Connor sets record, Phantoms lose to Stars

Although in a losing effort, the Phantoms' Kyle Connor set the new career goals record for the organization.
Although in a losing effort, the Phantoms' Kyle Connor set the new career goals record for the organization.

YOUNGSTOWN, OH (WYTV)- The Youngstown Phantoms fell to the Lincoln Stars, 4-3 in overtime, on Sunday night in the finale of a two-game series. Forwards Kyle Connor, Taylor Best and, Josh Nenadal were the goal scorers for the Phantoms, who drop their second overtime game of the season.

It only took 5:11 for the Phantoms to strike first as defenseman Connor Yau took a shot from the left wing point that was kicked out by Stars goaltender Cam Hackett right to Connor, who slammed home the rebound, giving the Phantoms a 1-0 lead. The goal marked the 55th of his USHL career, and now places him atop the Phantoms’ all-time scoring list, overtaking Sam Anas, who was the previous record holder with 54.

“It feels pretty unreal at the moment, given the number of talented players that come through this organization, and it’s a real honor,” said Connor. “Sam’s a good friend of mine, and throughout my first couple of years here he’s been like a mentor to me and I have really learned a lot from him.”

“I’m not surprised at all because he is such a talented player,” remarked Anas. “I could see the raw talent he had as a 16-year-old playing in the league, and it is great to see him doing well. He’s worked hard and deserves everything he gets.”

The Stars tied the game at 16:45 of the opening frame when forward Miguel Fidler scored after a centering pass from Chris Dodero, evening the game at 1-1 after 20 minutes.

“I loved our start, and thought that was as good of a first period that we have played all year,” said Phantoms Head Coach Anthony Noreen. “The only unfortunate thing was when we got up 1-0, we had a couple of chances to make it a two or three goal lead and we couldn’t put the puck away.”

Youngstown took the lead back near the midway point of the second, when forward Trey Bradley took a shot that was initially saved by Hackett, but Best went hard to the net and jammed the puck across the goal line to give the Phantoms a 2-1 lead, 7:18 into the period.

That lead was short lived, as a few minutes later, Lincoln’s Michael Gillespie beat Phantoms Goaltender Chris Birdsall with a high wrist shot, tying the game, 2-2, after two periods.

The Stars took their first lead of the game after Grant Jozefek intercepted a pass in the defensive zone and skated in on a breakaway and beat Birdsall, putting Lincoln up, 3-2, 4:31 into the final period.

A resilient Phantoms squad battled back, and for the second game in a row tied the game late in the third when Nenadal crashed the net and scored on a Kris Myllari rebound, tying the game, 3-3, at the end of regulation.

In the overtime period, the Phantoms had a number of quality scoring opportunities, however with just 28 seconds remaining, Lincoln’s Biagio Lerario wristed a shot past Birdsall to give the Stars the 4-3 overtime victory.

“I thought that was as physical of a game that we have played all season,” said Noreen. “There were a lot of things about our game tonight that I liked, and I would take tonight’s game 10 times over the one from Friday. There is a lot from tonight to build on and I think the message is we have to be physical and we have to play hard”

Birdsall stopped 29 of the 33 shots he faced, in the loss, while the power play went 0-for-4 on the night.

The Phantoms head back on the road on Friday, when they travel to Bloomington to take on the Thunder, with the Phantoms leading the season series, 5-0-0. Faceoff on Friday is scheduled for 8:00pm ET.


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