YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown Phantoms potted three goals in the first period and went on to down the Des Moines Buccaneers 4-2 Friday night at the Covelli Centre to open the second half of the season on a high note. Four different players found the back of the net for Phantoms (17-16-0, 34 points), who extended their winning streak to four games while picking up their third victory over the Buccaneers (18-19-1, 37 points) this season.
"We don't judge ourselves by the scoreboard or the standings," head coach Anthony Noreen said. "Obviously we'll take the two points, but we're hungry for more."
John Padulo, Markus McCrea, Cam Brown and Luke Stork all scored for the Phantoms, and seven different players registered assists, including winger Nathan Walker, who has recorded a point in each of his first three games. In net, Jake Moore made 18 saves and overcame an early goal to pick up his first USHL win.
The Phantoms struck first when Padulo beat Buccaneers goaltender Billy Christopoulos nearly four minutes into the game. Austin Cangelosi led a 2-on-1 rush down the ice and threaded a perfect pass across the goal mouth for Padulo, who one-touched it into the open net to put Youngstown in front first for the fourth straight game.
Des Moines however, would knot it up with a short-handed goal at the 8:26 mark. Willem Nong-Lambert floated a wrist shot toward net, but as Moore went to make the save, the puck plunked off his glove and bounced behind him.
"Everyone in the building knew Jake wanted that back," Noreen said. "But his ability to mentally let that go and move forward was the biggest positive in the game. He made some huge saves later in the game when they had the ability to swing the momentum their way."
Just after the midway point of the period, Bucs forward Ali Thomas jumped Padulo away from the play and hit him high cross check. Padulo was slow to get up, Thomas was given the gate and the Phantoms were handed a five-minute power play. McCrea capitalized on it with 6:52 remaining in the period, emerging from a pile in front of the Des Moines' net with the puck and sending it high with Christopoulos sprawled on the ice.
Then with 30 seconds remaining in the period, Walker picked off a Des Moines breakout pass at the top of the left circle and rifled the puck to Brown in the slot. The Natick, Mass. native opened up and fired a one-timer five-hole on Christopoulos to put the Phantoms up 3-1 heading into the second intermission.
"It was a nice play. He used some poise and hit me on the backside," Brown said. "Our line [with Sam Anas] is really starting to blend. We were making a lot of plays tonight and we're getting more comfortable with each other."
Two seconds after the puck dropped on the second period, Padulo was challenged by Des Moines defenseman Tyler Dorentes. The Rochester, N.Y. native obliged and the two went toe-to-toe, with each landing a fair share of knocks before the linesmen finally came in to halt the fight.
"I kind of figured someone would come after me, but it is what it is," Padulo said. "I don't mind playing that style of play. If I have to stick up for myself, I will. No hard feelings there – just a good fight. And I took care of business."
The best scoring chance of the second came with less than six minutes remaining as Cangelosi, who was despite only recording one point was the Phantoms' biggest threat Friday, got behind the Des Moines defense only to see the puck poked off his stick by Christopoulos as he closed in on net. The Estero, Fla. native quickly gathered it in the corner and hit Padulo on the backdoor once again, but this time Christopoulos was squared up to make the save.
Danny Elser had the chance to make it a one-goal game on a breakaway early in the third, but Moore made amends for his early goal with an athletic glove save from down in the butterfly. Minutes later, Josh Nenadal poked a puck into the neutral zone right out for Stork, who was heading up ice with speed. The rookie from Pittsburgh burst past one defenseman, used a toe drag to cut inside on another and then, after briefly entertaining a backdoor pass, he elected to shoot it top shelf to put the Phantoms up 4-1 at the 5:05 mark.
Luke Voltin cut the lead in half less than a minute later when he beat Moore with a one-timer from the right circle, but Youngstown buckled down for the remainder of the third to close out the Buccaneers. The win brought the Phantoms above the .500-mark for the first time since Oct. 6, and vaulted them into a tie with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders for fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots – 24
Saves – 18
Power Play – 1-for-7
Penalty Kill – 5-for-5
Goals – Brown, McCrea, Padulo, Stork
Assists – Anas, Cangelosi, Kyle Connor, Alexander Dahl, Lowney, Nenadal, Walker