The Youngstown Phantoms and Cedar Rapids Rough Riders started their USHL Playoff series with a bang. The Phantoms outshot the Rough Riders, 36-17 through regulation, but when the buzzer sounded, the game was tied at three goals apiece. Austin Cangelosi continued to be a clutch player as he scored the game-winning goal, 6:18 into the extra session to put the Phantoms up 1-0 in the best-of-three series.
Cangelosi commented on his game-winner: “It’s not something I tried a lot in practice, maybe on NHL 2012, but not in live competition. It was a shot in the dark and I did it on instinct. I saw the puck rolling down his [Hildebrand’s] back and into the net, and I was ecstatic”
Playing in the postseason for the first time in their three-year franchise history, the Phantoms looked like seasoned veterans for the most part. Youngstown hit the scoreboard with 9:24 in the books when Mike Ambrosia beat Jake Hildebrand (above). The first-ever Phantoms postseason goal came at even strength and Ambrosia was assisted by Sam Anas and Cangelosi.
About five minutes into the second period, the Phantoms drew a couple of quick penalties to give Cedar Rapids a two-man advantage. Down two men, the Phantoms managed more shots than the team with the advantage, and the special teams looked fine tuned.
Cedar Rapids tied the game 9:42 into the second period. Dylan Gareau took a nice feed from Landon Smith to beat Matt O’Connor. Smith was among a group of players jostling for the puck behind the net. Smith gained control, skated along the boards, halfway to the corner, and found Gareau waiting unattended, ten feet, front and center, from the net.
Ryan McGrath gave the Rough Riders a 2-1 lead with 6:21 to play in the second. McGrath’s even-strength goal was unassisted. The Cedar Rapids forward gathered a loose puck to the left of O’Connor and skated around the front crease line before he flicked the puck past the outstretched body of O’Connor.
Through two periods, the Phantoms held a 24-15 advantage in shots on goal, yet trailed the game 2-1.
With 9:55 left in the game, however, the Phantoms tied things up. Alex Gacek fought for the puck around the Rough Rider blue line and poked it past a defender. Gacek then found J. T. Stenglein cutting toward the goal and hit him in stride with a centering pass. Stenglein went high on Hildebrand’s stick side to find the twine.
What should have been good fortune, then turned into tragedy. With 6:36 left in the game and the Phantoms on a powerplay, Nick Saracino picked off a loose puck at center ice and flew toward O’Connor. As Saracino got between the circles he fired one through the legs of O’Connor that found its way in.
The Phantoms retaliated quickly. With 4:05 left in the game, Jonathan Liau got a pass from Ambrosia that he whistled in to tie the game back up.
With 1:11 left in the game, Jordan Young was whistled for high-sticking to allow Cedar Rapids a chance to finish regulation with a man advantage. The Rough Riders could not seal the deal and regulation expired. The remainder of the penalty, 49 seconds, would factor into the overtime.
It should be noted that overtime in the playoffs is different than the regular season format. Instead of a two-minute intermission that leads into a five-minute overtime period, there is a 20-minute session following a 15-minute break.
In the overtime, the Phantoms got a powerplay chance of their own and took six quality shots, none of which got past Hildebrand.
Cangelosi than played hero as he carried the puck over center ice with a teammate and a defender on each side. Cangelosi then flipped the puck over a defenseman’s head, raced around him, and fired it in from close range for the winner.
“Austin showed again tonight just how special he is”, said Anthony Noreen. “What he just did to win that game provided the biggest goal in the history of this franchise, and he really deserved it.”
“It’s a great win for us”, said a jubilant Noreen. “We want to play every game as though it is a must-win. It will be nice to end the series tomorrow night, not only because we can pick up the extra day of rest, but also because we just want to win this now.”