Phantoms take air out of North Stars

By Greg Gulas

Kyle Bailey’s hat trick, two assists by Brian McGinty and goalie Garrett Bartus were keys to the win.

BOARDMAN — The Traverse City North Stars were the hottest team in the North American Hockey League when they arrived on Friday for a weekend series with the Mahoning Valley Phantoms.

On Sunday, they limped out of town with a three-game losing streak after suffering a 6-1 pounding to the Phantoms in a game that had everyone from players to coaches scratching their heads as to what could possibly have gone wrong this weekend.

Kyle Bailey’s hat trick, a goal and two assists by Brian McGinty and another strong effort in goal, this time by Garrett Bartus, helped lift Mahoning Valley to their 10th victory in 13 outings against their North Division counterparts.

“We do have depth offensively and it really showed this weekend,” Phantoms coach Bob Mainhardt said. “When you work hard at both ends of the ice you tend to get the lucky bounces. Hard work creates your luck.

“We really needed a six-point weekend and if we continue to execute down the stretch like we have been, then we should be fine come play-off time,” Mainhardt said. “Tonight, Kyle [Bailey] and Garrett [Bartus] were just two of the reasons we played so well.

“Bailey is a dynamic offensive player and that is one of the reasons that we went out and got him,” Mainhardt said. “On Friday, Garrett had a couple of tough ones get by him but he continues to show that mental toughness and that kept us in the game today.”

Since scoring just two goals in their weekend series at St. Louis on Feb. 23-24 (a series that the Bandits swept), the Phantoms have notched seven goals once, six goals on three occasions, two four-goal games and one three goal outing. They have outscored the opposition by 36-18 count the past seven outings.

After a scoreless first frame in which the Phantoms outshot the North Stars, 9-7, Mahoning Valley relied on a strong second period to pick up the offensive tempo.

A day removed from a five-goal assault in the second period, the Phantoms unleashed a four-goal effort.

Bailey’s first goal just 45 seconds into the period started the scoring frenzy and when Johnny Meo rattled the back of the net with his 14th tally of the year at 5:38, Mahoning Valley had built a 2-0 advantage.

Miles Winter’s 22nd goal of the year at 9:50 increased the Mahoning Valley lead. When Brian McGinty slid his shot under Traverse City goalie Chris Paliafito’s glove at 11:35, the route was on.

Kyle Bonis trimmed the Mahoning Valley lead to 4-1 and ruined Bartus’ shutout with his 22nd goal (and his third of the weekend) just 29 seconds into the final period.

“We always expect a good game when we play Traverse City and this weekend it was no different,” Bartus said. “Winning all three games gives us some momentum now as we eye the play-offs, however, we cannot look too far down the road because we still have to more series remaining in the regular season.

“The play of both Kyle [Bailey] and Stefan [Salituro] this weekend was huge, but we need to keep it up and just keep producing,” Bartus said. “We cannot let our guard down.”

Bailey scored the final two goals.

“Every line is contributing right now and as a team, we continue to work hard at both ends of the ice,” Bailey said. “I cannot credit my line mates enough for the success that I enjoyed tonight.”

Mahoning Valley will host the Alpena Ice Diggers in a two-game series beginning Friday at 7:15 p.m. at the Ice Zone.

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