The Youngstown Phantoms don’t want to come off as an unpatriotic group of people, but they broke a six-game winless streak and set records of a positive nature in their destruction of Team USA, 7-3. Cody Strang (pictured) collected the first hat trick in Phantoms history as the home team scored seven unanswered goals to post their first win of 2010.
The Phantoms had lost to the 18 & under version of Team USA, 6-1, two nights earlier. The trend looked to continue as the Michigan-based Team USA jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
Monday, the 17 & under version of Team USA got their shot at the struggling Phantoms who had not yet posted a win in the year 2010 (0-5).
Rocco Grimaldi (pictured) connected at the 10:50 mark to put Team USA up 1-0. For Grimaldi, it marked his sixth point of the season against the Phantoms. Grimaldi’s goal was unassisted and came on a Team USA powerplay chance.
It didn’t take long for Grimaldi to find the net again as he connected at the 16:19 mark of the first period. Austin Wuthrich picked up an assist on Grimaldi’s second goal of the night and seventh of the season.
Tom Serratore got Youngstown on the scoreboard at the 17:27 mark, still in the first period. Serratore was assisted by Ryan Jasinsky on the even-strength chance.
As the first period closed, the Phantoms had 15 shots on goal compared to Team USA’s nine, yet trailed the Under-17 USA group 2-1.
With 9:15 left in the second priod, Adam Berkle tied the game with a powerplay goal, his eighth of the season. Berkle took his shot from the left faceoff circle and beat Matt McGee. Assists on Berkle’s goal went to Taylor Holstrom and David Donnellan.
Three minutes later, Holstrom connected as Team USA goaltender McGee was laying on his stomach in the crease. Holstrom fired from about 15 feet away and grazed the top bar of the goal as his shot hit twine and gave the Phantoms a 3-2 lead.
The onslaught continued as Cody Strang snuck the puck past McGee at the 14:27 mark of the second. Jefferson Dahl and Luke Eibler snagged assists on the beautiful shot that Strang had from a tough angle. The Phantoms stayed hot as they picked up another goal a few moments later to go up 5-2. Strang redirected a Luke Eibler slapshot and picked up the powerplay goal with an assist from Dahl. It was the Phantoms third powerplay goal of the period and fifth in a row.
Strang, who was hurt for a good part of the season with wrist problems, knocked home his third goal of the game, a hat trick. When asked about the wrist, Strang replied, “It felt pretty good tonight. Some nights it gets sore, other nights it feels good. It was a month ago I last got a goal, so I was really happy to get three.”
The hat trick was the first in Phantoms history. Strang was assisted by Dahl, his third helper of the game. Mercifully, the second period would close with Youngstown ahead of Team USA, 6-2.
After two periods the shots on goal heavily favored Youngstown 37-13. The 22 shots on goal in the second period were the most by the Phantoms this season. The five goals scored in the period were also a new franchise record.
Jiri Sekac, a Czech Republican Phantom, scored his first career USHL goal. The goal pushed the lead to 7-2 in favor of the Phantoms. Brett Gensler collected an assist, and the Phantoms had their seventh unanswered goal. The seventh goal was the highest output on offense for Youngstown since November 19. The Phantoms also set a season-high for shots on goal in a game with 44, breaking the old mark of 42.
JT Miller, of nearby East Palestine, scored a goal for Team USA to close out the scoring at 7-3. Robbie Russo snagged an assist to close out the game scoring.
Coach Bob Mainhardt was happy to get back on the winning track. “I thought we played pretty good in the last few games but we still drifted from the gameplan. Tonight showed that when we play 60 minutes, we are a really good team.”
Mainhardt also sang the praises of Cody Strang. “He is a natural goal scorer. He is headed to the University of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin doesn’t take too many slouches. We had very high hopes for him coming in and he has done a great job.”
The Phantoms hit the road for a Friday game with Waterloo. The puck drops at 7:05 and you can catch all of the action on AM-1240 with Matt Gajtka, the best in the USHL – give him a listen.