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Reunited line sparks Phantoms’ win over Sioux City

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Reunited line sparks win over Sioux City

By Tom Williams


Brett Murray, the Youngstown Phantoms’ and USHL’s leading scorer, enjoyed his holiday break. Still, his best present might be the return of Jack Malone from his gold-medal performance with Team USA at the World Junior A Challenge tournament in mid-December in Bonnyville, Alberta.

Friday at the Covelli Centre, Murray and Malone triggered the Phantoms’ four-goal outburst late in the second period that led to a 5-3 victory over the Sioux City Musketeers. It was Malone’s first home game since Dec. 1.

Malone scored three goals in the second period and Murray assisted on two of them. Murray also scored his team-leading 16th goal. Murray has 36 points in 28 games. He’s first in the league to reach 36.

“We got a couple of [lucky] bounces here and there,” said Murray after the Phantoms (13-12-0-3, 29 points) won their third game in the four played after Christmas. “Jack is a phenomenal player and so is [linemate Connor] MacEachern. [Malone] creates a lot of turnovers. We have a lot of chemistry.”

Late in the first period, Marcus Kallionkieli gave the Musketeers (16-8-3-0, 35 points) a 1-0 lead by scoring with a two-man advantage.

As the second penalty expired early in the second period, Malone tied the game. The right winger stole the puck at center ice and capped his breakaway with a backhand shot past Ben Kraws.

He was far from finished. Malone’s next goal was the first of three for Youngstown in 67 seconds. Murray carried the puck into the Musketeers’ zone than fed Malone for the game-tying goal.

“It wasn’t just me out there,” Malone said. “There’s a lot of great players surrounding me to set me up for some tap-ins.

“It feels good to get the win.”

Twenty-five seconds later, Malone and MacEachern set up Murray for a 3-1 lead.

Forty-two seconds later, Craig Needham sent Kraws to the bench with a goal set up by Jayson Dobay.

Malone’s final goal came 1:50 later against backup goalie Jake Sibell.

“We were fortunate on a couple of bounces,” Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said. “But you get bounces when you are playing the right way.”

Patterson said his reunited top line is playing “tremendous. He’s come back and they haven’t missed a beat.

“The thing I love about Jack Malone is he comes back after winning gold and talks about how much he missed his teammates. That’s the type of bond we’re trying to build here.”

Goaltender Christian Stoever (7-4-0-2), who has emerged as the Phantoms’ number-one netminder after a diligent search, made 16 saves in his fifth consecutive start.

The Phantoms are back to two goaltenders after trading Jon Mor to the Omaha Lancers for two 2019 USHL draft picks.

Mor, who emerged from training camp as the team’s top goalie, is the fourth netminder the team has released since August. Juraj Ovecka from Slovakia was cut before training camp ended. Justin Evenson was brought in and lost both of his starts before being released.

In late October, the Phantoms acquired Stoever from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders. Two weeks later, Vincent Purpura was acquired from the Lancers.

Mor posted a 4-6-0-1 record with the Phantoms. Most of those starts came before mid-November when he suffered a leg injury and missed about a month.

The 6-foot-8 Purpura played in 11 games, going 4-5-0-1, then left the Phantoms in mid-December to join Boston University.

During the holiday break, the Phantoms signed Chad Veltri, a free agent who had played for the Sioux Falls Stampede. Patterson said Veltri will make his Phantoms debut tonight against the Musketeers.

“We have had three goaltenders here the last seven weeks and that is not something that is best for the goalies or the team as we move forward,” said Jason Koehler, Phantoms general manager.

“An opportunity came where we had the ability to get Jon Mor into a good situation with Omaha where he has the ability to play and develop, we could get down to two goaltenders which is best for us, and we could add two draft picks for the future,” Koehler said, “We feel this is a move that benefits all parties involved.”

In his first game with the Lancers, Mor made 27 saves in a 3-1 loss to the Central Illinois Flying Aces.