Ann Arbor, Mich. - The Youngstown Phantoms can now check Team USA off the list.
Team USA was the only United States Hockey League Eastern Conference opponent that the Phantoms had yet to defeat heading into their fifth meeting of the season, but that changed with a 5-4 win Sunday afternoon at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube.
The Phantoms (25-14-4, fourth East) got two-goal outbursts from both Soren Jonzzon and JT Stenglein, while Alex Gacek found the back of the net for the second straight game to round out the scoring. Phantoms captain Mike Ambrosia's point streak was halted at 12 games, but newly-added forward Zach Evancho registered an assist in his first career USHL game.
In net, Matthew O'Connor turned away 27 of 31 shots - coming up with the monumental save after monumental save against Team USA (18-15-4, sixth East) late in the third period - for his 22nd win of the season
"It's definitely a relief to get the monkey off our back and get that win out of the way," Head Coach Anthony Noreen said. "It gives us some confidence. We've got three more against this team and now we know we can beat them."
Jonzzon started off the scoring atthe 4:49 mark in the first period. He corralled a loose puck at center ice, carried it in the zone with speed and roofed a wrist shot from the slot for his fourth of the season, and the Phantoms carried a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
Gacek made it 2-0 just 1:24 into the second period when he put a wrist shot from the left circle past Team USA netminder Hunter Miska. Jordan Young set him up with an excellent feed from the far point through traffic. Will Butcher, however, cut the lead in half on a power play a little more than two minutes later. Hudson Fasching missed the net on a shot, but the puck bounced off the end boards right onto Butcher's stick and O'Connor could do nothing to stop it.
Stenglein followed that with a pair of goals in less than a five-minute span. The first came of a lightning-fast wrist shot from the top of the slot at the 7:28 mark, and the second came with11:46 remaining in the period, when he knocked the puck in amidst a free-for-all in front of the net.
"In my opinion that was the best team game JT Stengelin has played all year for us," Noreen said. "As good as he was offensively - and as much of a force as he was physically - he was just as good in his own end."
But Team USA came back to slice int othe lead with a pair of short-handed goals scored just 10 seconds apart. Tyler Motte tallied the first off a turnover at the Phantoms' blue line and Fasching netted the second when got around Chris Bradley and stuffed a backhand past O'Connor at the 15:32 mark.
"That was a situation where we could have very easily called a timeout. It might have even been the right call to make in that instance," Noreen said. "But in the big picture, we thought it would be more important to sit back and let our guys figure it out. We want the leadership and energy to be coming from them.
"To their credit, they responded."
The Phantoms went right back on the power play a minute and a half later when Clint Lewis was boxed from tripping, and this time the would capitalize. Jonzzon scored his second of the night with a blast from the right circle off a nice give-and-go with Mike Gunn, and the Phantoms took a 5-3 lead into the locker room.
"That was goal huge," Noreen said. "It allowed us to get our confidence back.
"That's a big reason why we brought in Soren... If you saw those two goals that he scored tonight, those were big-time goals. There wasn't a goalie in the world that was going to stop either one."
Connor Chatham put a rebound past a sprawling O'Connor 10:40 into the third period to make it 5-4. But O'Connor followed with a series of spectacular saves in the latter half of the period, including in the game's final minute as Team USA pulled to Miska for the extra attacker, to come away with the win.
"[Team USA] is a very talented group. They're going score goals," Noreen said. "But Mattwasn't the fault for any of their goals and, late in the third period, when we needed him the most, he came up huge."