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Phantoms top Steel 2-1 in shootout

Staff photo / Brian Yauger. The Phantoms celebrate after scoring a goal during Friday’s game against the Chicago Steel

YOUNGSTOWN — After a five-game road swing, the Youngstown Phantoms opened up their homestand in thrilling fashion. For the third time this season between the Phantoms and Chicago Steel, regulation wasn’t enough.

Through an additional scoreless five minutes, a shootout was needed to decide things.

Zach Morin played the hero for Youngstown, scoring the decisive goal in a 2-1 shootout victory on Friday night.

“I thought we played really well,” Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “I think we’re a little bit snake bitten in the goalscoring department right now, but we’re getting chances. We’ve had some short weeks here, so it was just good to be back at home. It’s good to be in Youngstown. I thought our team top-to-bottom played well. A couple of things we’d like to have back. I thought we were a little unlucky, but in general, when you give up 18 shots and you have 45, you can’t really be too displeased about that as a coach.”

The Phantoms spent most of the first five minutes in the attacking zone, but Chicago struck first. Steel defenseman Michael Hagens got the better of Aiden Wright to put Chicago up 1-0 four-and-a-half minutes into the contest.

Chicago netminder Louka Cloutier was a brick wall between the pipes for the Steel, keeping Chicago hanging around through the lopsided shot differential.

Youngstown put together a stout defensive effort to match Cloutier’s night, limiting the Steel to just 18 shots on Friday, including a two-shot second period.

“We were above pucks. It’s funny, in the middle of the game, I was like, ‘We’ve had a lot of offensive zone faceoffs.’ And I think that was just kind of a little indication of where we’re at in the game and that our D played well,” Ward said. “We were on top of things. We were good through the middle and limited second chances, which is always good. An outstanding effort from the net out. I thought (Aiden Wright) made some big saves and I thought our D-core was good and just in general, a good 60-minute effort.”

The Phantoms finally broke through that brick wall at the tail end of the second period, with Sam Ranallo getting the better of Cloutier off a Zach Morin assist.

With a young team like the Phantoms, confidence can be a huge difference maker in either direction. Ward was satisfied with the on-ice effort and knew the goals would come.

“We have a young team, and the message is just stick with what we’re doing, and play to our game plan,” Ward said. “We’re not really super concerned about anything else that’s happening. We were playing well, there wasn’t a whole lot we needed to change and obviously getting one, the skate comes off your throat a little bit and you feel a little more confident, but I think getting that was big. We all felt pretty good about today and felt good about where we’re at.”

Throughout the third period, the Phantoms (24-13-4-3, 55 points) continued pouring on the shots, but neither team was able to get the better of the other.

The Phantoms’ magic number to clinch a playoff berth sits at 22 points.

With the next seven games at home, including tonight’s series finale against Chicago, the Phantoms have an opportunity to shrink that magic number significantly.

Puck drop against the Steel is set for 7:05 p.m.

Have an interesting story? Contact Brian Yauger by email at byauger@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @_brianyauger.

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