Phantoms rally for 5-3 comeback win

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Phantoms forward, Charlie Cerrato, a Penn State commit, handles the puck against a defender on Friday night at the Covelli Centre.

YOUNGSTOWN — Some wins come easy. Most don’t.

After falling behind 3-0, the Youngstown Phantoms scored five unanswered goals to take down the US National Team Development Program U17s, 5-3, in the team’s regular season finale at the Covelli Centre.

“Not the start we wanted,” Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “I think we thought it was going to be easy and they came out pretty hard. The second period, I thought we won the second, and obviously played pretty good in the third. Penalty kill came up huge, power play was good. Well, I shouldn’t say it was good. It scored for us. Good feeling obviously playing at home, but it’s nice to be able to play in front of our fans, and our fans were great tonight. They were loud and at the end of the day, we got the job done. It was a crazy one.”

Jack Murtagh got the U17s on the board first, beating out netminder Aiden Wright to give the NTDP an early edge.

It looked like the Phantoms had quickly knotted up the score with Andrew Strathmann’s shot, but it was inches shy. The puck reached, but did not fully cross the goal line, so the Phantoms were still off the scoresheet.

The U17s took that no goal call as a chance to strike. Will Moore was the triggerman for Team USA this time around, giving the NTDP a 2-0 advantage going into the locker room for the first intermission.

Team USA struck once again to open the middle frame, extending their lead to 3-0.

That third goal seemed to be the wakeup call the Phantoms needed. Now they just needed to even up the scoreboard to rectify those calamitous 23 minutes that opened the contest.

Youngstown broke the shutout a little under halfway through the middle frame, with forward Evan Jardine netting the opening goal.

The Phantoms cut into that lead further in the closing minutes of the second with a Charlie Cerrato shot from the point on the power play.

With renewed energy, having reduced the NTDP lead to a mere goal, Youngstown continued pushing into the third period.

That full head of steam led to a Nathan Lewis goal just 34 seconds into the final frame to knot the game at 3-each.

After a boarding call sent Cerrato to the dressing room, the Phantoms were given a five-minute power play. A ripe opportunity to break the tie.

That tiebreaker came from Jardine finding the back of the net once again, now with seven goals in a Phantoms uniform.

The Harvard commit has been a difference maker since arriving from the Little Caesars AAA U16 program, with 11 total points in 11 games with the team.

“He has been great every time he’s come into the lineup,” Ward said of his young forward. “The kid is super smart, extremely high hockey IQ, unbelievable teammate, and he works. For me, it’s a little bit of a glimpse into what’s going to come here with Jardine next year and we’re excited.”

Assisting on Jardine’s goal was Strathmann with his second point of the night. With that assist, the captain earned his 100th career USHL point.

“Obviously it feels really good,” Strathmann said. “I can’t thank everyone enough for helping me to this point, but I know that our team has a lot more left in the tank and me as well.”

Not long after leaving the ice, Cerrato returned to the game. His bloodied No. 14 jersey was unusable, so the Penn State commit donned a nameless No. 83 for the final minutes of the contest.

Ward has joked that his top-line center has no regard for his own safety, and Friday was a prime example.

“He is a warrior,” Ward said. “He’s a football player wearing hockey equipment. That was gutsy. The kid is bleeding all over himself, didn’t even get stitched up, he just taped it up and came back. I’ve never seen that before. Charlie, he’s an unbelievable player and obviously makes a gigantic impact on the game, and to see him come out with a full cage on, bleeding all over his face, was pretty inspiring.”

To cap off the game, the Phantoms killed off an aggressive 5-on-3, then an equally aggressive 6-on-5 USA attack. Adam Pietila put the icing on the cake, tapping in the empty net goal.

The regular season concludes today as the Phantoms (32-19-6-4, 74 points) hit the road to Michigan to take on the U17s once again. Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. in Plymouth.

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


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