YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – On Saturday, the Youngstown Phantoms clinched a playoff spot and home ice advantage with a 2-1 win over the reigning Clark Cup Champions, the Chicago Steel.

“It’s obviously a good feeling because they’re really good team and to three or four points and clinch home ice, it’s obviously a little bit easier on your legs not having to travel in that first round,” Phantoms defenseman Trey Taylor said.

It’s a huge turnaround from last year. During their 2020-2021 campaign, the Phantoms recorded just 12 wins, the least amount of wins in the entire league.

“Going through and you lose, you definitely learn a lot.” defenseman Bayard Hall added. “It’s a developmental league and obviously you never want to lose, but I think that we learned a lot from kind of battling through that and that adversity. I think some of the guys that were on the team last year have kind of stepped up and led this group and didn’t want to repeat that again.”

This season, the team believes they have the depth to make a postseason run.

“We’ve had great goaltending and our defense core has been great,” head coach Brad Patterson said. “So, we’re able to play any sort of game, but ultimately we need the 20 guys to do that. It can’t be relying on a small amount. And that’s been the key to our success all year.”

The playoffs begin Monday, April 25. The Phantoms don’t know their first-round opponent yet but feel confident going up against any team.

“We just want to play Youngstown Phantoms hockey, and we got to believe in each other and we can’t get down,” Hall said. “I think if we come together and everyone just kind of banks on each other and we play as a team, I think we’re going to be very successful and very dangerous moving down the road.”

“There’s been a lot of doubters over the course of the year on what we can achieve, but I think inside of that room and within our group, we think we can compete with anyone,” Patterson added. “And it’s our job to go out and prove that.”