Phantoms edge Lumberjacks

YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WKBN)-A goal by the visitors late in regulation forced overtime, but the Youngstown Phantoms(16-9-2-1, 35 points)recovered to find the game winning goal off the stick of Austin Pooley as they downed the Muskegon Lumberjacks 3-2 on Tuesday night at the Covelli Centre.

"It's one of those games that you're excited to win," said Phantoms Head Coach Brad Patterson. "Going in we had seven days, eight days off, and I think that showed in the first two periods."

Both teams were indeed showing that rust as neither team was able to find the back of the net in the first period. Muskegon did have several good scoring chances in the period, but ended up having two goals disallowed; one on a high stick, one on goaltender interference. Muskegon took advantage of a mishandle by Phantomsnetminder Britt League (27 saves) early in the second period to open the scoring. League came out of his crease to play a dump in, but was stripped of the puck by the USHL's leading rookie scorer Andrei Svechnikov. With League out of position, Svechnikov quickly fired a shot toward the vacant cage, but his shot rang off the post. The rebound deflected out to Will Smith at the top of the left circle, who was able to deposit the puck to the back of the empty cage before League could scramble back into the crease to make the save. Smith's goal, his fifth of the season, gave Muskegon the 1-0 lead just 1:02 into the second period.

Youngstown would find the equalizer at the 11:34 mark. With Matt Steeves off for a five-minute major penalty for head contact, Nicolas Werbiktook a wrist shot from the top of the left circle. Werbik's shot hit the leg of Alex Esposito and trickled into the net. For Esposito, it was his 10th goal of the season, and was part of a Phantomspower play that was two for three on the night. "With the 'PP' that's a credit to Coach Potter and Upton, they put in a ton of work with those guys," said Patterson.

The Phantoms took the lead with another power play goal 2:14 into the third period. Max Ellis took a wrist shot from right circle that was saved by Muskegon goaltender Adam Brizgala (22 saves). The rebound ticked off the skate of Brandon Estes and right to the stick of Curtis Hall, who backhanded it home for his sixth goal of the season.

With 1:05 left, Muskegon pulled Brizgala for the extra attacker. Just over 20 seconds later, the Lumberjacks tied the game. Jack McNeely took a sharp angle shot from the left wing boards. League made the save on the initial shot, but the rebound bounced to the stick of Svechnikov, who backhanded it in to tie the game with 42.3 seconds left.

In overtime, Estes found Pooley behind the defense 4:06 into the extra frame. Pooley came in alone from the blue line, deked from his forehand to his backhand and roofed his shot into the back of the net for the game winner. "I found some open ice in the middle," recalled Pooley after the game. "Estes made a great pass…I deked him (Brizgala) and found a little bit of open net and luckily it went in."

Youngstown returns to the ice on New Year's Eve for an afternoon tilt against Team USA's U18 squad.


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