For the third time in 3 weeks, the Phantoms managed to open the weekend by winning the first of back-to-back games. Last night, we managed a thrilling dramatic win over the Clark Cup Champion Fargo Force. The last time the Phantoms and Force played was the night the Force were handed the cup on our ice. Needless to say, this game was a big victory for the returning players and team moral.
The Force got on the board first, shorthanded at that with Tanner Vescio in the box for hooking. Fargo's Connor Meyer cleared the puck out of the Fargo zone where Ben Meyers and Hank Crone were behind the defense. Mayers ended up with the puck along the left halfboards and sent a pass to Crone at the far goalpost who tapped it in behind netminder Vinnie Purpura for a 1-0 lead at 8:18 of the first.
The Phantoms would get that back on the next power play at 12:30 with Vescio in the box for hooking, again. Defenseman Liam Dennison carried the puck from the blueline to below the goal line where he centered a pass to Brett Murray. Murray was able to kick the puck from his skates to his stick and push the puck into the net, where Fargo netminder Ryan Bischel had momentarily left the near post open.
The Phantoms would take the lead shorthanded, literally as time expired in the first. With Tristian Amonte in the box for holding, Dalton Messina would tap the puck out of the Phantoms zone to center ice. Gianfranco Cassaro would move the puck over to Craig Needham and the pair would head up ice with Crone, a forward, as the lone defender. With time running off the clock Needham could not make a play and had to shoot from the top of left faceoff dot, snapping a shot that beat Bischel cleanly as the buzzer sounded. The ref and linesmen huddled for just a few seconds before declaring a goal good. The Phantoms went to the locker room outshooting the Force 9-7 and, more importantly, up a goal.
The Force would tie the game in the second. Defenseman Jayson Dobay would get tangled with a Fargo player near the center ice line as Tyler Gratton skated up ice and into the Phantom's zone along the right side boards. Michael Mancinelli would see the opening where Dobay should have been and went straight for the net. Phantom Nikolai Jensen was the only one back and ended up in limbo, unable to stop the pass to Mancinelli, who was able to put it behind Purpura for the only goal of the frame. Shots were 5-4 for Fargo in the second. The 3rd period would be scoreless. Shots were 8-7 in favor of Fargo.
This set up overtime. With under a minute left and the Force controlling the puck in the Phantoms' zone, Purpura would lose his stick behind the net and Connor MacEachern would hand the goaltender his twig. Brett Murray took the the puck and skated up ice. The stickless MacEachern would quickly change for Joseph Abate, and Abate took a pass from Murray in the attack zone. Abate got the shot off quickly from the top of the left faceoff circle. Bischel would make the save, but the rebound went straight to the charging Murray, who would fire it home past the sprawling Bischel for the win with just :30 left in the OT period. Shots were 2-1 Phantoms in the OT, and 22-21 Phantoms for the game.
I had said in the preview I'd like to see Needham and Abate get on the board, and both did. Needham scored his 5th of the season, 4th shorthanded. Abate's 7 game pointless streak couldn't have ended any better either, assisting on the game winner. Vinnie Purpura stopped 19 of 21 for his second win since the trade.
Now the only thing left to mention is the attendance, 695 for the night. This needs to be a lot better and soon. Hopefully with a big win last night and Harry Potter night tonight, we'll see a big improvement but I'm not holding my breath. Anyway, here are some highlights.
Brett Murray scores on the PP!
Craig Needham's shorthanded buzzer beater!