point.
“I got a nice pass from Connor McEachern and I saw the [defenseman] go down on one knee,” Cassaro said. “I pulled the puck into my body and I shot it low post.”
Down the stretch, the Phantoms were unable to get another puck past Barczewski, who finished with 29 saves. Phantoms goaltender Jon Mor made 24 saves.
In the opening minutes, the Storm’s Brad Morrisey pounced on a rebound off Mor after a sprawling save. Morrisey knocked the puck into the net.
Robertson tied the game about five minutes later. After Barczewski stopped Cassaro’s shot from the point, the rebound came to Robertson cruising into the slot.
Late in the first period, the Storm regained the lead when Connor McMenamin scored with a shot from the faceoff circle to Mor’s left.
A minute into the second period, Abate, the returning Phantom with the most points last season, tied the game, at 2.
The Storm scored two more before the second period ended.