Phantoms’ late surge closes out GB

YOUNGSTOWN – With the clock winding down in the third period and the score tied, the Phantoms were trying everything to get past Green Bay goalie Tony Kujava.

Sam Anas had a couple of good looks on net within a 2-minute span, but Kujava held strong. Even during a scramble in front of the net with less than 6 minutes remaining, the Phantoms couldn’t break through the wall put up by Kujava.

Well, if you can’t go through a wall, you might as well go around it.

Out of that scramble, the puck squirted out to defender Daniel Renouf, who passed to Cam Brown on the backside of the play. Brown tapped it in for the game-winning goal in the Phantoms’ 3-1 victory over the Gamblers. The win clinched the series and a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.

“It was just a mess in front (of the net),” Brown said. “To be honest I thought that Dan was going to shoot it at first, and he waited an extra second. He just gave me a gift backdoor.

“I was just saying to myself, ‘Don’t screw it up.’ “

Brown didn’t mess it up, and despite Brown’s fear, Renouf explained following the game that shooting was not on his mind.

“I couldn’t not pass it to him, he was so wide open,” Renouf said. “Not at all (was I tempted to shoot). He’s the goal-scorer, not me.”

As had occurred throughout the series, the Phantoms needed to come back on the Gamblers to win. Christian Wolanin gave Green Bay the lead at the 13:47 mark when he fired home a shot from just outside the left circle over Youngstown goalie Sean Romeo.

Youngstown coach Anthony Noreen said he was happy his team limited the damage in the early going, but the Gamblers could have held a two-goal advantage if not for Tommy Davis earlier in the period.

A shot by Green Bay’s Kevin Irwin at the 6:21 mark in the first period went off Romeo’s shoulder and straight into the air before landing in the crease. Perched on the left side of the net, Davis jumped on the puck when it was inches away from crossing the line to save a goal.

“I just instinctively wacked at it and got it out of there,” Davis said. “It was kind of a lucky play – being in the right place at the right time.”

Limiting the damage allowed the Phantoms to work their way back into the game and score three-unanswered goals in the last two periods.

For Noreen, beating the defending Clark Cup champions was a step in the right direction, although the team still hasn’t fulfilled their goal yet.

“There’s a reason that they’ve been in the finals and won the Clark Cup two of the last three years,” Noreen said. “They are an elite program. There are no holes in that team. I don’t think there was one easy piece of ice for either team at any point in the series.”

Meanwhile, the returning players from last year’s team finally got their revenge for last season’s playoff series loss. After splitting the first two games in Green Bay, the Gamblers went on to win both games in Youngstown.

This time, Youngstown took care of business at home and is now going into uncharted territory. The Phantoms have never gone this far in the United States Hockey League playoffs.

“For the returners, there was a bitter taste with this team,” Renouf said. “It’s definitely really nice to beat them and see them go home because they did the same thing to us.”