MUSKEGON, Mich. - The Youngstown Phantoms never led in regulation Friday night. But each time the Muskegon Lumberjacks went in front - four occasions in all - the Phantoms answered, and in the fourth round of the shootout, Nathan Walker and Sean Romeorose to the occasion to secure a 5-4 win.
Ryan Lowney and Luke Stork led the way for Youngstown (20-18-0, 40 points) with a goal and an assist each while Austin Cangelosi chipped in with a pair of helpers in the first 60 minutes. Alexander Dahl also found the back of the net and Eric Sweetman scored a crucial goal 5:31 into the third to knot the game up at 4-4. Romeo finished with 30 saves to pick up his 16th win of the season.
"Honestly, that's as fun a game as I can remember being a part of here," head coach Anthony Noreen said. "The third period was as good as we've played all year and I think it rolled into overtime. Even when we had our backs against the wall in the shootout, you kind of felt like we deserved it - like something good was to happen."
Tyler Heinonen opened the scoring for Muskegon (22-13-8, 53 points) just 1:07 into the action when he swatted a bouncing puck past Romeo from low in the slot. Lowney brought the Phantoms even at the 8:23 mark when he fired a shot through a crowd of bodies and past Lumberjacks goaltender Kevin Lindskoug, who finished the night with 49 saves.
Joe Cox put 'Jacks in front again with 2:30 remaining in the opening period, when he took a whack at a Phantoms defenseman carrying the puck out from behind the net, and it poked past Romeo. However, Stork tied it up on a power play just 67 seconds later, when he punched in a rebound after Lowney floated a shot in from the point to make it 2-2.
Cox netted his second of the night a quarter of the way into the second period when he snuck behind Youngstown's defense and Cullen Hurley hit him with a long lead pass to launch him on a breakaway. The Phantoms knotted it for a third time at the 8:11 mark when Dahl redirected a low-lying wrist shot from Jimmy Mazza on the man-advantage.
But the Lumberjacks pulled in front once again the 12:45 mark when Ben Foster tipped Cam Darcy's shot past Romeo from just outside goalmouth, and Muskegon carried a 4-3 lead into the second intermission. The third period, however, belonged to the Phantoms as they outshot the 'Jacks 17-6.
Sweetman tied the game for a fourth and final time at the 5:31 mark. The St. Lawrence recruit teed up a slap shot at the point, but it was blocked just inside the blue line. The second-year defenseman showed no signs of panic, however, calmly regaining control of the puck, keeping his head up and gliding to an open area in the slot before sizing up and firing a wrist shot high to the glove side of Lindskoug.
"That just shows the maturation of Eric Sweetman," Noreen said. "I think a year ago - maybe even a couple months ago - he wouldn't have had the poise and confidence to make that play."
Walker, however, was whistled for cross-checking with just 2:27 remaining in regulation, putting the Lumberjack on the man-advantage for the first time of the night in the game's final minutes. No one told Phantoms, who generated the two best scoring chances - a Cangelosi breakaway and 2-on-1 led by Lowney - but Lindskoug single-handedly preserved the tie to earn his team a point.
Youngstown spent the vast majority of the extra frame in the Muskegon zone as well, but Lindskoug continued to bail out his teammates to force the shootout. Sam Anas scored in the top of opening round for Youngstown but Chad McDonald followed suit in the bottom and Rasmus Bengtsson gave Muskegon a 2-1 advantage heading into the third round.
Noreen sent out Cangelosi with the game hanging in the balance, and the captain sped straight on net before throwing on the brakes and slipping a shot around the Swedish netminder. Cox had the chance to close it out for the 'Jacks, but Romeo forced him to fire his shot wide and the shootout went to sudden death.
Walker, who was held off the score sheet in regulation for the first time since joining the Phantoms, got the nod from Noreen in the fourth round. The Aussie winger responded by pulling off a highlight reel toe drag and slotting the puck right between Lindskoug's legs to put Youngstown in front. Henionen got the puck for Muskegon with the game on the line but Romeo stoned him with an acrobatic kick save to secure the vital second point.
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots - 53
Saves - 30
Power Play - 2-for-4
Penalty Kill - 1-for-1
Goals - Dahl, Lowney, Stork, Sweetman
Assists - Anas, Cam Brown, Cangelosi (2), Dan Renouf, Stork
Next on the Slate
The Phantoms look to close out their three-game road swing with a win Saturday at the Stable in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Puck drop with the RoughRiders is set for 8:05 p.m. EST and will be webcast on FASTHockey.com.
Phantoms Flex Packages are on sale now starting at the low price of just $75. Flex Packages include 10 undated ticket vouchers that can be redeemed at any game and in any increment throughout the rest of the season. Call 330.747.PUCK (7825) for more information or to reserve a Phantoms Flex Package 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).
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