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Phantoms beat Steel in fight-filled contest

Staff photo / Brian Yauger -- Ben Schoen glides toward the net during the second period of Saturday’s game at the Covelli Centre.

YOUNGSTOWN — If one word could describe how the 2020-21 season has gone for the Youngstown Phantoms, it’s battle.

They’ve battled not only the team on the opposite side of the ice, but injuries, suspensions and some unfortunate puck bounces.

Their fight paid off Saturday night as the Phantoms took down the Chicago Steel, 5-2.

“We’ve really fought it, and I think our record indicates that, and we’ve got some really good games through that,” Phantoms coach Brad Patterson said. “It’s frustrating from that sense, but for the players to really see that and see what they’re capable of is huge.”

Captain Reilly Funk got the Phantoms started on the scoresheet Saturday, putting the team up 1-0 with five minutes remaining in the opening period.

After last night’s 4-2 loss to the Steel, Funk knew the team had to tighten up and focus their shots.

“Obviously we lost last night. We were close in that game but we knew we didn’t tighten down the penalties, and we didn’t really do that tonight, but we knew we had a job to do,” Funk said. “And we did it. We got pucks in behind them. We started moving pucks and just put them on net. Most of our goals today, we just got traffic in front of the net and went in the net.”

Chicago didn’t let that goal go unanswered, however, as leading scorer Matt Coronato scored his 18th of the year to tie the game.

The Phantoms and Steel have gotten pretty familiar with each other this season, already having faced each other five times in the last month and a half. That familiarity has led to a dislike as the game continued to get more and more physical as time went on, leading to multiple fights.

“We obviously don’t like each other, these two teams, and we battled,” Funk said. “We played them a lot. We don’t like them and they don’t like us and there’s some hits and some dirty things, but we play and we protect each other. If we make a hit and we take a penalty we’re gonna kill it for each other.”

With the amount of penalties both teams had, they each spent significant time on special teams. Chicago took advantage of a 5-on-3 to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period.

From that point on it was all Phantoms as the team scored four consecutive goals. Georgii Merkulov tied the game at two, and newly acquired Winter Wallace broke the tie in the third to go up 3-2.

Yusaku Ando and Cole Burtch put the icing on the cake as the Phantoms moved to 5-13-0-1 on the season.

The Phantoms host Chicago once more to close out the three-game series today at 4:05 at the Covelli Centre, and Patterson expects another heated affair.

“I think it’s gonna be a hard-battled game, and they play hard,” Patterson said. “They’re obviously skilled and we know that, but you know they have good size as well and they’re hard to play against. Anytime you play a team two, three, four times in a row, you’re probably gonna see tempers flare a little bit.

“I think tomorrow, we’ve got to come up with our best foot forward. Our message to our guys isn’t about what (Chicago is) doing, it’s more about a consistency on our end and what we’re going to do.”

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