The Youngstown Phantoms closed out their best-of-three series against Cedar Rapids as they posted a 6-2 triumph. Alex Gacek had a pair of second period goals and an empty-netter that vaulted the third-year franchise into the next round of the Clark Cup Playoffs. Quite an accomplishment for a third-year franchise with a first-year coach.
Who the Phantoms play next, Indiana or Green Bay, will be decided by the outcome of the Team USA – Dubuque series. Either way, the next round is a best-of-five series and the Phantoms will be the lower seed. That means they will probably play games one and two of the new series on the road. In all probability, the second round matchup will start on Friday at Green bay.
Todd Koritzinsky gave the Phantoms a lead when he scored the first goal of the game 12:11 into the first period. Pat Conte and Ryan Lowney earned assists on Koritzinsky’s goal. Koritzinsky got the puck past Cedar Rapids goaltender Jake Hildebrand.
The lead was short-lived for the Phantoms. Exactly 3:32 later, the Rough Riders were able to tie the contest. Davey Middleton snuck the puck past Matt O’Connor on an even-strength rush. Stu Wilson and Riley Bourbonnais were credited with assists on the play.
In the second period, Gacek got control of the puck just outside of the left face-off circle and burst toward the net. As Gacek roared forward, Cedar Rapids goaltender Hildebrand unsuccessfully tried to play a puck that whistled past and through. Gacek hit the puck so hard, that it stuck in the back of the net. The goal came at the 4:55 mark and put the Phantoms ahead 2-1. Gacek also earned a two-minute charging penalty as he collided with Hildebrand after the puck squirted through.
Gacek, sporting the Tom Selleck playoff moustache, would factor into the outcome to a larger degree. With 9:21 left in the second, the Miami of Ohio-bound forward notched his second goal of the period, game, and series. Gacek scooped up a puck that hit the side of the net to Hildebrand’s left, and rifled it past to make it a 3-1 game.
Meanwhile, O’Connor (above) and the defense kept the Rough Riders looking for clues. When Cedar Rapids managed to get a good look, #1 was there to pour water on the fire and preserve the lead. Through two periods, the Phantoms had 28 shots, the Rough Riders managed 19.
With 9:42 left in the game, Cedar Rapids cut the deficit to 3-2 capitalizing on a powerplay chance. Gerald Mayhew took a nice feed from behind the net that O’Connor never really had a chance to make a play on. It was one of the few times all night that Cedar Rapids made more than one pass before attempting a shot.
The Phantoms answered 1:28 later when Soren Jonzzon hung around the crease long enough to gather in a nice pass from Ryan Belonger and redirect the puck to the right side of the post. Austin Cangelosi and Gacek added empty-netters to punctuate the win.
O’Connor stopped 32 shots in the win.