YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Green Bay Gamblers spoiled the Youngstown Phantoms’ home opener Friday, and after Ryan Siroky scored with seconds left in regulation to force overtime Saturday afternoon, it looked like they could be in line for a repeat performance at the Covelli Centre. Alex Smith made sure that didn’t happen.
The recently acquired defenseman received a pass from Kiefer Sherwood straight off of a faceoff win and hammered a one-timer past Gamblers netminder Cam Hackett to seal a 3-2 win less than two minutes into the extra frame.
“Kiefer just put it right in my wheelhouse,” Smith said. “I just wanted to get a shot on net and it ended up getting through.”
The goal was Smith’s second since he was acquired from the Indiana Ice last week and Sherwood and Kyle Connor also found the back of the net as the Phantoms (1-2-1, 3 points) picked up their first victory of the 2013-14 campaign. Goaltender Jake Moore turned in his best performance of the season stopping 27-of-29 shots – including 13 in the final period – to pick up his first win of the season and fifth of his USHL career.
“It feels amazing right now,” Moore said. “To get that first win of the season, especially in overtime, it really brings the boys together.”
After converting on five of their first 14 opportunities on the man-advantage this season, the Phantoms’ power play came back down to Earth Saturday. Held scoreless through two periods and seven chances – including an extended 5-on-3 advantage – the Youngstown power play finally broke through nearly 12 minutes into the third.
Alfred Larsson walked out from the right corner and wristed a low shot on Hackett and Luke Stork went to work trying to bury the rebound. The puck shot out to the far post and Sherwood came flying in and fired it home for his second goal of the season, giving the Phantoms a 2-1 lead.
The Gamblers (2-0-2, 6 points) responded by ratcheting up the pressure and yanked Hackett in favor of an extra attacker with a minute remaining in regulation. The gamble paid off as Green Bay simply out-manned Youngstown and Kevin Irwin was able to find Siroky just outside the crease, where he one-touched the puck past Moore to knot it up with 24 seconds left on the clock.
Despite the setback – a day another lead late in the third period against the Gamblers – Smith said his teammates’ demeanor didn’t shift.
“Everybody was just calm on the bench,” he said. “We knew going into the last 20 second they weren’t going to get another goal there. Going into overtime, our guys were all battling for each other and we knew [Moore] was going to be keeping them all in front of him.”
As it turned out, Moore didn’t end up seeing another shot through the remainder of regulation and overtime. For the second straight game, head coach Anthony Noreen chose three forwards and just a single defenseman as opposed to the 2-2 split typically utilized in 4-on-4 overtime. The Phantoms used their speed and skill up front to dominate possession in the extra frame, recording three quick shots before Smith’s game-winner.
“Our strategy was simple: go win a hockey game,” Noreen said. “. It’s tough when you lose a game like we did last night and give up a lead late again, but you just felt like we deserved it.”
Connor opened the scoring 4:43 into the second period when he drifted out from the corner and, in an instant, spun around a fired a wrist shot over Hackett’s left shoulder for his third goal of the season. The Gamblers tied it up a little more than two minutes later off a short-handed marker from Gavin Stoick.
Conor Lemirande helped recapture the momentum, and ignite the crowd at the Covelli Centre less than eight minutes into the third when he dropped the gloves with Gamblers defenseman Matthew Purmal right after a faceoff. The hulking 6-foot-5, 230-pound winger landed a slew of punches before eventually loosing balance to close the heavy-weight bout.
“‘Lemmy’s’ fight was huge for the team,” Smith said. “It kind of pumped our guys up and got them going.”
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots – 33
Saves – 27
Power Play – 1-for-9
Penalty Kill – 4-for-4
Goals – Connor, Sherwood, Smith
Assists – Alfred Larsson, Maxim Letunov, Sherwood, Stork
Next on the Slate
The Phantoms hit the road next week for a pair of games in the Hawkeye State. They face the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders Friday, Oct. 4, and the Waterloo Black Hawks the following night.
Season tickets for the 2013-14 season are on sale now starting at the low price of just $8 a game. Benefits include invitations to exclusive season ticket holder events, discounts at the Phantoms Team Shop and much more. Call 330.747.PUCK (7825) for more information or to reserve seats today. For all the latest news, visit www.YoungstownPhantoms.com, follow the Phantoms on Twitter (@YtownPhantoms) and ‘like’ them on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/YoungstownPhantoms).