Phantoms clinch playoff spot despite 4-2 loss to USA - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Youngstown Phantoms Press Release

Phantoms clinch playoff spot despite 4-2 loss to USA

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ANN ARBOR, Michigan – The Youngstown Phantoms clinched the franchise's second straight berth in the Clark Cup Playoffs Sunday, in spite of hard-fought 4-2 loss to the U.S. National Under-18 Team. The Phantoms (33-23-0, 66 points) were able to punch their playoff ticket courtesy of the Indiana Ice's 6-3 victory over the fifth-place Chicago Steel.

Youngstown has already clinched the edge season series with Chicago, which would be the determining factor in the unlikely event of a tie in standings points at the end of the season. Head coach Anthony Noreen said that although he would have preferred to earn the berth under winning circumstances, he was nonetheless proud of his team's accomplishment.

"When we set out to turn this franchise in the right direction, this is what we had in mind," He said. "It speaks volumes about how far our franchise has come over the past two years and how far this group of guys has come this season. I couldn't be more proud."

Despite playing their fourth game in six days, and eighth over the past two weeks, the Phantoms entered the final period tied 2-2, but Team USA (19-31-5, 43 points) notched a pair of goals less than four minutes apart to capture a 4-2 win.

Sean Romeo was a rock between the pipes for the Youngstown, turning away 41 of a 45-shot flurry from Team USA. Right wing Sam Anas scored both goals for the Phantoms while center Austin Cangelosi recorded an assist to extend his point streak to nine games.

"Our guys competed extremely hard, I really, really thought we did," Noreen said. "From start to finish I don't think there was any point where our effort – or execution really – could have been questioned. The bottom line is that's an extremely good hockey team. We knew we would need to be near perfect to beat them and we weren't that close to perfect."

Team USA out possessed Youngstown for much of the opening period, racking up 12 shots through the first 20 minutes of play. But Romeo was up to task, turning away them all, with no save bigger than a quick kick of the left pad to deny John Hayden on a breakaway with just seconds remaining in the frame.

USA finally solved Romeo on its 18th shot of the game. JT Compher came flying down the right wing wall and fired a low wrist shot that kicked off Romeo's pad and right out for John Hayden, who tipped it in to make it 1-0 at the 5:54 mark.

Anas knotted it up at the seven minutes later with Cangelosi was in the penalty box for slashing. Renouf set up Anas for a short-handed 2-on-1 rush, and as Cam Brown drove to the net to draw the defender, the Quinnipiac commit pulled off a slick deke and flicked a backhander top shelf on Thatcher Demko to knot the game up at 1-1.

USA went right back in front, finally capitalizing on a power play after three straight attempts when Compher fired a slap shot through a screen from the left circle at the 14:39 mark. The National Team had a golden opportunity to add to the lead less than a minute later during a scrum in front of the net, but Romeo made an outstanding and athletic save to freeze the puck, all while sprawled out on his stomach.

"We're so used to seeing Sean make big saves like that we've come to expect it," Noreen said. "He's an elite goaltender and that's what elite goaltenders do in big games – give you a chance."

The Phantoms went on to tie the game back up on a power play of their own with 3:47 remaining in the period. Cangelosi skated it into the zone on the left boards and fired a pass to John Padulo at the right circle. Padulo in turn dished it right back across the slot to Anas, who made a quick move before stuffing it past Demko for his 30th goal of the campaign.

"USA is so good at taking the middle of the ice away, you just can't stick handle around them … When we get a chance to rush down the ice and nobody stick handles the puck," Noreen said. "We advance it quickly, quickly and wound up putting it in.

"For Sammy to score 30 speaks volumes about the type of season he's having."

The National Team went in front for good early in the third period, on its sixth power play opportunity of the afternoon. Will Butcher found Compher alone on the backdoor and he wristed it in for his second goal of the game to give USA a 3-1 lead at the 5:59 mark.

"Our penalty kill was actually really good today I thought," Noreen said. "We just went to the well a couple too many times against a very good team. We had a couple of our top killers in the box and guys who were already having to play a lot of shifts and are tired are now out their having to kill penalties. I think that was a factor."

Evan Allen added an insurance marker less than four minutes later when he dug a puck out from a melee in front of net and backhanded it over an outstretched Romeo. The Phantoms were awarded a power play with 1:49 remaining and pulled Romeo for the extra attacker in a last ditch effort to pull even, but were unable to put any more past Demko.

"We asked our guys to get better [from Tuesday's loss] up to Today's game and I think we improved a lot," Noreen said. "Were we good enough or where we wanted to be? No, but we're moving in the right direction. That game is extremely indicative of what playoff hockey looks like. That's the type of hockey we need to be playing."

Phantoms by the Numbers

Shots – 19

Saves – 41

Power Play – 1-for-7

Penalty Kill – 4-for-6

Goals – Anas (2)

Assists – Cangelosi, Padulo, Renouf

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