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Shorthanded Cedar Rapids beats Youngstown

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Jason Dobay glides down the ice for the Phantoms to set up his second-period goal.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Phantoms dropped their fifth straight game, falling 5-2 to a short-staffed Cedar Rapids RoughRiders team.

The RoughRiders ran three forward lines as opposed to the traditional four lines and gave goaltender Nikolas Simo his first opportunity at the United States Hockey League level.

Slow starts have been the bane of the Phantoms throughout the season and Friday’s start was very slow.

“I’m disappointed for sure,” Phantoms coach Brad Patterson said. “Those first seven or eight minutes, I didn’t feel a ton of energy on the bench. There wasn’t a lot of chatter, line changes were sloppy, little things that at this stage of the year, they need to be locked in.

“I felt like tonight we had a lot of passengers and not enough guys driving the bus. When you do that, you’re not going to have a good outcome regardless of what’s going on the ice.”

Cedar Rapids got on the board seven minutes into the game, with Grant Silianoff scoring. His linemate, Jordan Tonelli scored next to close out the first period. The Phantoms were outshot in the opening period 16-7.

The Phantoms were able to get more shots on goal in the second period and it paid off early. Jayson Dobay opened the second period with an unassisted goal. The fun for Youngstown didn’t last however, as the RoughRiders scored two more goals.

Darian Gotz and Ryan Taylor each scored in a five-minute span to take a 4-1 lead.

Matthew Cassidy kicked off the third period with a redirect goal to close the gap to a 4-2 deficit. After a peppering of shots by the Phantom offense with an extra attacker on the ice, RoughRiders winger Tyler Rollwagen put the game away with 30 seconds remaining on an empty-net goal.

Cedar Rapids has had injury troubles since the start of 2020 and had 12 players out of the lineup Friday due to illness or injury. Their misfortune with injuries led to a short bench, icing 15 skaters (nine forwards and six defensemen) and two goaltenders, neither of whom had played a game in the USHL prior.

In his USHL debut, the 16-year old netminder from Dallas had a strong performance, allowing only two goals and posting a .923 save percentage.

“Credit to their goalie,” Patterson said. “It’s his first game in the league and he plays tremendously. At the same time, they’re missing guys, they’re short-staffed and they clawed and fought for everything. For us to not match that intensity until later in the game, that’s unacceptable to me.”

The Phantoms (19-22-6-2 46 points) are back at it again tonight against Cedar Rapids at 7 p.m.

Youngstown holds the final playoff spot and needs a win to stay ahead of the RoughRiders. After trying multiple approaches before games, Patterson wants his players to look inward as well, to get over whatever is holding them back.

“We’ve tried multiple and different approaches before the game, but at the end of the day, you need to do a little soul searching and be ready individually,” Patterson said. “I felt like tonight we had guys that are (ready) and I know are consistently going to be, and I felt we had some that weren’t.”

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