We're finally to the home opener, and after a few days of sitting in the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, I'm really glad for my seat at the Covelli. It seemed at first that the familiar setting was good for the Phantoms too, but it might have been too much of a good thing. Complacency kills and there is no such thing as a safe lead in hockey.
The Phantom started where they left off in Cranberry. The Capitols took an early penalty, and the Phantoms wasted no time. Trevor Kuntar sent a shot-pass from the point to the stick of Matthew Cassidy, who tipped it behind Caps netminder Simon Latkoczy just 0:48 into the game and only :07 into the penalty. Less than 2:00 later, John Beaton fed a pass to a wide open John Larkin at the top of the slot. The veteran defenseman wasted no time unloading a shot that lit the lamp at 2:17.
Jacob Felker took a slashing call for the Phantoms, leading to the Capitols first goal off the stick of Ryan Kirwin with Brockton Baker setting a good screen on Phantoms goaltender McClean Dorr at 6:50.
The Phantoms would add a pair more, the first off the stick of Yusako Ando who put home a rebound off a Linden Alger shot on the power play at 11:04. Young defenseman Austen May added added another at 17:11, rifling a shot through traffic that found the back of the net. Shots in the frame were 14-12 Phantoms, and we led by 3.
The Caps scored the only goals of the second period. Kristof Papp tipped a point shot passed Dorr at 11:32. Verners Egle brought the Caps within a goal at 17:58 on a 2-on-1, after Austen May was trapped in his own end, with Ricky Lyle assisting with a nice feed. Shots were 8-3 in favor of the Phantoms, but the Caps scored on 2 of their 3 shots and only trailed by a goal going into the third.
The Caps knotted it up quickly in the third with Garrett Dahm off on a hooking call. A point shot from Stepan Pokorny was stopped by Dorr, but somehow ended up acoss the line when Aiden Gallacher collided with Dorr in the crease, pushing him into the net. Jayson Dobay would put the Phantoms back up after Ando mesmerized the Madison defense with some nifty moves, handling the puck behind his back before dishing to the Phantoms defenseman who launched the shot from the left faceoff circle for a goal at 7:32.
The Phantoms came withing a minute of having the victory. The Caps, with their netminder pulled, seemed unable to even get the puck off the boards in the Phantoms zone. After the Phantoms successfully cleared the puck to center ice, Carson Bantle dumped the puck into the zone from the center ice boards - inside the referees protected area. The puck slid in slowly on Dorr who tried to trap the puck along the ice but he fumbled the attempt, possibly tipping the puck with his stick. In any event, a simple dump in and easy cover up turned into a late tying goal with just :55 left in regulation.
To make matters worse, with only :07 remaining in regulation, Reilly Funk took a holding call. The Phantoms were able to kill the penalty but never got much traction in the OT period. With time running down in the OT period, the Caps Stephen Davis was able to send a pass from near his own blueline to Gustav Muller, taking advantage of Cassidy slipping the the Madison zone. The Swedish forward was all alone at center ice and skated into the slot unopposed where he ripped a shot that beat Dorr glove side for the win with just 0:13 left before the shootout. Shots were 10-8 Caps in the third with the game winner being the only shot on goal for either side in the OT. Overall the Phantoms outshot Madison 30-26.
Things were not done, though. Jayson Dobay took a huge hit from a Capitols player who left the bench to celebrate. From what I can tell, it is hard to say that it wasn't intentional. Trevor Kuntar was on the ice trying to engage with the Caps, and he was not on the ice for the last goal. Caps defenseman Brendan Suter was also given a penalty after the horn for abuse of offical. It will be interesting to see if any supplemental discipline will be dolled out.
We have two factors that worked against us. The first was we let up after taking the 3 goal lead. It was pretty clear in the second frame we were coasting quite a bit. We woke up after the tying goal in the third but we should never have got to that point.
The other was netminding. Dorr made some good saves and seemed sharp, especially early on. The first Caps goal was a screen that he was unable to see the puck. You would like to see him stop some of the odd man situations but it's his first USHL game. The late goal in the third to send it to OT was a mistake he'll want back and probably saw in his nightmares. You feel a little sorry but that was not an acceptable goal at this level.
The Phantoms pulled in 1,426 for opening night which is pretty dang good for Youngstown in September. You would have liked to see us win this one but fans were treated to an exciting game. We're 1-1-1-0 to start the season, which is a decent start for us. There will be quite a bit to talk about on this one but that's for another article. In the meantime, here are some highlights.
Matthew Cassidy keeps his stick on the ice and good things happen!
John Larkin blasts one home!
Yusaku Ando puts in the rebound!
Austen May's first USHL goal!
Jayson Dobay fires one for a goal after some nifty stick work from Ando!