Trevor Kuntar’s two goals on Sunday helped lift the red-hot Youngstown Phantoms into second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference and clinch their third consecutive Clark Cup Playoffs berth.
Also scoring goals were Thomas Farrell, Brett Murray, Aiden Gallacher and Matthew Barnaby as the Phantoms earned a weekend sweep with a 6-3 victory over the Madison Capitols at Bob Suter Capitol Ice.
The win was the Phantoms’ eighth in the past nine games. Friday, the Phantoms defeated the Chicago Steel, 4-3. Saturday, the Phantoms rolled 7-2 over the Capitols.
Murray’s power-play goal with 2:15 remaining in the second period snapped a 3-3 tie. Jack Malone and Gianfranco Cassaro assisted on Murray’s 36th goal.
Twenty-three seconds into the third period, Gallacher made it 5-2 on an assist from Cassaro on another power play. Barnaby sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
The Phantoms (30-18-1-4, 65 points) moved one point ahead of idle Chicago and Cedar Rapids into second place with nine games to play. The Steel and RoughRiders have 10 games remaining.
Team USA, fifth place with 59 points, has 11 games remaining, six against the Phantoms.
Phantoms goaltender Chad Veltri made 27 saves. The Capitols’ Joseph Lamoreaux made 24 stops.
The Capitols stunned the Phantoms with Ryan McGuire’s goal 20 seconds into the game.
Defenseman Thomas Farrell tied the game 96 seconds later on an assist from Barnaby.
Almost two minutes later, the Capitols regained the lead when Carson Bantle beat Phantoms goaltender Chad Veltri.
Early in the second period, Kuntar scored twice in 1:51 for the Phantoms’ first lead. Craig Needham assisted on Kuntar’s tally, a power-play goal to tie the game at 2-2.
Barnaby set up Kuntar’s second score, his 16th of the season.
Midway through the second period, Lucas Herrmann’s power-play goal tied the game for the Capitols.
Phantoms penalty killers succeeded on six of the Capitol’s seven chances. The Phantoms went 3-for-7 with the man advantage.
The top two teams in the conference will earn a first-round playoff bye. The third- and fourth-place teams will have home ice for the entire first-round.
At least one former Phantom will be on the Big Ten Conference tournament champion team. Penn State (22-14-2) will play at Notre Dame on Saturday at 8 p.m. in the final.
Sunday, fourth-seeded Penn State blasted top-seeded Ohio State, 5-1, at the Schottenstein Center.
Alex Limoges’ goal with 1.2 seconds remaining in the first period gave the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead.
Defenseman Kris Myllari, who played two seasons with the Phantoms from 2014-16, assisted on Brandon Biro’s second-period goal that made it 3-0.
Goaltender Tommy Nappier made 31 saves for the Buckeyes (20-10-5). John Wiitala scored the Buckeyes’ goal in the third period.
Ohio State has four former Phantoms: defensemen Matt Miller (East Palestine) and Tommy Parran, forward Austin Pooley and goaltender Sean Romeo.
Ohio State, which played in the 2018 Frozen Four, will find out on Sunday if it is one of the 16 teams picked for the NCAA Tournament that begins on March 29.
Myllari’s Nittany Lions will play Notre Dame which has two former Phantoms forwards: Cam Morrison and Pierce Crawford.
Morrison, who was a teammate of Myllari’s in 2015-16, scored the first goal in Notre Dame’s 2-1 overtime win over Minnesota on Saturday.