Phantoms win 3rd straight with 4-1 victory over Des Moines

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Youngstown’s Andrew Strathmann (27) celebrates his second period goal against the Des Moines Buccaneers Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.

YOUNGSTOWN– Special teams are special and so far this season, the Youngstown Phantoms have found a lot of success with their power play and penalty kill units.

That was the story again Saturday as the Phantoms scored twice with the man advantage to take down the Des Moines Buccaneers 4-1.

“I thought we played a desperate team tonight in Des Moines. Losing last night, they’ve had a little bit of a tough start here,” Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “We knew that we were going to get their best and they were going to work hard and they were going to have some urgency and they were going to be desperate and I think in the first period we weathered a storm.

“I thought our penalty kill did a great job stepping up. I thought our power play cashed it when they had to. It was good to see the power play get some momentum. I thought we struggled a little bit thus far. Special teams are good. There was a huge 5-on-3 kill for us. All in all, it was a good effort.”

Des Moines was aggressive early, outshooting the Phantoms through two periods, but the team in purple gradually wore down the Buccaneers as the game went on.

The Buccaneers had plenty of opportunities to get on the board in the first period, but a combination of lucky bounces and excellent defensive stops by netminder Owen Bartoszkiewicz, along with the Phantoms’ defensive core, kept the game at a 0-0 deadlock.

Luke Osburn, Tomas Machu, and Andrew Strathmann each made goal-saving plays in the first part of the opening period.

The Phantoms got on the board first, when Ryan Botterill put away a pass from Grant Young midway through the first.

Joining the team from the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Portage Terriers, where he had a 45-goal season, Botterill is filling the net in Youngstown now. The goal was Botterill’s third of the season.

After a tough start to the season, Botterill and the Phantoms are getting into a nice rhythm.

“I think the first couple games (we had to get) the jitters out,” Botterill said. “There’s a lot of people watching us (in Cranberry), so we had to get rid of that and then the team just kind of came together and we’ve been buzzing ever since. It’s been awesome.”

Not long after Botterill’s opening goal, Des Moines forward Braden Rourke was able to tie the game at one.

Youngstown was able to jump back out ahead however, as Strathmann continued his hot offensive start, racking up a power play goal early in the second period. The Phantoms took advantage of a 5-on-3 and fed Strathmann from behind the faceoff dot.

The Blue Jackets draft pick is fast approaching the Phantoms’ all-time scoring crown for a defenseman, needing four more points to tie Ryan Lowney (2011-2013). After his assist on Mikey Burchill’s third period power play goal, Strathmann is also just two points away from passing Lowney as the all-time assist leader for a defenseman.

Third periods are special for Adam Pietila, as the winger played matchmaker between rubber and twine once again in the final frame. Pietila came out of the penalty box at full speed, gained possession of the puck, and put it in the net in the blink of an eye.

It’s been a story every game so far for the Phantoms, but the team’s penalty kill has been lockdown to say the least. The league’s top PK unit was busy again, but continued to stay strong, shutting down six power play opportunities for the Buccaneers, including a 5-on-3 in the second period. They are now a perfect 29-of-29 on the season with a man down.

Conner de Haro wore the ‘C’ on his jersey Saturday as a part of ‘Phantoms Phight Cancer’ night in honor of his mother, who lost her battle with cancer over the summer.

As a part of the event, the Phantoms wore specialty jerseys that were auctioned off postgame.

“It was a special night,” Ward said. “Hockey Fights Cancer is always a special night in the NHL and USHL and for us to be able to do it, where it hit home for our team, with Conner de Haro and his family (was special). They’ve gone through a lot since we won the Clark Cup.

“I think it was an unbelievable gesture by Andrew Strathmann to give him the ‘C’ tonight. It was something that was unprompted. I think it goes to show just our culture and the way the guys feel about each other, and it was a first class thing for Andrew to do. It was certainly a special night for Conner and all of us. The guys obviously wanted to play hard for him. To have (Strathmann) step up and do that and (to have) our locker room rallying around Conner I thought was a great thing.”

The next two weekends will be spent away from the Covelli Centre as the Phantoms (3-2-0-0, 6 points, 5th East) have a two-game set with the Lincoln Stars next week, and a 1-and-1 with Chicago and Madison the week after.

The Phantoms return to home ice on Friday, Oct. 27 with a two-game set with Sioux Falls and an extra Sunday tilt with Madison.


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