Phantoms Notebook

Youngstown Phantoms

September 26, 2013 - United States Hockey League (USHL) - Youngstown Phantoms

News Release

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - Hockey returns to the Covelli Centre this Friday when the Youngstown Phantoms face off against the Green Bay Gamblers in their 2013-14 home opener. The Phantoms to bounce back in front of the home fans after dropping their first two games of the campaign to Team USA on the road last weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich.

THE WEEK IN REVIEW

Game No. 1: Inexperienced Phantoms Struggle In Season Opener

The U.S. National Under-18 Team's experience showed as they pounced on seemingly every mistake the Phantoms (0-2-0, 0 points) made in their season opener. Second-year forward JJ Piccinch brought Youngstown to within a goal of Team USA (2-0-0, 4 points) when he scored to make it 3-2 less than two minutes into the second. However the National Team responded with four unanswered goals to close out the period along the way to a convincing 9-3 victory. Defenseman Alex Smith, who was acquired in a trade with the Indiana Ice the day earlier, scored in his Phantoms debut and Ryan Schwalbe also found the back of the net in his first USHL game. Jake Moore got the start in net with Sean Romeo sidelined by injury but was unable to overcome the U.S. offensive onslaught.

Game No. 2: Phantoms Run Out Of Ammo In Firefight With USA

Five different players scored for the Phantoms, led by a two-goal outburst from 16-year-old Kyle Connor, but it was not enough in face of U.S. National U-17 Team. After both teams combined for 12 goals through the first 40 minutes, Jeremy Bracco's go-ahead goal to put USA up 7-6 less than five minutes into the third held on to be the game-winner. Piccinich notched his second power-play goal in as many games to give the Phantoms a 5-3 lead midway through the middle period. However the National Team was able to swing the momentum in its direction with back-to-back short-handed goals. Luke Kunin gave USA a 6-5 lead later in the second but Luke Stork tied it up heading into second intermission. First-year forwards Blake Christensen and Kiefer Sherwood also found the back of the net for Youngstown.

LOOSE PUCKS

-- Nathan Walker's audition with the Washington Capitals went so well that he won't be returning to the Mahoning Valley this season. The Aussie winger inked a one-year professional contract with the Capitals' top affiliate, the Hershey Bears, Tuesday becoming the first player in franchise history to make the jump straight from the USHL to the American Hockey League.

-- While Walker's deal with Hershey is a huge source of pride for the Phantoms franchise, his absence leaves a sizeable hole in the Youngstown lineup. One player who will be looked to make up for the scoring void will be second-year winger JJ Piccinich. After scoring just three goals in 63 games with the Phantoms last season, the 17-year-old Boston University recruit notched 2-1-3 over the weekend in Ann Arbor.

-- NHL Central Scouting released its "Players to Watch" list for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft Monday and a trio of Phantoms forwards made the preliminary rankings: Maxim Letunov, Kiefer Sherwood and Luke Stork. Letunov, who has three assists through two games, is in his first year of NHL draft eligibility while Sherwood and Stork are both second-year eligible.

-- Head coach Anthony Noreen announced captains for the Phantoms 2013-14 season Wednesday. Second-year center Alfred Larsson was voted captain by his teammates, becoming the first European-born player to wear the 'C' for Youngstown. Forwards Josh Nenadal, Tyler Spezia and Luke Stork will wear the 'A's on their jerseys while four-year veteran goaltender Sean Romeo was also voted an assistant captain, but will not have a letter.

THE WEEK AHEAD

Game No. 3 & 4: Friday, Sept. 27 at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 28 at 2:05 p.m. - Phantoms vs. Gamblers

The Gamblers (1-0-1, 3 points) make the trip to the Covelli Centre for the first time since the Phantoms knocked them out of the 2013 postseason. With the seeds an intense rivalry already firmly implanted, Youngstown will be looking to pick up win No. 1 of the season and send a message to the perennial USHL power that last year was no fluke. Though Green Bay's top-three scorers from 2012-13 have moved on the college hockey ranks, the Gamblers showed no drop off in fire power last weekend racking up a combined nine goals through two games thanks in part to a three-point performance from Nick Schmaltz. A North Dakota recruit, Schmaltz will be in action Thursday night in Pittsburgh, Pa., for the second annual CCM All-American Prospects Game and the Phantoms young defensemen will have to account for presumptive early-round NHL draft pick every time he is on the ice this weekend at the Covelli Centre.

THEY SAID IT

"If you look at the teams that have a track record of success - not just in this league but in all sports - you have to take care of business at home. That's something we know we have to do."

- -- Head coach Anthony Noreen on the Phantoms home opener Friday at the Covelli Centre.

PHANTOMS LEADERS

Points: Maxim Letunov (0-3-3, T-3rd in USHL), JJ Piccinich (2-1-3, T-3rd in USHL)

Goals: Kyle Connor, Piccinich (2, T-3rd in USHL)

Assists: Letunov (3, T-2nd in USHL)

Power-Play Goals: Piccinich (T-1st in USHL)

Short-Handed Goals: N/A

Plus/Minus: Several tied (minus-1)

Penalty Minutes: Fredric Larsson (4)

Points by a Defenseman: Alex Carle (0-2-2)

Wins: N/A

Goals Against Average: Jake Moore (8.07)

Save Percentage: Moore (.781)

Shutouts: N/A

EVENTS AND PROMOTIONS

Friday, Sept. 26: Magnet Schedule Giveaway and Postgame Fireworks

The First 1,000 fans through the doors for the home opener Friday will receive a FREE Phantoms 2013-14 magnet schedule sponsored by Wedgewood Pizza. The Covelli Centre doors open at 6:05 p.m. EST and puck drops an hour later. Stick around downtown after the game for a fireworks show to celebrate the new USHL season, courtesy of Phantom Fireworks.

Season tickets for the 2013-14 season are on sale now starting at the low price of just $8 a game. Benefits include invitations to exclusive season ticket holder events, discounts at the Phantoms Team Shop and much more. Call 330.747.PUCK (7825) for more information or to reserve seats today. For all the latest news, visit www.YoungstownPhantoms.com, follow the Phantoms on Twitter (@YtownPhantoms) and 'like' them on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/YoungstownPhantoms).

• Discuss this story on the United States Hockey League message board