Connor, Phantoms clinch home ice

Kyle Connor scored a hat trick in Youngstown's 5-1 win over Muskegon Saturday.

YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WKBN) – The Youngstown Phantoms (38-14-5) earned a 5-1 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Saturday night. Forward Kyle Connor registered a five-point night (3g, 2a), while forwards Kole Sherwood and Chase Pearson each chipped in lone goals for the Phantoms, who clinch home ice advantage in the first round of the 2015 Clark Cup Playoffs.

The Phantoms drew first blood just 3:20 into the opening period when Connor took a pass from forward Ryan Lomberg and skated over the Muskegon blueline and launched a wrist shot that beat Lumberjacks netminder Eric Schierhorn, putting the Phantoms ahead, 1-0, on Connor’s 30th goal of the season.

“This could have been a potential first-round matchup, and we really wanted to set the tone early in this one, starting with the first shift,” said Connor. “We wanted to come out hard and be tough to play against, and I think we accomplished that.”

That lead held up throughout the remainder of the first, and in the second, the Phantoms’ offense kicked it into high gear, as just 1:34 into the frame while on the power play, Connor fired another wrister past Schierhorn, extending the Phantoms’ lead to 2-0.

That lead became 3-0 midway through the frame, when Kole Sherwood came down on a two-on-one rush with Connor, and slammed it into the net, 10:35 into the frame, with his first career USHL goal.

“It was really good to get one here tonight, especially in my first game,” said Sherwood. “It was a special opportunity to play tonight with my brother [Kiefer] tonight. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and those don’t come up that often.”

“I thought he was tremendous, and one of the best players out on the ice,” said Phantoms Head Coach Anthony Noreen. “Obviously the highlight was him getting the goal, but it was also special for him to play alongside his brother tonight, and I’m sure it was a big night for him and his entire family.”

Youngstown’s power play struck again roughly two minutes later, when forward Max Letunov found Pearson wide open on the back door, and he fired it past Schierhorn, giving the Phantoms a 4-0 lead after 40 minutes.

After Muskegon forward Robbie DeMontis put the Lumberjacks on the board 1:11 into the third, Connor capped of his huge night with his third of the game at 6:55 of the frame, when he took a pass from defenseman Kris Myllari and launched it past Schierhorn, sending the Phantoms to a 5-1 win.

“Kyle was awesome tonight,” said Noreen. “His defensive game was solid, he was good on the kill, and it was great to see him have a game like that.”

Goaltender Chris Birdsall was stellar in goal for the Phantoms, stopping 27 of the 28 shots he faced in the win. Youngstown outshot Muskegon on the night, 30-28, while the power play converted on two-of-four opportunities.

“We gave our guys a couple of days off to get away from thing and revamp, and I thought we came out looking as refreshed for a game as we have all season,” said Noreen. “We challenged our guys to not have a slow start, and I think the guys responded well to it.”

The Phantoms next hit the road for a Wednesday morning affair in Chicago against the Steel. Faceoff is slated for 11:00am ET.

Courtesy: Youngstown Phantoms

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