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Youngstown Phantoms Press Release

Phantoms return for three-in-three

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - On paper, the task appears daunting.

Three games. Three nights. Two cities. All immediately after returning from a two-week break with no structured practices.

That is the reality for the Youngstown Phantoms this weekend, who take to the ice after the holiday break only to be greeted by their first "three-in-three" of the season, thanks to a rescheduling that added Saturday's home affair against the Indiana Ice to the schedule.

Despite the apparent difficulty of the situation, coach Anthony Noreen views the three-in-three to be well timed.

"We should be fresh," said Noreen. "What better time to play three games in three days then when you've just had a two-week break? I think we should be fresh; we should be ready for it. There's no reason anyone should be tired."

Noreen further emphasized that he is not concerned with the conditioning of his team, another logical worry following the extended time off.

"A big challenge that we put to our guys before we left was, 'hey, get a break, but at the same point, make sure you're taking care of your body. Make sure you know what we have ahead of us. When we get back, make sure you've kept yourself in the proper shape,'" said Noreen. "If we're going to treat these guys like men, and treat them like pros, the way we say we're going to do, they need to make sure they're in the proper shape, and I trust that they all will be when they get back."

One element that should help the Phantoms (7-13-5, 19 points) as they duel Indiana on Friday and Saturday at the Covelli Centre before heading to Muskegon on Sunday is that each member of the team took his equipment home, according to Noreen, and many were able to skate in some capacity, be it with their former teams, local midget teams, or high school squads. By independently training, the Phantoms were able to keep their conditioning up despite the lack of organized practices, but ultimately, the time away from the rink might prove vital for a side that arguably needed an extended respite more than any other USHL team.

"I think it's healthy," said Noreen on the time off. "I think it's healthy for the guys, mentally and physically. A little bit of time away from the game, as competitors, as hockey players, you spend a few days away from the rink, and you realize how much you miss it. I know for me, it took all of about a day or two days to realize how much I missed the guys, and being around them, and being at the rink, and competing every day. I think it's a good break for them. Physically, they needed it. We're as beat up as we've been as a team in a long time. We've had some injuries that we need to get healed, and hopefully, a lot of them have."

Fortunately for the Phantoms, it appears as if several of their injuries have healed: goaltender Sean Romeo already returned in the team's last game, and the club is optimistic that forward Tyler Spezia and defenseman Tommy Parran will be able to return to the ice as well.

"Those are some guys who play some pretty important minutes for us, so we're hopeful that we'll get those guys back and we're hopeful that they're where we need them to be," said Noreen. "It should be a huge injection of energy into our lineup."

The first opponent on the docket is the Indiana Ice (14-5-4, 32 points), who will visit the Covelli Centre on Friday and Saturday. A young team ripe with offensive talent, the Ice currently field 14 players in double-digit point scoring, a mark that is tied for the USHL lead (a tie that carries an asterisk of sorts, as the other team with 14 is the Team USA double-squad).

"They play hard, they keep it pretty simple, they've gotten good goaltending, and I think they've gotten some really good depth scoring," said Noreen, on what Indiana brings to the table. "It seems like every time we play them, it's a different guy putting the puck into the net. That's a big key to this league. Teams are going to key in on your top line, and they're going to key in on your top couple of players. When you're getting scoring from different guys in different positions, I think it helps, and they're a well-coached team as well."

After two challenging games against Indiana, the Phantoms will hit the road immediately to face Muskegon on Sunday. Travel aside, the challenge of preparing for two different teams on such short notice is theoretically more difficult than a standard two-game weekend set, but Coach Noreen is confident in his staff and his team's abilities to prepare.

"Up front, the nice thing is, we can game plan for the same team on Friday and Saturday," said Noreen. "That's nice, it's more of a college-type atmosphere, where it's one team you're worried about. We'll get all the pre-scouting done, we'll have a plan of attack. We'll be able to fine-tune some things going into Saturday after seeing them once. With the quick turnaround, the next thing is, Muskegon is a team that we've seen a few times. It wasn't too long ago that we played them in a two-game weekend. I don't think there will be any huge adjustments from the last time we played them, it will just be a lot of reminders of some things from last time."

Game Schedule (all times ET)

Friday, Dec. 26: Indiana Ice at Phantoms, 7:05 pm, Sports Radio 1240/FASTHockey.com

Saturday, Dec. 27: Indiana Ice at Phantoms, 7:05 pm, Sports Radio 1240/FASTHockey.com

Sunday, Dec. 28: Phantoms at Muskegon Lumberjacks, 5:15 pm, Sports Radio 1240/FASTHockey.com

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