CEDAR RAPIDS – Those run-and-gun college basketball teams from Loyola Marymount have nothing on the Youngstown Phantoms so far this hockey season.
The Phantoms have been absolutely ghoulish for opposing teams and their goaltenders, including last night in a 5-1 win over the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders before 2,151 fans at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.
Youngstown has won four in a row at the start of the USHL season thanks to a prolific offensive output. It has averaged six goals a game, putting 14 up in back-to-back games in Eastern Iowa this weekend.
A 9-6 shootout (well, not really a shootout) Friday night at Waterloo was followed by this.
“Credit Youngstown. They played well,” said RoughRiders Coach Mark Carlson. “I didn’t think we played a full 60 (minutes). That’s the story, I think.”
This game relatively boiled down to three key issues. First was a first period in which the ice seemed tilted toward the Youngstown offensive zone. Markus McCrea (a three-year major junior player prior to coming to the USHL) and Luke Stork sandwiched a Riders goal from Davey Middleton for a 2-1 lead.
Youngstown outshot Cedar Rapids, 18-8. The Riders gave up 15 shots on goal the entire game Friday night in a win over Fargo.
“I just didn’t think we competed,” Carlson said. “It was different in the second and third periods. But you can’t play 40 minutes in this league.”
The second factor was Cedar Rapids’ inability to take any kind of advantage of two long 5-on-3 power plays. The RoughRiders had a full two minutes of two-man advantage in the first period and 1:18 more in the second without denting the back of the net.
Third was defensive mistakes. A bad turnover led to a Sam Anas second-period breakaway goal, a neutral-zone turnover led to an odd-man rush and McCrea’s second goal of the night later in the second period.
The kicker in all of this was Youngstown’s Austin Cangelosi, considered perhaps the best player in the USHL, was limited to one measly assist. Cangelosi came in with a league-high five goals, four assists and plus-eight plus-minus rating.
Chris Birdsall made his Riders debut in net and certainly didn’t look out of place for a 15-year-old, holding up relatively well against Youngstown’s offensive onslaught. Defensemen Avni Berisha and Paul O’Connor and forward Alec Marsh also made their initial appearances for Cedar Rapids.
The Riders (2-1) host Muskegon and Green Bay next weekend. “I think there were a lot of positives (this weekend),” Carlson said. “We had some guys that played well. We learned a lot about our team. We got an opportunity to let both our goalies play, and both played well. We got some new guys in the lineup tonight. It was good to see a lot things.”
First Star – Markus McCrea (Youngstown): Pair of goals for the major junior veteran. Played three years in Western Hockey League.
Second Star – Daniel Renouf (Youngstown): Defenseman scored a goal and went plus-four. Not bad.
Third Star – Patrick Spano (Youngstown): Was solid in net with 29 saves.
Here is a link to the game boxscore: