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Troubles continue

Struggling Phantoms lose 3-0 lead in OT loss

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Phantoms forward and Vancouver Canucks draft selection Jack Malone strides toward the net while being defended by Aidan Hreschuk of Team USA. Malone scored Youngstown’s second goal of the night off a penalty shot in a 4-3 loss on Sunday.

YOUNGSTOWN — Midway through the second period, Youngstown Phantoms winger Jack Silich fired a shot from behind the faceoff circle to score and give the Phantoms a 3-0 lead.

That was the last time the Phantoms found the back of the net as Team USA scored four unanswered goals to walk out of the Covelli Centre on Sunday with a 4-3 overtime victory, closing out another three-games-in-three-days series.

“I thought they came and played hard,” Phantoms coach Brad Patterson said of his team. “In the first 20 (minutes), I thought there were big hits both ways. I thought special teams ended up playing a big part of that. I would have liked to see a little more five-on-five, but that being said, it was a hard-fought battle all weekend.”

In a season in which the only consistency is inconsistency, the Phantoms had to rely on old faces in new places.

“I thought the guys made steps all weekend,” Patterson said. “We played short, with a couple defensemen, they were playing up front, and everyone contributed.”

A new face to the fold is Sergei Kuznetsov. He made his North American debut on Friday and scored his first USHL goal Sunday to put the Phantoms ahead 1-0 midway through the first period.

It was unsure when Kuznetsov was going to make his first appearance with the Phantoms, but the 18-year old from Belarus has quickly found his spot on the roster.

“I thought he was really good,” Patterson said. “Friday morning we had pregame skate and we weren’t even sure if he was going to clear. There’s a process of paperwork that’s got to go through the different international federations and we got word that afternoon (that Kuznetsov could play). Obviously with where we’re at numbers-wise, we put him in.

“He had about a 30-hour flight, arrived late Tuesday night, so it’s a quick turnaround for him. First time to North America and I thought he really adjusted well. You can tell he’s played at a high level and I thought he got more comfort as the weekend went on. He made some big-time plays and gets rewarded.”

A few minutes after Kuznetsov’s opening goal, Phantoms forward Jack Malone was hooked in the attacking zone by Roman Schmidt, forcing a penalty shot. Malone converted and the Phantoms went into the first intermission with a 2-0 lead.

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Phantoms forward Bayard Hall reaches over to try and intercept the puck from a Team USA attacker. The Phantoms debuted new third jerseys on Friday.

That success continued into the second as Silich put the team up 3-0 midway through the period. But as if a switch was flipped, Team USA fired off three goals in four minutes to tie the game at 3 before the end of the second.

As the third period buzzer sounded, neither team had been able to break the tie, so an extra five minutes were needed. In the 3-on-3 overtime period, the teams traded shots back and forth, but it was Providence College commit Liam Gilmartin who broke the stalemate, scoring the game-winning goal for the U18s.

Phantoms goaltender Mattias Sholl had 38 saves on 42 shots in the loss.

The Phantoms (6-14-2-1, 15 points) have a three-game road swing in Dubuque before taking Valentine’s Day weekend off. The weekend after, the Phantoms play two games in Muskegon, then return home Feb. 20 for a matchup against Chicago.

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