The Muskegon Lumberjacks at the Covelli Centre might have been the best thing for the Phantoms. After a rough weekend in Dubuque and desperately needing points in the standings, facing a conference rival you're trailing in the standings by 2 points and have won 3 of the 4 previous meetings sounds like a good match up. And it was.
The Phantoms opened the scoring early in the first period. Matthew Cassidy blocked a shot from 'Jacks defenseman Dylan Davies. Cassidy took off up ice and Jayson Dobay grabbed the puck and flipped it out of the zone. The puck rolled into the attack zone to the left faceoff circle where Cassidy caught up to it and drove it in on goal, ripping a backhander over the 'Jacks netminder Jack Williams at 4:56. Seeing as it was Teddy Bear night, there was a bit of a delay to clear the ice after a frenzy of flying fur.
The Phantoms pushed the lead to 2-0 at 7:25 of the second when Williams slid out, well beyond the top of his crease. He made the save but the puck trickled to the side of the net where Jan Kern and John Beaton sparred with the 'jacks defenders, Kern managing to poke it in before Williams recovered. The 'Jacks had been lucky on a similar sequence in the first where he managed to get back and cover it before the puck crossed the line, close enough the goal judge lit the lamp briefly.
Dominic Basse held the shutout for 54:14 but that came crashing to a halt when he raced out to play a puck while the Phantoms were on the powerplay. Dylan Wendt had a clear jump on it and Basse lost the race near the top if the faceoff circle. Basse managed to trip Wendt but the 'Jacks forward retained control of the puck while prone and managed a drop pass while sliding on his stomach to Cameron Berg who did not screw up the empty net attempt. Basse had made a play in the second in the same fashion, skating out to start the play up ice and prevent a shorthanded chance but that was a closer puck, and he made a nice pirouette spin to move the puck out of danger.
The goal gave Muskegon a little life but the Phantoms held on. With Williams on the bench for an extra attacker, Ben Schoen would get his second of the season hitting the net from along the boards in the neutral zone. The 'Jacks had a slight edge in shots 20-17, with Youngstown outshooting them 10-7 in the first period and Muskegon outshooting us 5-3 and 8-4 in the middle and final frames.
Cold weather and maybe other plans for Valentine's Day limited the crowd to 1,080. Still it wasn't the worst crowd we've seen and we're back against the 'Jacks tonight, the last time we'll see them at home during the regular season. And here is my Valentine's present to you.
Matthew Cassidy races to the puck and roofs a backhander.