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Phantoms clinch playoff spot with 2-1 win over Steel

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Phantoms goaltender Jacob Fowler flashes his glove after making a save during the first period of Saturday's contest against Chicago. Fowler recorded 22 saves.

YOUNGSTOWN — Entering Saturday’s game against the Chicago Steel, the Youngstown Phantoms needed just one point in the standings to clinch a playoff berth.

They took two.

The Phantoms not only clinched a playoff spot after the 2-1 win over Chicago on Saturday, their win also guaranteed home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

After Friday’s great first period and not so great second period, Phantoms coach Brad Patterson was looking for a more complete 60 minutes on Saturday.

He got it. In fact, the Phantoms went 59 minutes and 52 seconds without giving up a goal.

“I thought we had a better 60 minutes than last night,” Patterson said. “It wasn’t that I didn’t like our game last night. The first I liked, the second, not so much, then the third was kind of ping-pong. Whereas tonight I felt we were more complete for the 60 minutes.

“We always have keys before the game and the keys we wanted to identify and be good at, I felt like guys held up their end of the bargain and it’s a credit to them. That’s a really hard club to do that against.”

Goaltender Jacob Fowler manned the net in the series finale against the Steel, saving 22 of 23 shots. The lone puck that snuck past him was on a 6-on-5 after Chicago pulled its own goalie.

“I talked yesterday about (Kyle Chauvette) and I’ll say the same thing tonight about Fowler. They’ve been our backbone all year and it doesn’t matter who’s in net, they give us every opportunity (to win),” Patterson said. “I didn’t see how the last one went in, some guys were talking about a high stick, I don’t know, but I guarantee if we went in and talked to Fowler about it, he doesn’t really care that one goes in the back of the net with a couple of seconds left.

“At the end of the day, everyone had a goal and that was to get two points and he gives every opportunity to do that.”

Stiven Sardarian got the Phantoms on the board first, scoring his eighth of the year with four minutes remaining in the first.

Instead of surrendering two goals in the second, the Phantoms tacked one more on to take a 2-0 lead in the second.

Forward Adam Ingram, who is rising up NHL Draft boards as high as 28th overall, scored at the end of the second.

Ingram is the team’s leading scorer with 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) in as many games.

The postseason is fast approaching. With games that are do or die just on the horizon, the Phantoms look to their defensive core for stability.

The defensemen’s collective mentality has been somewhat infectious for the rest of the group and has given the team an identity to grow around.

“Our defensive group has been steadfast all year,” Patterson said. “We’re missing a key component in TJ (Schweighardt), but he’ll be back right around the corner. It doesn’t matter who’s out there. Their mentality is ‘I’m going to shut whoever I’m up against down’, and that’s bled through to the entire group.”

The Phantoms close out the regular season next week with a road contest against the US National Team Development Program U-17s on Friday, then both teams come to Youngstown on Saturday in the last game of the year.

Puck drop is set for 7:05.

byauger@tribtoday.com

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