SIOUX CITY, Iowa - The Youngstown Phantoms battled back three times and JT Stenglein put them ahead to stay with 27 seconds remaining in regulation to defeat last year's USHL regular season champion Cedar Rapids RoughRiders 5-4 Thursday afternoon at the Tyson Center.
The RoughRiders jumped out to the lead in the first period with Phantoms center Richard Zehnal in the penalty box for hooking. Nolan Zajac found Austin Ortega, who beat goaltender Matt O'Connor to put the RoughRiders up 1-0 with 9:19 remaining in the period and they carried that lead into the first intermission.
The Phantoms were hit with a slew of penalties early in the second period - three in the first four minutes - but were able to kill off them all and built off that momentum. When they got their first man-advantage, it did not take them long to capitalize and Mike Gunn ripped into a slap shot from the right point, which was deflected off a defender's stick and redirected past RoughRiders goaltender Peter Traber to knot the game up 6:57 into the period.
Cedar Rapids responded a little more than two minutes later when Ryan McGrath put one past O'Connor and Stu Wilson stretched the lead to two with 4:59 remaining in the second off Zajac's second helper of the game.
The trailing 3-1 in the third, the Phantoms found themselves on their sixth power play of the game and Dylan Margonari put one past Traber low on the glove-side to cut the lead down to one. Just 24 seconds later Pat Conte tied the game up sending a back-hander past Traber with assists to Zehnal and Stenglein but the euphoria would be short-lived. The RoughRiders came right back and Nick Saracino re-took the lead just 46 seconds later to put them up 4-3.
With 10:15 left in the period the RoughRiders took their second penalty of the period and the Phantoms made them pay. Zehnal received a pass from Sam Anas in the slot and put a shot low. Traber was able to make the save but the puck kicked back out to Zehnal who calmly brought it to the backhand and roofed it to tie the game for a third time.
With 27 seconds remaining in regulation Stenglein came streaking down the left side boards, wound up and let loose a blistering slap shot that beat Traber on the glove-side to give the Phantoms their first lead of the game.
"No matter who scored it, we knew it was going to be huge," Head Coach Anthony Noreen said. "JT, he earned that goal. He played so hard that game - he was playing hurt - and he's a guy who we know can do good things for us."
The RoughRiders would not go down quietly, though, and peppered O'Connor with shots in the final seconds of the period. But the Boston University recruit stood tall, turning away a flurry of chances to preserve the win.
"For some teams, winning games in this tournament might not be that big," Noreen said. "But for this organization to get where we need to get, we need to win games, we need to make a statement and we need to create our identity now.
"Not only did we not give up but we kept coming at them. We looked forward, but we blocked shots and were more physical than they were. We earned it."
Phantoms by the numbers
32 - Shots On Goal
24 - Saves
3-for-7 - Phantoms' Power Play
7-for-8 - Phantoms Penalty Kill
1G-1A-2PTS - Stengleiln, Zehnal
4 PIM - Greg Gibson
The Phantoms will face the Sioux Falls Stampede tomorrow at 7:00 p.m. EST at IBP Arena.
Season tickets for the 2011-12 season are on sale now. Ticket plans start at the low price of just $90. Call the Phantoms office today at 330.747.7825 for more information or to make a reservation today! For a complete Phantoms schedule, visit www.youngstownphantoms.com.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 10th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2011-12. With over 280 players from last season that were committed to NCAA Division I schools and 18 NHL Entry Draft picks that were on League rosters, the USHL is the nation's foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.USHL.com.
It's not just hockey. It's the USHL.