Three straight playoff wins have advanced the Phantoms to the Eastern Conference Finals. But, it was a move off the ice back in November, that has dramatically impacted the team’s fortune this season.
Trading the franchise leader in goals will raise some eyebrows. But that’s what the Phantoms did in late November, shipping JT Stenglein to Sioux City.
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“I think people outside of our locker room when we made that trade, thought we were rebuilding for the future,” says Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen. “They don’t know what’s going on. They don’t know what the situation is. They saw, on paper, we didn’t get much back. And, they just figured we were rebuilding for the following year and it was actually the exact opposite.”
Youngstown was 7-11 before the trade, but used it as a wake-up call, going 30-16 post-Stenglein.
Phantom’s right winger Sam Anas continues, “I think we kind of realized, JT was the leading scorer the year before, and just no one is safe. You have to work for your job and if we’d have kept losing there, who knows if we would have made the playoffs and gone on this special run.”
Noreen knew exactly who he wanted in return for his special player, Cam Brown.
“I had never seen him play before in my life,” says Noreen. “I watched him on video for one shift. One shift of a game. He didn’t score a goal. He didn’t do anything remarkable. And, I called Coach (Rob) Rassey into his office and I said, ‘This is the kid we’re going after, because he looks like us.’ The way he skates. The way he competes. The way he’s all over the ice. He’s like our type of player.”
Cam Brown echos coaches’ sentiments about him. “I think I kind of just work hard and I would consider myself a play-maker. Try to set up guys and maybe knock in a few.”
Anas concludes, “Just so much fun to play with him (Brown), and he likes to pass me the puck, so obviously I like that. And, I think that was the turning point in the season.”
A season that resumes Friday in the Eastern Conference Finals against Dubuque.