YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Phantoms were smothered by a staunch defensive U.S. Under-18 Team Friday night at the Covelli Centre, falling 3-0 in their first game on home ice in nearly a month. Team USA (6-17-3, 15 points) got a goal midway in the second period, and was able to pot a pair of insurance markers in the third, while the Phantoms (11-15-0, 22 points) struggled to finish their chances at the other end.
Youngtown goaltender Sean Romeo allowed three goals – all off second chances for Team USA – on 27 shots, while the National Team defense made things easy for his counterpart Thatcher Demko, who faced just 12 shots to record his first shutout of the season.
The two teams will face off again Saturday night at the Covelli Centre in the final game before the holiday break. Puck drop is set for 7:15 p.m. EST.
"We knew that coming in, we were going to have to battle and compete and get some secondary chances… and we had some chances," head coach Anthony Noreen said. "They did a tremendous job of not just defending well, but really getting after second chances. That was probably as many shot-blocks as we've seen all year."
The game was scoreless until midway through the second period, when Sean Malone, who was trailing on an odd-man rush, jumped on rebound to give Team USA the 1-0 lead. Sam Anas had a chance to knot it up for the Phantoms on a breakaway with less than three minutes remaining, but he was hooked by Trevor Hamilton just as he was getting off a wrist shot. After a conference, referee Paul Maciejewski declined to award Anas a penalty shot and Youngstown was unable to capitalize on the subsequent man-advantage.
Projected NHL draft pick Hudson Fasching gave Team USA a two-goal cushion just 5:50 into the third period. There was a melee in front of the Phantoms goal and as Romeo scrambled to freeze the loose puck, Fasching snatched it out of the crease and tucked it just beneath the crossbar. Tyler Kelleher made it a 3-0 game on the power play with just 5:18 remaining when he poked a rebound past Romeo with the Phantoms simply out-manned down low.
Anas had another golden opportunity to get Youngstown on the board with a short-handed breakaway during the final minutes of regulation. The Quinnipiac commit blocked a pass along the blue line and went in 1-on-0, but Will Butcher was able to get his stick on him from behind and knock Anas off balance. The play went un-penalized, much to the chagrin of the Phantoms bench, and USA went on to seal the win.
After the game Phantoms captain Alexander Dahl credited Team USA for an excellent game plan and execution, but conceded that he and his teammates did not play to their potential.
"They're a team that's played together for a year and a half now. They play their systems to a tee, but none of us brought 100 percent of what we can bring," he said. "You can't do that, especially against these guys. We've got to bring a way better effort tomorrow night."
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots – 12
Saves – 24
Power Play – 0-for-4
Penalty Kill – 5-for-6