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Early deficit no problem in win

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Phantoms fell behind 3-0 within the first 10 minutes of the game, but scored six unanswered goals to come back and beat the U.S. National Team Development Program, 6-3, Saturday night at the Covelli Centre.

Despite the early deficit, Phantoms coach Brad Patterson was a fan of how his team came out.

“You don’t say this often when you’re down 3-0, but I actually really liked our start,” he said. “I thought we had a ton of compete. Made a couple big mistakes, and they end up in the back of our net, but I really liked the way we were playing.”

After the third Team USA goal, Patterson called a timeout. He wanted the team to keep playing the way they were playing, but he made a switch at goaltender.

Colin Purcell stepped between the pipes and made it a fortress, saving all 16 shots that came his way. The swap wasn’t an indictment on starter Dominic Basse’s play, but a chance to get a fresh mind on the ice

“Let’s hit the reset button here and get somebody in with a fresh set of mind and more about taking a breath at the bench,” Patterson said. “I thought the guys regrouped well.”

That switch proved to be just what the Phantoms needed, as Youngstown forward Anseni Smekhnov scored to close the gap three minutes after the goalie swap.

“Huge credit to Colin, he goes in and makes a big stop. It’s 3-0, makes a big stop and we come down to the other end, get one and then start to chip away at that,” Patterson said.

In his debut game with the Phantoms, Georgi Merkulov impressed, tallying a goal and an assist. Merkulov has only been with the team for a week and a half, but he has made his impact known.

“Just kind of throwing them into the fire for the first game, he shows he’s played on a level like this before,” Patterson said. “He’s composed with the puck and makes people around him better, and he was a big time add.”

John Beaton closed out the first period with a third goal and the Phantoms went into the break all tied at three goals a piece.

The Phantoms were allowing shots, but locked down on defense to hold Team USA scoreless. The U-18 Team USA roster features high NHL draft picks every season, and Patterson was quick to praise them, and his team’s ability to stop them.

“Anytime you play a team that wears that sweater, you know they’re going to be talented,” he said. “I thought our D felt like they could be aggressive because we had good back pressure. They knew our forwards were going to relieve them in certain pressure points and that’s a credit to all eight (defenders) tonight.”

Bradley Marek broke the tie in the second period, pushing the Phantoms ahead.

Beaton and Reilly Funk rounded out the game, scoring in the third period to cap off the 6-3 win.

The Phantoms are back at it tonight when they welcome the Des Moines Buccaneers to the Covelli Centre. Puck drop is scheduled for 5:05 p.m.

“They’re going to be a lot like tonight,” Patterson said. “The good thing for us, we were able to watch them play at Team USA last night. We got to scout for both games done at the same time. But they’re high octane. They have tempo in their game. It’ll be a good test.”

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