Phantoms fend off Saints with 3-goal 3rd period, force game 4 - 21 News Now, More Local News for Youngstown, Ohio -

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Phantoms fend off Saints with 3-goal 3rd period, force game 4

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Twenty minutes and a two-goal deficit separated the Youngstown Phantoms from elimination at the hands of the top-seeded Dubuque Fighting Saints Monday night. But the Phantoms had no intention of ending the season so soon. On the contrary, they were right in their comfort zone.

Cam Brown brought Youngstown within a goal on a power-play three and a half minutes into the final period and Markus McCrea tied the game 3-3 less than 30 seconds later. Then with less than five minutes remaining, John Padulo put the Phantoms ahead 4-3 on the man-advantage to complete another miraculous third-period comeback to stave off elimination.

"Those guys sitting in that room, they don't just play hockey. They're hockey players," head coach Anthony Noreen said. "They wanted to play another day and they just weren't going to be denied. You just felt it coming."

Game 4 of the best-of-five Eastern Conference Finals will be Tuesday at the Covelli Centre. Puck drop is set for 7:15 p.m. EST.

The first two periods were relatively even, save for three mistakes that the opportunistic Fighting Saints were able to put past goaltender Sean Romeo to jump out to a 3-1 lead. Youngstown answered by outshooting Dubuque 22-6 in the final 20 minutes.

Brown got the ball rolling with his first goal of the series and fifth of the postseason just 3:34 into the third. Ryan Lowney, who had a pair of assists on the man-advantage, threaded a pass from the point to Brown at the right circle and the Maine recruit fired a one-timer that handcuffed Dubuque goaltender Arthur Brey.

"It was a great play from Lowney. He hit Brown on the backdoor, where he's always living it seems like," Padulo said. "It was a good shot that kind of trickled off the goalie's back and went in.

"It doesn't matter how it goes in. It could go off the popcorn guy."

Youngstown turned to arguably its top line throughout the postseason - McCrea, center Alfred Larsson and 16-year-old right wing JJ Piccinich - to keep the momentum the ensuing shift. It more than delivered.

Larsson won the draw, the Phantoms dumped it into the Dubuque end, and the trio went to work banging bodies and cycling the puck in the corner. Piccinich handed it off to Larsson at the left circle and the big Swede carried it behind the net, drawing a defender, and then dished it out to McCrea, who was open at the goalmouth.

"I made a little space between [the defender] and [Larsson] made a perfect pass in front," McCrea said. "I just put it under the bar. At that point we could just feel it on the bench. This was our game.

"That's one I'll never forget."

Dubuque's Joseph Manno was penalized with 5:07 remaining giving Youngstown, which had earned three combined power plays over Games 1-2, its seventh chance on the man-advantage. The Saints were successful killing off the first minute of the penalty and before an offensive zone faceoff, Noreen elected to use his timeout.

"That unit was doing a really good job of moving the puck, Noreen said. "We felt like, if we could get them another minute fresh - let them reset and take a breath - that would be our best use of it."

The bet paid off as the reinvigorated top unit was able to block a pair of clearing attempts at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Then Austin Cangelosi, who also scored a power-play goal with 32 seconds remaining first period, got puck along the left half-wall and slid it across the blue line for Anas at the right point. The Potomac, Md., native teed up a slap shot and fired it wide of the back post, where it struck Padulo's stick and ricocheted in.

"Our third period - I mean, unbelievable the way we played," Padulo said. "Everyone - I don't care if you played one shift or 20 shifts - everyone was happy. Everyone was cheering."

Romeo responded with his biggest save of the game the less than two minutes later when he denied Evan Janssen with a blocker save off a backdoor feed from Jarrid Privitera. The pair had capitalized on a nearly identical play to open the scoring in the first period.

Dubuque grabbed a 2-0 lead at the 14:01 mark in the first, just 1:40 after Janssen made it 1-0, when Mike Szmatula got the puck off a turnover at the blue line and hit Peter Quenneville on the back post. Szmatula made it 3-1 less than six minutes into the second when he walked out of the corner and tucked a low wrist shot past Romeo.

"After they scored the goal and went up two, somebody said . 'What's different?'" defenseman Eric Sweetman said. "'We've done this all year.

"It shows the character in this room."

The Phantoms were forced to play down a man for nearly six minutes straight to close out the second period, but were able to keep the Fighting Saints from adding another on the way to a 6-for-6 night on the penalty kill.

"We want to celebrate this victory, but in the back of your head, you know you've got two more ahead of you," Sweetman said.

Phantoms by the Numbers

Shots - 40

Saves - 21

Power Play - 3-for-7

Penalty Kill - 6-for-6

Goals - Brown, Cangelosi, McCrea, Padulo

Assists - Anas (2), Cangelosi, Larsson, Lowney (2), Padulo, Piccinich

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