Another game against the same team less than 24 hours from a disappointing overtime loss. Your riding your backup goalie, who only had 8 starts the last season, throughout the entire preseason and now four games into the regular season. How a team handles obstacles like this is what defines a season. I'm very happy to say the Phantoms handled the situation like the hockey team we've come to expect form the past few seasons, with hard work and win. The Youngstown boys managed their first notch in the W column in true Phantoms form in front of an appreciative home crowd.
The first period was pretty uneventful, neither team getting on the scoreboard save for some penalties. Kyle Connor opened the scoring less than 5 minutes into the second, beating Green Bay Gamblers goalie Cam Hackett. Their lead was short lived as the Wisconsin squad scored shorthanded less than 2 minutes later on a play that that at least woke the crowd up and, to me, kicked off Phantoms hockey. It started with a Matthew Weis penalty for holding. The puck cleared the Gamblers zone and the Phantom's defenseman Fredric Larsson was pressured by Sebastian Weberg. Weberg blatantly tripped Larsson and fed the puck over to Gavin Stoick who beat Jake Moore.
There was nothing subtle about it and the ref was looking straight at the play. This brought the crowd out in full force with a roar of disapproval. And as we're accustomed to, this led to a string of bad no-calls with the Gamblers taking quite a few cheap shots in the minutes that followed and Alex Smith was called for a tripping penalty less than 2:30 after the Gamblers goal, which brought a few remarks from the Phantoms faithful concerning the inconsistency of the calling. Still the Phantoms kept their cool, played through and played harder, eventually drawing a few calls as Green Bay seemed to lose their discipline in the last 5 minutes.
The animosity boiled over into the third period and finally culminated in fisticuffs. Connor Lemirande, a 6-5 235 pound forward for Youngstown dropped the gloves with 6-3 195 pound defensman Matthew Purmal. Both players exchanged heavy punches before going down to the ice no worse for the wear. This brought the hungry crowd to their feet and into the game. Phantoms hockey was finally in full effect! The Phantoms finally broke the tie at the 11:43 mark with Weis in the box again. Luke Stork took a pass from the point and ripped a shot from the right face-off dot. The puck popped out front and team captain Alfred Larsson tied up the front of the net looking for the rebound. Keifer Sherwood sneaked in from the left face-off circle and banged the puck up behind the crossbar for the lead.
This would remain the score until just 0:24 left. With their goalie pulled for an extra attacker, the Gamblers simply out-manned the Phantoms in front of the net and Kevin Irwin (no relation) put the puck on the stick of Ryan Siroky who put it in. That set us up for the second OT in as many days. However, this time it would be the Phantoms raising their hands in celebration as Keifer Sherwood laid the puck back to Alex Smith who netted his second goal, much like his first in Ann Arbor, by walking into a shot and just blasting it through. The OT frame lased only 1:52 and Green Bay didn't even record a shot on goal in this one.
It's great being able to talk about a win. Less than a day after being so close this really comes as a relief to fans. I happiest just to see no huge mistakes. Jake Moore played an exceptional game, easily his best this year if not his career. They played hard and kept their composure when the calls went against them. Actually, that seemed to galvanize the team a little, finally having something other than themselves to blame gave them a rally point. Before they were their own worst enemy. Now they need to take some momentum from this on the road with them next weekend.