First-year Phantom ready for home opener this week

YOUNGSTOWN – First-year Youngstown Phantoms defenseman Marcus Joseph has played with the best of the best at the youth levels, and now he looks to take that experience to the USHL.

“It’s my first year (here) and my second year of juniors (junior hockey),” Joseph said recently. “I’m expecting the team to be really good. We have a lot of young guys, including myself.

“We only have seven returners, but that shouldn’t mean anything. We have good leaders on the team and we’re hoping to make a good run this year.”

The Phantoms, under new head coach Brad Patterson, play their first home game of the season Friday evening at 7:05 at the Covelli Centre against the Madison Capitols. The same teams play again on Saturday night.

Youngstown (2-1) opened the season playing three games on the road against Team USA. The Phantoms lost, 5-3, on Sept. 24, then won two straight last weekend, 6-1 and 7-1.

Joseph says he’s always dreamed of playing in the both the USHL and NHL growing up. Joseph first skated when he was 3 years old, which instantly got him hooked on the sport.

The 19-year old, Mountain Top, Pennsylvania, native took the interest with him into the youth hockey ranks, as he played for his hometown team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights 16U squad, back in 2012-13.

“The U16 team, when I was on there, I had a lot of guys with me that are currently either drafted into the NHL or are going into the NHL,” Joseph said. “They helped me a lot through the process and I learned a lot from them.”

In two years on the 16U squad, the 5-foot-9, 187-pound defenseman played in 45 games and was responsible for 33 points. In 2014, Joseph played for the Knights’ 18U squad, where he had an equally impressive run, scoring 11 points in 22 games.

Joseph says that one of the coaches on the 18U staff actually got him into his first junior hockey league, up in Canada last year. There, he played in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) for the Carleton Place Canadians.

“It was a good experience. I’d redo it again, no regrets about going there,” Joseph said. “Actually, one of (my) teammates (was) Brett Murray (who also plays for the Phantoms).

“I played with him and really liked it. It was a really good team (and) a really good coached team. We had a good team together and we actually had like eight D-1 (college) commits last year and two draft picks in the NHL.”

Joseph experienced his greatest success to date, playing in the CCHL in 2015-16. In 47 regular season games, he had 40 points, and then added 12 more points in 16 postseason games. He already has a goal and an assist for the Phantoms this season.

Joseph considers himself an “offensive defenseman” and he says he likes to finesse the puck and make a good first pass. The Sacred Heart University commit has been nothing but impressed with the Phantoms, since arriving in Youngstown recently.

“It’s a great city (Youngstown), I really like it. It’s a clean city (and) I really like the Billets (host family),” Joseph said. “(The Billets are) nice people. I live with Darion Hanson, the goalie, and we get along, I like everything about (being here).”