YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO — The Chicago Steel (13-3-2-0; 28 pts.) wrapped up a three-game weekend with a solid victory over the Youngstown Phantoms (4-10-0-0; 8 pts.) by a 4-2 margin on Sunday afternoon at Covelli Centre in Ohio. Chicago’s special teams units led the club to its second straight victory.
Coming into the matchup with the Phantoms, Youngstown’s power play was ranked fourth in the USHL with a 26.1% success rate. The Steel penalty kill had an excellent afternoon killing off seven of eight Youngstown power play chances in the win.
On the other side of the equation, Chicago went 2-for-3 (66.6%) on the man advantage, accounting for half of its goals on the power play.
Youngstown’s only goal on the power play was the first goal of the game to put the home team ahead early. Georgi Merkulov worked his way in front of the net, finding a pass from Bennet Zmolek to tip home, his seventh marker on the year.
Chicago answered late in the first period. Fresh off his USHL record-setting performance for longest point streak in league history, Steel forward Matt Coronato lit the lamp for the fifth consecutive game with just 31 seconds on the clock. After Sean Farrell ripped a wrister off the crossbar, Coronato jumped on a loose puck behind Youngstown netminder Mattias Sholl, tucking home his 17th goal of the year.
Coronato’s USHL record point streak was extended to 27 games with the goal.
Chicago began to take control of the Sunday afternoon clash in the middle frame. After being outshot by a 12-9 margin in the first period, the Steel tilted the ice with an 11-6 advantage in the middle frame.
The Steel were once again without several key players due to injury and were forced to play several defensemen as forwards for the second straight game. Lukas Gustafsson gave new meaning to the term offensive defenseman late in the middle frame. The Boston College commit, normally a defenseman, was playing on the Steel fourth line as a forward due to Steel injuries. Gustafsson gathered a puck after a feed from Dylan Robbins, lifting a beautiful backhander past Sholl. The goal was Gustafsson’s first in the USHL as well as the first point for Robbins.
The Steel took a 2-1 lead onto a power play midway through the third when Jack Babbage fed Adam Fantilli on a 2-on-0 chance for what looked like a sure goal. Youngstown netminder Mattias Sholl slid right to left, robbing Fantilli of a goal with the glove, keeping the score 2-1 for the time being.
Chicago’s power play proved too much for the Phantoms as Erik Middendorf scored his first goal of the game shortly after the highlight-reel save from Sholl. A shot from the point was re-directed by a Youngstown stick, finding its way into the back of the net for a 3-1 Steel lead.
The Phantoms closed the gap with less than two minutes to play in regulation, putting the game momentarily in doubt.
Jack Malone flipped a puck from the red line into the Steel offensive zone but it failed to settle, taking unpredictable bounces to sneak past Steel goaltender Jack Stark.
After a timeout, Youngstown pulled Sholl and Middendorf capped the scoring with a 195-foot empty netter, his second of the game and 15th of the season.
Stark made 28 saves in his second win of the season in as many starts, both against Youngstown.
Chicago returns home to face two Western Conference opponents next weekend. The games on Friday, Jan. 15 against the Des Moines Buccaneers and Saturday, Jan. 16 versus the Waterloo Black Hawks are both scheduled for 7:05 pm CT and are presented by Waubonsee Community College.
Chicago Steel Upcoming Games presented by Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush:
Friday, January 15 vs Des Moines Buccaneers (7:05 pm CT) presented by Waubonsee Community College
Saturday, January 16 vs Waterloo Black Hawks (7:05 pm CT) presented by Waubonsee Community College
Friday, January 22 at Youngstown Phantoms (6:05 pm CT)
For more information, call 855-51-STEEL or visit ChicagoSteelHockeyTeam.com.