One day after another embarrassing loss to the NTDP's U17 squad in Plymouth, it looked like the Phantoms were well on their way to repeating the task. The first two meetings between these clubs resulted in 9-2 and 9-3 losses respectively and this one had the same look to it but the Phantoms did not quit tonight and got 2 points where a lot of teams would have folded.
The game seemed pretty even in the first period until late in the frame. With the Phantoms having to kill back to back penalties, USA finally tallied on the second at 18:04 when Roman Schmidt launched a shot from the point and Nikolai Jenson, unable to clear Ty Murchison out, screened Dominic Basse. Just 0:27 later, Jack Hughes took a pass from Jacob Martin in the left faceoff circle that found a small seam between Basse's stick side and the post for the second goal of the period. The Phantoms outshot USA 9-8 but trailed by 2 after 20:00.
USA pushed the lead to 3 goals on a 3-on-2 rush where they pushed the Phantoms defenders low as Murchison made it a 4-on-2 late and Dylan Duke hit him with a pass entering the zone. He had a clear lane into the slot where he ripped a shot for a goal at 5:47 of the second.
The Phantoms normally might have crumbled there but they didn't last night. A boarding call to Liam Gilmartin put the Phantoms on the PP for the fourth time of the evening. Ben Schoen tried to set up Trevor Kuntar in the low slot but the puck hit a NTDP defender in the crease and bounced behind netminder Gibson Homer for a goal at 7:22. The Phantoms would draw within a goal at 8:54 when Jacob Felker whipped a surpisingly hard shot from well beyond the right faceoff circle for a goal.
USA would answer back. A 2-on-1 saw Dylan Duke's inital pass get blocked by Aiden Gallacher but Duke got a second chance at a pass and got it through the Phantoms defenseman to Chaz Lucius for a goal at 10:38. A 2-on-2 moments later saw too passive of a defense from Jayson Dobay and Nikolai Jenson and Jack Devine hit Sasha Pastujov who rifled yet another behind Basse at 10:52. This pushed the lead back to 3 goals and ended Basse's night. Shots were even at 10 a side in the middle 20:00.
I don't know what was said in the locker room heading into the third but Coach Patterson must have flipped the switch on something. Matching minors to end the second and an early elbowing call to Jack Devine put the Phantoms on a 4-on-3 powerplay. Georgi Merkulov took a pass from Trevor Kuntar in the left faceoff circle and, with Matthew Cassidy screening Homer, wristed a shot in at 1:06.
Trevor Kuntar made it a one goal game later on another powerplay, at the top of the crease redirecting a point shot from Aiden Gallacher at 10:32. Queue the dramatic ending to regulation. At 17:12 Tyler Boucher took a bad penalty for tripping, using his skate to sweep the legs out from under Josh DeLuca. With Colin Purcell pulled for the extra attacker, Matthew Cassidy took a shot from a sharp angle that Homer made the save on but the rebound popped out to the low slot for Aiden Gallacher to shovel home a rebound at 18:43, just 1:17 left in regulation. Shots were 9-8 Youngstown in the third and we were heading to OT knotted up at 5 goals each.
The Phantoms had the momentum in the OT but the play of the game might have been from Colin Purcell. Sasha Pastujov was dogging Schoen up ice and deflected a Schoen pass in the neutral zone, grabbing the loose puck and into the Phantoms end on a breakaway. Pastujov, a very skilled scoring forward, made a quick move to the backhand and shot but the glove of the Shaker Heights, Ohio native was quicker and he managed to cover the rebound.
The Phantoms won the ensuing faceoff and brought the puck up ice. Merkulov pulled up and hit Dobay just insiide the attack zone and Dobay lanched a shot that was redirected by Kuntar in the crease to end it at the 62:03 mark of the game. Shots were 3-1 Phantoms in the OT.
As a side note, as the Phantoms were heading to center ice to celebrate and do the usual end of game send off, the USA players gathered too and a few looked like they were trying to engage the Phantoms with some pushing and shoving. Ty Murchison, Roman Schmidt, and Sasha Pastujov were among the more aggressive members. We'll see if anything comes from that.
The Phantoms were 7 for 8 on the PK and 4 of 7 on the PP. It's special teams like that that can change a game, and they did. The NTDP usually gets away with a lot of penalties, they still did last night. The difference is what calls they did take, they paid for. That is how you have to beat these kids. It seemed like the Phantoms had gotten under their skin as much, if not a little more, than they got under ours. I don't know if this was by design or not, but it worked for us last night.
Colin Purcell was perfect in relief of Basse, just a night after being pulled in the same situation as Basse. Basse gave up 5 goals on 13 shots while Purcell stopped all 14. On Friday, Purcell was burned for 6 in 26 shots while Basse gave up 3 on 11.
It was Pittsburgh Penguins night and $1 beer and hot dog night as well. I know all you come out for those hot dogs. The attendance was listed as 2,424 so that's a good crowd to see a thriller like that. With the Pens promo team helping out, the fans were loud and I'm pretty sure that helped drive the team. Now we need to get this on a consistent basis, at home and on the road. Anyway, I had some camera issues and really only got the one highlight.
Georgi Murkulov scores on the PP!