BENSENVILLE, Illinois – After a pair of grueling road games Friday and Saturday, the Youngstown Phantoms showed no signs of fatigue Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Steel. The Phantoms jumped on the Steel right from the drop of the puck and continued to press until the final buzzer to close out their three-game road trip with a 4-2 win.
Sam Anas paced the Phantoms (10-13-0, 20 points) with a pair of goals to give him a team-leading 10 on the campaign. Austin Cangelosi also scored and Josh Nenadal chipped in with an empty-netter, while in Youngstown's goal, Sean Romeo was sharp turning away 31 of 33 in the win.
"From the moment the puck dropped, our guys' energy was awesome," head coach Anthony Noreen said. "Throughout the game, we did a tremendous job of earning quality chances – making plays – and I think our pace was a big part of it."
After a number of great opportunities early, the Phantoms jumped in front at the 6:22 mark when Anas notched his first of the game. Cam Brown carried the puck with speed in the zone along the right-wing wall, then hit the brakes and threw a pass to Anas, who was trailing the play in the high slot. The Quinnipiac commit made a quick move to pull the puck on the backhand before roofing it on Steel goaltender Alex Sakellaropoulos.
"There aren't many guys in the world who can make a play like that," Noreen said. "That's why we're so fortunate to have a guy like Sam in our lineup every night."
Anas struck again on the power play with less than five minutes remaining in the period. The Potomac, Md. native strung a pass across the neutral zone for Cangelosi, who blew past a pair of flat-footed defenders and went in on a 1-on-0. Sakellaropolous made the initial save but Anas followed up on it and tucked a wrist shot just underneath the crossbar to give Youngstown a 2-0 lead heading into the break.
The Phantoms wasted little time adding to the lead in the second as the continued to pressure Chicago (11-8-2, 24 points). Cangelosi intercepted a clearing opportunity from Landon Smith at the blue line, flew in and fired a shot from between the circles to make it a 3-0 game just 13 seconds into the second.
Noreen said the goal, which held up to be the game-winner, was a turning point.
"We talk a lot about setting the tempo every period from the first shift," he said. "Austin goes out there and uses his legs and uses his compete level to get himself a chance, and then he buries it.
"When you get a team down by three, it's an up-hill battle, but to their credit, they didn't quit."
With a less than six minute remaining in the period, the Phantoms had a chance to put Chicago away when Cangelosi fed John Padulo in the slot, but Sakellaropoulos was able to knock the puck away. The Steel quickly gathered up the rebound and countered with a 3-on-1 rush in the other direction and Christian Heil was able to finish off the play on the doorstep to dash Romeo's hopes for a shutout.
The Steel benefitted from a bad bounce to bring the game within one 4:37 into the third period. Ray Pigozzi got the puck in the slot and launched it on net off a turnaround. Romeo got a piece of it with the glove, but it squirted out and banked off one of his defensemen and in.
The Phantoms were hit with a pair of penalties with 5:30 left in regulation giving the Steel a two-man advantage for two full minutes – and a golden opportunity to tie the game. But just 37 seconds into the power play Chicago forward Thomas Ebbing was whistled for checking for behind, making it a 4-on-3, and the Phantoms were able to kill it off the remainder.
Then with less than a minute left in regulation, Chicago pulled Sakellaropoulos for the extra attacker but the Phantoms were able to clear the zone. Nenadal won a race to the loose puck and put it into the empty net to secure the win and salvage the road trip.
"It was the best game Josh Nenadal's played for us. That's why he was on the ice," Noreen said. "It's funny, it seems like every time a guy gets an empty-net goal, it's the guy who deserves it most for his play throughout the course of the game."
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots – 32
Saves – 31
Power Play – 1-for-4
Penalty Kill – 4-for-4
Goals – Anas (2), Cangelosi, Nenadal
Assists – Brown, Cangelosi (2), Alexander Dahl, Ryan Lowney, Jimmy Mazza