Melnick's overtime winner lifts Phantoms - News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Melnick's overtime winner lifts Phantoms

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DES MOINES, Iowa - Two late Buccaneer power play goals threatened to ruin a dominating performance by the Phantoms on Saturday night.

Josh Melnick made sure that the visitors got the win they deserved.

After a wild, back-and-forth affair that featured a 25-shot advantage for the Phantoms, Melnick's overtime winner lifted Youngstown to its third win in the month of February.

The game-winning goal came after a phenomenal sequence. After a pass to the point hopped over Des Moines defenseman Connor Schmidt's stick, Melnick raced after the puck, only to see Buccaneer goalie Ryan Ruck leave his crease to try and beat him to it. Ruck won the race, but Maxim Letunov picked off his clearing attempt just inside the blue line.

With Ruck hustling back to the crease, Letunov tried to get the puck to the net, but Des Moines collected the shot, and with an attacker well behind the Phantoms defense, tried to headman ahead. Bo Pellah made a wonderful interception, and the resulting cycle led to Letunov centering for Melnick from behind the net, and the future Princeton Tiger had a tap-in goal.

"Coach just wanted us to play simple, because it was overtime," said Melnick. "We turned the puck over, but Pellah had a good keep in. He gave the puck to me. Matt Miller was open on the point, he dished it to Max down low, who came around the net, and made a great pass to me in front."

The goal came on the second shot of overtime for the Phantoms, who outshot the Buccaneers 42-17 on the evening. The 42 shots Youngstown attempted was their third-highest output of the season, trailing the 49 they amassed on November 9 against Fargo, and the 43 they recorded on November 22 against Lincoln.

"That was one of our plans: let's get more pucks and bodies to the net," said Noreen. "I don't know if that's the most shots we've had all year. I would venture to guess it probably is, and I would guarantee it's the most shots we've attempted. Again, when you're struggling to score, it's usually not the pretty ones that go in; usually it's the ugly ones, getting to the net, and things like that. That was a big part of what we talked about today."

Despite the shot dominance, the Phantoms did not get on the board until the 19:39 mark of the second period, when Trey Bradley's rebound put-back leveled the contest at one.

"It wasn't a pretty goal that Trey scored; Trey was willing to get to an ugly area against a defensive corps that's very big, strong, and mean," said Noreen. "He knew he was probably going to take a stick, body, or punch, but he was willing to go in there and pay the price, and he was rewarded with a goal."

"I thought we dominated them for most of the game," added Melnick. "They got a lucky bounce early on. Trey made a great play. He was going hard to the net, and he put the puck in. It definitely gave the team a spark."

The Phantoms emerged from the dressing room for the third period with plenty of life, scoring twice in the frame's first 5:23 to take a 3-1 lead. Still, the Buccaneers fought back, tallying power play goals at 12:15 and 18:09 to send the game to overtime.

Des Moines' two third-period goals came on their only two power plays of the contest. Although the rowdy Buccaneer Arena came to life following the game-tying goal, Youngstown kept their confidence.

"After they scored their first [power play goal], we wanted to stay composed," said Melnick. "After they scored the [second] one, Coach calmed us down. Since we were outplaying them, we knew we could come back and put one in at the end."

Noreen said he was impressed by his team's composure all game long.

"I thought we were pretty even keeled all night, whether we were down 1-0 or up 3-1. There weren't many highs or lows; I thought there was a quiet confidence on our bench tonight, which I was really happy with."

The Phantoms were able to regroup in the break before overtime, and in the extra session, Melnick delivered the winner.

"A lot of things happened," said Anthony Noreen on the play. "It looks like Josh might get a breakaway going one way, and then all of a sudden, they have a guy behind us the other way, looks like a breakaway, but [Pellah] picks it off. Max just makes a special play, and [Melnick] gets to an ugly area of the ice. He takes a pretty big hit as he was burying that puck, but he was willing to get there, and it was a great finish by him."

Noreen added that he was impressed with his team's performance both on the ice and off, crediting the team's video study prior to the game.

"The biggest thing about today was that I loved how coachable we were," said the Phantoms' coach. "We had a pretty long video session today, which at times, after a loss like last night, and the times that we're in right now as a team, would be very easy to tune out. All the things we went over, it was so evident that our guys bought in. That was the biggest thing in the game-they were willing to be coachable and able to make the adjustments that we needed them to, and it resulted in a much better hockey game."

Phantoms by the Numbers

Shots - 42

Saves - 14

Power Play - 0/4

Penalty Kill - 0/2

Goals - Bradley (5), Parran (4), Connor (20), Melnick (4)

Assists - Connor (33), Nenadal (2), Lemirande (8), Piccinich (20), Letunov (16), Miller (5)

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