YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The Youngstown Phantoms were clinging to a 2-1 lead late in the third period when Nathan Walker penalized for checking from behind and Sam Anas was whistled shortly thereafter for hooking. The pair was forced to watch from the penalty box as the Muskegon Lumberjacks tied the game on a subsequent 5-on-3 power play.
But the opportunity to make amends presented itself in the shootout, and both were eager to seize it. Anas opened the first round with an unconscionable deke, putting the puck through his own legs, bringing it down almost below the goal line on his backhand before pulling it up to the forehand and slipping it past goaltender Jordan Uhelski.
Then after the Lumberjacks evened it up in second round, it was Walker's turn in the third. The Australian winger came racing in on goal, pulled up on the left and reached around Uhelski on the opposite side with one hand on his stick, pushing the puck across the line to seal a 3-2 win for the Phantoms in the shootout.
"I took a stupid penalty, which happens. It's a game - it's all emotions," Walker said. "But I definitely felt like I owed the team for that, and I think Sammy and myself, we proved it and paid the team back."
Alfred Larsson scored for the second straight game and Kyle Connor notched his 10th goal of the season as the Phantoms (25-20-0, 50 point) picked up their fifth win over their last six contests. Despite a quick turnaround with a game Saturday night, Sean Romeo got the nod in net Sunday afternoon and turned away 24 shots through regulation and overtime - and 2-of-3 Lumberjacks in the shootout - for his 21st victory of the campaign and second straight over Muskegon (26-15-9, 61 points).
"We went through our troubles early on in the season, but we were building toward something," head coach Anthony Noreen said. "This is what we were building for - this time in the season, when every game is as important as it is. We expect to win these games."
Larsson opened the scoring with 6:30 remaining in the first period. JJ Piccinich dropped the puck into the slot from beneath the goal line and Larsson outworked the Muskegon defense to grab hold it and fire it into the net making it seven straight games the Phantoms have scored the game's first goal.
"I try to work hard every day, but you never know when you're going to score," Larsson said. "Now I've scored two this weekend, so I'm pretty happy about that.
"We've talked a lot about having really good starts, so I was glad to be able to get the first goal."
Cam Darcy tied it up for the Lumberjacks six minutes into the second period. The former U.S. National Team Program player was perched outside the crease when Adam Gilmour got a shot off at Romeo and the puck ricocheted right onto his stick for an easy tap-in.
Connor put Youngstown back in front seven minutes into the third at the tail end of a power play. The 16-year-old started out at the point and handed it off to Dan Renouf who in turn passed it down for Alexander Dahl in the corner. Connor found an opening in the Muskegon penalty kill between the circles and Dahl found him there. Uhelski made the initial save, but the Michigan recruit gathered up his rebound amidst the crowd and put it up top to snap a 12-game goalless streak.
"I've been a little snake-bit lately, I couldn't find the back of the net," Connor said. "I think it all just came together on the power play."
Christian Heil knotted it up with 5:50 remaining on the 5-on-3 power play, knocking in a rebound on the backdoor with Youngstown simply out-manned. The Phantoms were able to kill off the remaining one-man advantage and generated four shots over the final minutes of regulation, and another four in overtime, but could not solve get one past Uhelski. Anas and Walker solved that issue in the shootout.
"It's tough to watch, especially when you're in the box," Anas said. "But there really wasn't any doubt in our mind that we were going to win the game."
Phantoms by the Numbers
Shots - 27
Saves - 24
Power Play - 0-for-3
Penalty Kill - 4-for-5
Goals - Connor, Larsson, Walker (SO)
Assists - Dahl, Tommy Davis, Piccinich, Renouf
Next on the Slate
The Phantoms are back in action Wednesday at the Covelli Centre when they host the Chicago Steel in their annual School Day Game. Puck drop is set for 10 a.m. and the game can be heard live on Sports Radio 1240.
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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