Phantoms close regular season on high note, top NTDP 4-3

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Phantoms defenseman Luke Osburn carries the puck up the ice during the Phantoms' regular season finale against the NTDP U17s. Osburn had three points, a goal and two assists, in the win.

PLYMOUTH, Mich. — With the quick turnaround before postseason play begins, the Youngstown Phantoms opted to rest some of their older players.

The young guns thrived in their expanded roles, as the Phantoms downed the US National Team Development Program, 4-3 on Saturday night in Michigan.

“I thought it was great,” Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “Obviously we were resting some of our veteran players, and I thought that it was a great opportunity for young players to step up and play big-time minutes. Right from the get-go, I thought we were good, we had a ton of juice. It was just all around a good effort.

“This would have been a game that would have been easy to kind of say it doesn’t matter, but our guys played hard through till the final puck drop there and it was great. It was great to see our guys take on expanded roles and have success.”

Team USA got on the board first with forward Will Horcoff connecting with the back of the net.

Once forward Daniel Jencko returned to the ice after a high hit briefly sidelined him, the Phantoms ramped the energy up to another level.

“I don’t understand why teams poke the bear like that,” Ward said. “I think for us, it was just like ‘All right, it’s go time.’ We’re certainly not going to back down from anyone. Our guys, they love each other and they stick up for each other and play for each other. I think when they see something like that, it’s kind of a call to arms where we get going, and I’m proud of the response and proud of how hard we played after that. Sometimes those things galvanize you.”

Not long after Horcoff was sent to the penalty box for roughing, Kuzma Voronin took advantage of the extra man, knocking one in from the faceoff dot.

Just three minutes later, Luke Osburn added another to the tally, slapping it in from almost the exact same spot.

Osburn finished the night with three points — a goal and two assists.

As a rookie, Osburn could have become a victim of depth, but the Wisconsin commit has steadily improved all season, taking on more and more responsibility as the year goes.

Osburn has been garnering some attention from NHL scouts, and is ranked as high as the 63rd overall prospect in the 2024 NHL Draft.

“Luke has been someone that has grown all year,” Ward said. “(Assistant coach) Andy Contois and our staff have done a great job with Osburn and I think just seeing his growth and him developing into an NHL prospect is something we’re super proud of. Osburn has put in the work, and I think he’s really what you want to see as far as internal competition and pushing for jobs and more responsibility and he’s done a great job with that all year.”

One of the young players who shined with the expanded opportunity was forward Michael Monroe. Four minutes after Team USA knotted the game up to open the second frame, Monroe responded to give Youngstown a lead they wouldn’t cede.

With a netfront fracas, Phantoms defenseman Coleson Hanrahan found a gap and pushed the puck just past the goal line and in.

After a lengthy review, the goal stood as called, and the Phantoms added to their advantage.

The U17s scored the only goal of the third period, with Donny Bracco cutting into Youngstown’s lead.

The Phantoms fought off the 6-on-5 Team USA attack in the waning minutes to avoid overtime and get the win.

Netminder Colin Winn recorded 18 saves on 21 shots in the win.

The postseason begins on Monday as the Phantoms host Madison in a best of three series. Start time is 7:05 p.m. at the Covelli Centre.

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


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