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Phantoms rebound to chill red-hot Steel

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Murray scores twice late in comeback

By Tom Williams


How impressive was the Youngstown Phantoms rebound after 52 minutes of less-than-stellar play? Brett Murray admitted he wasn’t even trying to score when the puck left his stick, bounced off Chicago Steel goaltender Justin Robbins and trickled into the net.

“I picked the puck up in the corner and was coming around behind the net,” Murray said. “I saw Craig Needham sitting [across the crease] so I tried feathering it to him through the crease.

“Good things happen, obviously,” Murray said after the Phantoms’ 6-5 stunning victory on Friday at the Covelli Centre. “I don’t know what it hit still, I’ve got to watch the video.”

The goal was Murray’s second in the final 7:09 of the game. Twice, the Phantoms fell behind by two goals against the hottest team in the USHL and twice they erased the deficit. The Steel (13-9-1-0, 27 points) had won nine of their past 10 games,

Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said his team did not play well “but it’s a good result. Brett Murray was the one driving us and earned a reward for it.”

Phantoms penalties helped the Steel snap a 3-3 tie early in the third period. Thirty-five seconds after Liam Robertson was whistled for hooking, Joey Abate was sent off after crunching the Steel’s Christian Sarlo into the boards.

The Phantoms came within nine seconds of skating off the two-man advantage when John Spetz beat Phantoms goaltender Christian Stoever with a 35-foot shot.

Adam Robbins scored another power-play goal with 8:28 remaining for a 5-3 lead.

Then the Phantoms (10-9-0-3, 23 points) roared to life. Seventy-nine seconds after Robbins’ goal, Murray scored his 10th of the season on an assist from Josh DeLuca.

Eighty-three seconds after that, Needham tied the game after Matthew Barnaby Jr. skated down the right wing, then found Needham by the crease on the other side.

Murray’s game-winner came 101 seconds later.

“As a group, we have a lot of resiliency,” defenseman Gianfranco Cassaro said. “In a lot of the games that we lost, we played hard and had a lot of chances but things didn’t go our way.

“Good karma is coming our way now.”

Despite allowing five goals, Stoever was extremely busy, stopping 29 shots.

Mathieu De St. Phalle’s second goal came 22 seconds into the second period to give the Steel a 2-1 lead. Not long after, Matteo Pietroniro made it 3-1.

Two Phantoms goals in 35 seconds restored the tie. First Cassaro scored a power-play goal set up by Matt DeMelis and Trevor Kuntar. Then Ben Schoen scored his first USHL goal.

Murray and Cassaro were among some very busy penalty killers. The Steel had seven man-advantage opportunities, scoring twice.

Patterson took the blame for Robbins’ goal.

“I preached a different message to the [penalty killers],” Patterson said on how to attack the Steel power-play. “I made the mistake, that’s why [the puck] ended up in the back of the net.”

The Phantoms and Steel play again tonight and Sunday.

“It’s exciting, you get the first win out of three, you get a little more confidence going into the next day,” Murray said. “Going down twice by two in the same game is not ideal, but we came out on top and that’s all you can ask for.”

Patterson said goaltender Vincent Purpura, who was traded to the Phantoms from Omaha in mid-November, has enrolled at Boston University.