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Phantoms’ Messina, Larkin commit to Ohio State

Friday, March 22, 2019

Michigan natives’

new hockey home

will be in Columbus

By Tom Williams


You might not believe where two Youngstown Phantoms with Michigan roots will be playing in college (Brutus, ask TBDBITL to play “Buckeye Battle Cry.”)

Forward Dalton Messina and defenseman John Larkin, whose hometowns are near Detroit, have committed to Ohio State University.

“Beautiful campus, but what helped me with my decision was how much the coaches care about the players,” said Larkin from Northville, Mich. “I feel I should go where I am wanted.”

Messina, whose hometown is Macomb, Mich., said there have been jokes made since he announced his decision. One of the jokesters is teammate Matt Barnaby, a Penn State recruit.

Sunday, Penn State defeated Ohio State, 5-1, in the Big Ten Tournament, and will play Notre Dame in the championship game on Saturday.

“He’s been giving me grief, for sure,” Messina said of Barnaby after Wednesday’s practice at Deep Freeze. “It still carried over into [today’s] practice a little bit.”

Messina, who made his commitment last week, said he will be a Buckeye in the fall, studying sport management.

Larkin, who will graduate from Ursuline High School in May, will return for another season of junior hockey before going to Columbus for the fall 2020 semester.

He hasn’t decided on a major, weighing engineering or medicine.

“I feel that something in the medical field would be really rewarding,” Larkin said. “You’re definitely giving back to other people in a needed job in society today.”

Larkin won the battle of “Name the Former Phantoms Who Are Buckeyes.” The defenseman named goaltender Sean Romeo and forward Austin Pooley.

Neither came up with defensemen Matt Miller (East Palestine) or Tommy Parran.

The Phantoms carry a six-game winning streak into tonight’s game in Muskegon, Mich., against the first-place Lumberjacks.

“It’s huge that we’re on fire right now,” Larkin said. “It’s awesome.”

The Phantoms (30-18-1-4, 65 points) are battling the Chicago Steel and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders for second place.

The second-place team will get a first-round bye in the postseason. The third- and fourth-place teams will host all games for a best-of-three series against the fifth- and -sixth-place seeds.

Last year, the Phantoms used their second-place finish as a stepping stone to the their first Clark Cup Finals appearance.

“We’ve been preaching [to younger teammates] how big that bye was,” Messina said. “Especially knowing how hard your [next] opponent has been playing. “It was nice to hit the reset button before going into the playoffs.”

The Phantoms have gone 8-0-0-1 in the past nine games. The remaining nine games have plenty of tests. Six are against Team USA and three are against the 18-Under Nationals squad that features Jack Hughes, the projected number-one pick in this June’s NHL Draft.

Four of those games will be played next week.

“Four in five days,” said Larkin, referring to the games Wednesday and March 29-31.

Messina is pumped up to for the Michigan trips because he’ll be playing in front of friends and family.

“I’ve always found I play better in front of them,” Messina said. “Its fun to see their reactions, talk to them, see what they thought [of the game].