Phantoms stay alive, score five unanswered to top Madison 5-2 in Game 2

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Youngstown Phantoms defenseman Andrew Strathmann fires a shot on net during the second period of Tuesday’s game against Madison.

YOUNGSTOWN — When it comes to the playoffs, “survive and advance” is the key.

The first step of that is surviving.

The Youngstown Phantoms did just that, taking Monday’s defeat as a lesson, and scoring five unanswered in Game 2 to the tune of a 5-2 victory over Madison on Tuesday at the Covelli Centre, snapping a four-game losing streak when facing elimination.

“I thought obviously getting down 2-0 before the second (period), you pucker up a little bit there, but I thought our guys stuck with it,” Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “I thought we had a great game, I mean we dominated the game. I thought we dominated Game 1, just a much better effort.

“I thought their power play was good tonight, putting us on our heels, but we’re a resilient group and again, for these guys to go through it, it’s a good experience in the playoffs. The playoffs bring a ton of different experiences. You have to stay in the moment. You can’t get too high and can’t get too low. I thought we did a good job tonight of sticking with our game plan and executing.”

Things didn’t start as planned for the Phantoms as Madison got a pair of power play goals within a minute of each other. Max Nagel and Andrew Kuzma were credited with the goals.

The second period could not have played out more differently.

Three minutes into the middle frame, Mikey Burchill got the Phantoms on the board for the first time of the evening.

Since returning to the lineup, Nathan Lewis has been a force.

On the power play, he’s been that big body that thrives in a scrum.

That paid off with a goal during the second period, as Lewis shoved the puck through a group of both blue and white jerseys to knot the game up at 2-each.

“The best part about players that know their identity is that he’s low maintenance. He knows what he has to do. He knows what he has to do to have success. He doesn’t try to get outside of his box, and having a 6-foot-6 guy that’s heavy and knows his role is really important for us. Obviously, we saw that last year with Shane (Lachance) and I think (Lewis) did a great job,” Ward said.

In another netfront scrum, Adam Pietila was the triggerman on the go-ahead goal. As he was falling to the ice, the Northern Michigan-bound forward knocked the puck past netminder Patriks Berzins and in.

The shot was deflected off Pietila’s stick after a pass from defenseman Luke Osburn.

Within 15 in-game minutes, a 2-0 deficit was erased, and Youngstown had the edge.

Pietila kicked off the third with another goal, this time from the slot off a pass from defenseman Conner de Haro.

As a team, the Phantoms thrive on intensity, and it’s only gotten more apparent as the year has gone on.

When the game heats up, the Phantoms have thrived in that environment.

“This is ‘Gritty City’ man,” Ward said. “I think if we’re not playing with passion and grit and a little bit of … we’re not playing (around). When we’re not playing with that, I think we’re not as good as we can be. I think when we have that passion, we have that juice, we’re a tough team to play against.”

The Phantoms survived the 6-on-5 onslaught from the empty-netted Capitols to hold the edge and live to fight another day. Pietila sealed things off with the empty-net goal and a hat trick performance, marking the third playoff hat trick in club history.

Shots once again were in favor of the Phantoms, more dramatically so on Tuesday, this time by a 40-17 margin. The difference in this game is that Youngstown’s shots went in.

With a regular season series that ended in a 3-3 split, it’s only fitting that the teams would need all three games of a three-game series to decide a winner.

Game 3 is once again a do-or-die affair, this time for both teams.

The winner takes on Dubuque in the second round.

Start time at the Covelli Centre 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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