Murray’s overtime goal lifts Phantoms

Needham scores right before horn

By Dan Hiner


With 27.9 seconds left in overtime, Brett Murray gained control off a rebound shot by teammate Joey Abate. Murray shot from the left of the net and put it past Fargo Force goalkeeper Ryan Bischel.

Murray got the Youngstown Phantoms on the board early then scored the game winner in their 3-2 win over the Force Friday night at the Covelli Centre.

“Every win’s great, especially when it comes down to the wire like that,” Murray said. “It’s an intense battle when it switches to that 3-on-3 format. The guys are really happy we were able to squeak that one out and hopefully we can do it tomorrow.”

The Phantoms hadn’t seen the Fargo Force since 2018 Clark Cup Finals in May. The Force beat the Phantoms 4-2 in the series clincher to take the series 3-1 and the title.

“Obviously it feels good to get that first win on a Friday, but you just got to get back to it on Saturday,” Murray said. “The past is the past, you just gotta look at it like it’s a brand new day and come out strong like we did today.”

The Phantoms (8-9-0-2) tied the game at 1 when Murray got the puck on the right side of the net next to a crowd and put it past Bischel’s left leg.

The Phantoms took the lead on a short-handed goal by Craig Needham in the final minute of the first. He grabbed a loose puck near the defensive blue line and took it on a 2-on-1 breakaway. His shot went over Bischel’s glove as the horn sounded.

Hank Crone and Michael Mancinelli scored for the Force (10-7-1-2). Both scored on backside shots near the corner of the net.

Vincent Purpura stopped 20 shots for the Phantoms while Bischel finished with 18 stops.

The Phantoms are 3-2 in their last five games. Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said the team needs to become a little more consistent if they want to make it back to the Clark Cup Finals.

“To get where you want to be in this league, you have to string [wins] together,” Patterson said. “A by-product of the results we had the first couple weeks. We need to fight and claw for everything we can get.

“I thought the guys did that tonight. Every time you play Fargo it’s gonna be a tough night — dating back to last year. I’m pretty sure every game was a one-goal game with them. My expectation would be the same tomorrow.”

Golden Goalies

Neither goalie allowed a score in the final 32 minutes of regulation, but both need to make difficult saves to keep the game tied.

Bischel stopped a shot by Abate in the final five minutes of the second. He left the net to grab a loose puck, but dove and deflected Abate’s slap shot from 10 feet in front of the crease.

Purpura stopped a shot by AJ Drobot with his chest in the opening minute of overtime. The puck slide underneath him. So to prevent the game winner, Purpura sat on the puck with his back touching the line.

“I thought goaltending was great both ways tonight,” Patterson said. “I thought that the one that was going to be the winner wasn’t going to be specific to picking a corner. It was gonna be one of those 50/50 battles or a rebound, and that’s what happened.”