YOUNGSTOWN - Alex Gacek picked a good time for his first hat trick in the United States Hockey League. Maybe it was because of his lucky playoff moustache.
Gacek scored two goals in the second period with his third coming on an empty net in the final period, helping the Youngstown Phantoms complete a first-round sweep over the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in a 6-2 victory at the Covelli Centre Tuesday night.
Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said there is no greater feat he has achieved as a coach than this game.
"There is no doubt about it. This is the biggest win in this franchise's history and it is the biggest win in a lot of these guys' careers. I couldn't be prouder of the group. The best thing about it was that the guys had a little celebration about it for about a minute and now they are just going about their business."
The Phantoms also got goals from Todd Koritzinsky, Austin Cangelosi and Soren Jonzonn.
Jonzonn's goal proved to be crucial, as it came about a minute after the Roughriders had scored to make it 3-2.
Noreen thought that was a turning point in the game.
"I think it is a testament to our team and we have talked about from day one and tried to instill in these guys brains that when something bad happens, look forward," Noreen said. "No matter what the scoreboard says. If anything I thought our game kinda picked up when that happened."
Gacek said that goal couldn't have come at a better time.
"They got the momentum right away, making it a one-goal game," Gacek said. "But Soren and Ryan (Lowney) made a great two on one play. That was big for our bench."
Noreen said the team got a huge boost from Gacek, someone not known for lighting up the scorebook.
"He might not get the most point and he might not get the most goals," Noreen said. "But as far as playing a complete game, I don't know if there is a guy in the USHL that plays a better complete game than Alex. He is one of our best penalty killer, he blocks shots and he can score when he get the chance to."
Gacek said the first goal was huge as it set the tone for the whole game.
"It was nice to get the lead and play with the lead for a little bit," Gacek said. "I just beat the defense wide and used my speed. Luckily it went in."
When asked about his moustache, he started it around Christmas, but it didn't last long once he got home.
"I went home and my parents made me shave it," Gacek said. "I started back hoping it would bring us some luck and now we are in the playoffs."
Noreen said the team will have a light skate on Wednesday to get ready for the teams next matchup, likely against Green Bay. But if they had their way, they would be out there competing.
"At this point if we could play tomorrow, the guys would wanna play tomorrow," Noreen said. "I don't think there is much time needed for rest. There is no such thing as being tired or sore in the playoffs. It is playoff hockey; it is the best time of the year. I think everybody is ready to go."
Gacek said the team will be ready for Green Bay.
"Keep thing simple and stick to our game plan," Gacek said. "We owe Green Bay some revenge and everyone knows that so we are looking forward to that."
As for his moustache, Gacek said he will shave it after the season. He hopes that won't be for a little while, as the team has a bigger goal to accomplish.
"Winning a Clark Cup," Gacek said. "A couple more weeks and we will see what happens."