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Phantoms rally to beat Gamblers, 4-3

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Youngstown Phantoms forward Jan Kern (right) and Kyler Grundy race toward the boards to retrieve the puck.

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown Phantoms have developed a knack for comeback wins.

They did it again Friday by storming back down three to win 4-3 in overtime over the Green Bay Gamblers.

Phantoms coach Brad Patterson is grateful for his team’s resiliency, but would prefer to be the team that has to protect their lead instead of coming back to win.

“You’re never out of a game,” Patterson said. “At the same time, I’d like to be on the other side of that and getting a little bit more experience and comfort with being up two or three. Two go in the back of the neck pretty quick and it’s an energy suck but the guys stuck with it. There wasn’t any quit.”

Georgi Merkulov scored the game-winner, going top shelf past Gamblers goaltender Gavin Enright. It bounced in and out but still counts as the Phantoms move to 15-15-4-1 (35 points) and are in a three-way tie with Green Bay and Muskegon.

Patterson was unable to see the overtime winner scored by Merkulov, but knows his game is quite similar to a former Phantom who’s now playing professional hockey.

“He’s been awesome,” Patterson said. “My comparable to Georgi is he’s eerily similar to what we had Sam Anas six or seven years ago. He’s so cerebral, he finds guys that no one else does and it seems like he gets a little bit more comfortable each game.”

For the first period and parts of the second, the game looked to be dominated by Green Bay. The Phantoms had quality shots on net, but were unable to connect due to Enright making games to shut the offense down.

Once the Phantoms got on the board however, the game seemed to open up.

Ohio State University commit Matthew Cassidy put the Phantoms on the board in the second period with a tic-tac-toe power play goal and almost did it again minutes later.

Cassidy put another puck in the net on the power play to open the third period to bring the Phantoms within a goal. Cassidy’s play has been strong lately, which comes as no surprise to Patterson.

“He’s been consistent all year,” Patterson said. “He’s a driving force. He plays hard. He’s consistently in the forecheck without the puck. He hunts it down. He skates well, so he’s going to have an impact.”

The power play, which has been a weak spot for the team this season made the most of its many opportunities, going 3-of-10 on the night.

During a 5-on-3, the Phantoms utilized a five-forward power play, something they’ve experimented with which Patterson said became more common on the two-man advantage.

With 6 minutes left in the game, Jan Kern slipped the puck in the net to tie the game up. Kern had embodied the mentality Patterson wants to see in his players and is glad that it paid dividends for Kern.

“He’s usually the guy that you don’t talk about,” Patterson said. “He’s usually the guy that’s doing the hard work down in the corner. I think there were a lot of guys to do it tonight. That was something we talked about this week, not specific to power play, but for us to be successful we really need to be good on those 50-50 pucks and I thought tonight as the game went on we did that.”

The Phantoms are back at it tonight against Green Bay at 7:05.

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