Kuntar, Malone graduating from Ursuline and Phantoms to …
By Tom Williams
The similarities between Youngstown Phantoms forwards Trevor Kuntar and Jack Malone continue to grow.
Both are in their second full seasons with the Phantoms. They again are students at Ursuline High School and will graduate in May. And they both will be playing for Ivy League schools.
Last Friday, both received a shout-out from Ryan Kennedy, one of The Hockey News’ top reporters. Kennedy was at the Covelli Centre watching the Phantoms’ 5-2 victory over the Lincoln Stars and tweeted that their play was among his first-period favorites.
Neither player was aware of the their names being included in his tweet. Maybe it’s because they are too busy juggling coursework with the requirements of being junior hockey players.
Malone said the team’s long bus trips to the Midwest give them opportunities to keep up.
“It’s manageable, we’ve become used to it,” said Malone, whose hometown is Madison, N.J. “Luckily, our teachers are pretty flexible — they are very helpful with our situation.”
Most of the Phantoms’ trips involve missing one day of classes. But the Jan. 25-27 trip to Nebraska (the most distance traveled this season) meant leaving on Wednesday and getting back Monday morning.
“We go to [our teachers] before we leave and ask what we need,” said Kuntar, who is from the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville, N.Y. “We plan on doing [homework] on the road trip so we usually get it done on time.”
Malone’s favorite subject is math.
“I’ve always been a big math guy and wasn’t a huge English guy,” said Malone, who will play for Cornell in the fall. “Anything with numbers, I like.”
Kuntar, who will play for Harvard, said his favorite subject is history.
“My least favorite? I’d have to go with English.”
“I’m not big on reading,” Kuntar said.
Malone said selecting Cornell wasn’t a difficult assignment.
“It checked off every box that I had as far as what I wanted for college,” Malone said.
“The history of the program, the academics, the location I loved,” Malone said. “It’s definitely a lot of work, it’s going to be a jump up from high school, but I’ve just got to be able to manage my time properly.”
He’ll be attending the Dyson School of Business for the applied economics and management program.
Kuntar, who is undecided on a major, said Harvard’s coaching staff was very welcoming.
“They really believed in me,” Kuntar said. “And [Boston] is such a great city.”
Malone is the right wing on the Phantoms’ top scoring line that includes Brett Murray and Connor MacEachern who are Canadians.
“They were a little sour, but they obviously congratulated me,” Malone said, laughing. “They were happy for me and it just goes to show what type of guys we have on this team.
“When I came back, it felt like I never left — I couldn’t ask for anything better from these guys.”
Both have taken big strides from last season when Malone scored 14 points and Kuntar four. This season, Malone has 15 goals and 24 assists in 36 games while Kuntar has 12 goals and 14 assists in 40 games.
What impresses Malone about the Mahoning Valley is “the camaraderie. If someone in the area likes hockey, they come to our games. You can feel the energy in the air from the people who come to the games. They are very, very dedicated.”
Kuntar appreciates the support the players receive.
“They have been very welcoming to us,” said Kuntar, whose linemates are Joey Abate and Matthew Barnaby Jr.
In December, Malone helped Team USA win the World Junior A Challenge tournament in Alberta.
Last month, he played in the CHL Top Prospects game and was ranked 92nd on the Central Scouting report of North American skaters eligible for June’s NHL Draft.
“It’s flattering but anything can happen between now and the draft,” Malone said.
Last May, the Phantoms enjoyed their most successful playoff run in nine seasons, playing in the USHL’s Robertson Cup Finals for the first time. The Phantoms lost the best-of-five series to the Fargo Force, three games to one.
“We had a great season, a very good run,” Malone said as the Phantoms won two playoff series to qualify for the finals.
The season ended on May 19 and both remained with their Boardman billet families through the end of the school year.
“We had a lot more free time, obviously, without the practices and everything,” Malone said, adding that Ursuline “is a good place to be.”