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Phantoms take 2-0 lead on Dubuque

YOUNGSTOWN — Two down, one to go for the Youngstown Phantoms as they look to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals after a 3-2 win over the Dubuque Fighting Saints.

The Fighting Saints came out with more energy than they did in Game 1, which gave them an early advantage. Quinn Preston opened the scoring by beating Phantoms goaltender Ivan Prosvetov

“I thought Dubuque came out and had a great period,” Phantoms head coach Brad Patterson said. “We’ve had the luxury over the last couple weeks to be able to talk about playoffs and what we’re gonna see and the things that are gonna happen. And it’ll happen again, where a team has you on your heels for 20 minutes, it’s how you rebound from it, and I thought the guys found a way to even it out in the second (period). Not just on the scoreboard, but the momentum, and in the third period, I liked our game.”

Not long after that opening goal, the Phantoms struck back with a shot from Curtis Hall. Hall scored his first playoff goal of the season, and later tallied an assist. Matthew Barry added to his point total, scoring second, and assisting on Hall’s opening goal. Barry is averaging two points-per-game heading into Game 3.

The game’s hero, Samuel Salonen, scored the winning goal with 6:20 left in the game. Salonen ended his scoreless streak with a beautiful snipe reminiscent of his countryman, Winnipeg Jets phenom Patrik Laine. Salonen scored his last goal in March, but has had bad luck, being unable to capitalize on his numerous chances.

“It feels great,” Salonen said. “I feel relaxed now that I have the monkey off my back. Now we’re gonna go to Dubuque and hopefully sweep them.”

The forward duo of Hall and Salonen has caught the eye of the coach. Despite not putting many points on the board before Saturday, the pair have shown chemistry and have created some good chances while together.

“I thought they were really good tonight,” Patterson said. “There’s been times over the course of this year where they’ve shown chemistry. Salonen’s goal was a big-time play, and another thing I’ve talked with the team about over the last couple weeks is guys stepping up at opportune times. It’s not always gonna be your leading goal scorer. Sam’s got a heck of a shot and he made no mistake about that.”

Preston, an Ohio State commit, continued his reign of terror in the playoffs, adding another point to his league-leading playoff point total. He is tied with teammate Alexander Steeves, who assisted him on that opening goal.

“He’s an elite player,” Patterson said. “There’s nothing else you can say about him. He’s fast, he can shoot the puck, he plays the right way. In this league you see more and more of those guys, and he’s just a big-time player.”

The Phantoms head off to Iowa for Game 3 against the Fighting Saints on Tuesday. A win for the Phantoms moves them into the Eastern Conference Finals, where they’ll face the winner of the Chicago Steel and US National Team Development Program series. Team USA has a 1-0 series lead after beating the Steel 3-0 in Game 1.

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