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Phantoms beaten in return to ice

Staff photo / Brian Yauger The Youngstown Phantoms celebrate Reilly Funk’s second period goal that tied their home-opening game against the Muskegon Lumberjacks at 1-1. Muskegon won, 3-1, at the Covelli Centre.

YOUNGSTOWN — Due to multiple postponements, the Youngstown Phantoms haven’t been on the ice much lately.

That changed Friday, as the Phantoms played their first game since Nov. 14, and suffered a 3-1 loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks in the team’s home opener.

“To be honest, I’m incredibly proud of the group in there for what we’ve been through over the past 14-to-20 days,” Phantoms coach Brad Patterson said. “We haven’t really been on the ice. I think we have 12 guys out of the lineup. I know it wasn’t pretty to watch, so when I say that, people are probably going to raise their eyebrows, but they persevered and it’s disappointing for sure.”

While it may not have been pretty, the Phantoms’ defense held strong, surrendering only two goals and an empty-netter on 38 shots from Muskegon.

That’s in no small part due to the play of goaltender Mattias Sholl, who finished with a .921 save percentage.

Muskegon struck first with Cameron Berg scoring off a redirect from captain Dylan Wendt.

The Phantoms responded in the second period with Reilly Funk beating Lumberjacks’ goaltender Christian Stoever to knot the score.

It looked like the game was headed to overtime with neither team able to sneak another puck past, but with 2 minutes remaining in the game, Muskegon’s John Farinacci was able to take advantage of a hole and put the Lumberjacks ahead.

With 15 seconds remaining, Cristophe Tellier put the icing on the cake and capped off the 3-1 victory.

While the situation the team has been in –only playing four games and being heavily shorthanded — isn’t ideal, the Phantoms aren’t alone in the struggle and are grateful to have the chance to play.

“It stings, but when you look at it big picture-wise, with what’s going on in the world, everyone’s going through it,” Patterson said. “We’re blessed to have what we do, we’re blessed to be a part of this program, part of the city and we look forward to pushing forward.”

Due to the Ivy League suspending sports for the winter, Jack Malone, a sixth-round draft selection by the Vancouver Canucks and former Phantom, was given permission to return to Youngstown.

Details are still being worked out as to how long he’s allowed to play, but for the time being, having his experience will be very important for the shorthanded Phantoms.

“Forget the play that Jack brings, what he brings away from the rink is equally as important,” Patterson said. “Right now we’re still trying to figure out some school stuff out, but with us being so short of bodies, Jack’s come back. Whether that’s going to be short-term or long-term is yet to be decided, but he’s a tremendous addition.

“Anytime you can add somebody like that, it’s going to make you better.”

The Phantoms get another crack at Muskegon today at 7 p.m. at the Covelli Centre. As long as it’s a win, Patterson doesn’t care how pretty, or not pretty, the game is.

“I wish I could tell you we’re going to have the 12 guys that were out tonight, but we won’t, so we need to find a way to compete and find a way to give us an opportunity to get two points,” he said. “Although it may be ugly tomorrow night, I’m perfectly fine with that. We’ll find a way to get the job done.”

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