Barnaby’s second goal forces OT; Murray nets 33rd
By Tom Williams
With dozens of four-legged, tail-wagging fans in the house, the Youngstown Phantoms stormed back from a two-goal deficit to force overtime against the USHL’s Beast of the East.
But in the shootout following bonus hockey, Muskegon goaltender Brandon Bussi proved to be top dog, stopping attempts by Matt Barnaby and Brett Murray to give the Lumberjacks a 4-3 victory Saturday at Covelli Centre.
Danil Gushchin and Egor Afanasyev scored shootout goals against Phantoms goaltender Chad Veltri, who was coming off back-to-back shutouts.
“Not the outcome we wanted,” said Murray, whose second-period goal sparked the Phantoms’ comeback.
Trailing 3-1, Murray’s league-leading 33rd goal of the season was set up by Josh DeLuca along the boards. DeLuca flipped the puck past a Lumberjacks defenseman to Murray a few feet beyond.
Murray credited DeLuca’s “instinct and hockey IQ.”
“DeLuca obviously saw the ice really well there for a nice play, a beautiful pass through the defenseman’s stick,” Murray said.
Phantoms coach Brad Patterson said Murray’s reaction was equally impressive.
“It was a great shot, but the big thing about that shot that a lot of people don’t see is how quickly he received that pass and then got it off his stick,” Patterson said. “That’s what you need to do to beat a good goaltender, and they have a tremendous one.”
Bussi earned his 29th win, tops in the league.
“He’s been dynamite for them,” Patterson said.
Bussi and Veltri both made 32 saves.
The Lumberjacks (35-1-2-1, 73 points) clinched a playoff berth, the first USHL team to do so. The Phantoms (24-18-1-4, 53 points) remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference.
Joey Abate initiated Murray’s goal for his first assist. Three minutes later, he earned another, setting up Barnaby’s second goal of the game.
“I saw a shot coming from the blue line,” said Barnaby, who recorded his first two-goal USHL game.
The Penn State recruit said the puck bounced off the end boards to him alone in front.
“The second one was pretty easy,” Barnaby said.
His first goal tied the game at 1 in the first period.
“[Trevor] Kuntar, who is just an animal on the walls, was able to tie up a defenseman and I picked up the puck. Bots [Abate] drove to the middle, I made a fake shot and cut to the middle.”
He snapped the puck over the right shoulder of Bussi.
“I turned and shot, but I was aiming to go top-shelf,” Barnaby said.
Just 96 seconds into the game, Bobby Lynch snapped Veltri’s shutout streak with an unassisted goal.
Later in the period, the Lumberjacks regained the lead when Nolan Sullivan jammed the puck past a sprawled Veltri. Ryan Savage and Nash Nienhuis assisted on the power-play goal.
Midway through the second period, Sullivan’s second goal, set up by Alex Yakovenko and Oliver MacDonald, made it 3-1.
Veltri was rock-solid for the remainder of the game. With 1:20 remaining in overtime, Afanasyev picked up the puck along the boards for a mini-breakaway. Veltri sprawled and used his stick to poke-check the puck off the Lumberjacks forward’s stick.
“It’s a big save like that that enabled us to get a big point tonight and the ability to fight for two,” Patterson said.
In the shootout, Barnaby and Murray were stopped on back-hand attempts.
“I had a back-hand [shot] in the game that I hit the post, so I thought he might think I would go forehand,” Barnaby said. “I made my move and he made a nice save.
“We’re definitely not happy with [the shootout loss],” Barnaby said. “We consider ourselves one of the top teams in this league [as well]. The shootout is basically a coin-flip, it could go either way. In the playoffs, it’s not going to be like that.
“Like Coach [told us after the game], we’re not going to play 3-on-3, we’re not going to have shootouts in the playoffs.”