Phantoms hockey returns to home ice

By Cameron Niemi

The Youngstown Phantoms hockey team returned to its home ice rink inside the Covelli Center as it took on the Omaha Lancers in a two-game series. The team looked to rebound from a 6-4 loss Jan. 4 against the Lancers. 

The Lancers came into the series ranked last in the Western Conference with five wins on the season.

While the Lancers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the beginning of the first game, the Phantoms tied the game by the end of the first period.

In the second period, Omaha outscored Youngstown, 4-2. The Lancers added another goal to the total to secure its sixth win of the season.

The second game took place Jan. 5 where the Phantoms lost in an overtime shootout by a final of 3-2.  

Both teams went scoreless in the first period. The Lancers scored first in the second period and took a 1-0 lead. The Phantoms quickly responded with two straight goals before the end of the period and took the 2-1 lead heading into the third. 

Omaha tied the game in the third period and sent the game into overtime. Both teams played stout defense in overtime, and the game went to a shootout. The Lancers scored on their final attempt to secure their second straight win against the Phantoms. 

Despite being swept at home and losing their fourth straight game, the defending 2022-2023 Clark Cup Champion Phantoms still have 33 games remaining in their regular season.

Head coach Ryan Ward spoke about the losses and what the team learned with the second half of the season underway.

“The biggest thing for us, coming back from break, is just the consistency of effort. The league gets really good the second half of the year,” Ward said. “We’ve had some adversity with guys out, injured and sick.”

The Phantoms have a 17-8-3 record for the 2023-2024 season. They are tied for fifth place in the United States Hockey League and tied for third in the Eastern Conference.

The team will play six straight games on the road in a 15-day span before returning to Youngstown inside the Covelli Center on Jan. 27.

Ward still has high expectations for his team and he spoke about the chance to capitalize on the six-game stretch on the horizon despite having one of the youngest teams in the league. 

“We have a pretty good schedule here just from an opportunity standpoint. We have some guys that are leaving Saturday to play in the top prospects game. It’s a next man up mentality and for us we have to make sure that we are giving ourselves a chance to compete and win every night,” Ward said.

The Phantoms will start their road trip in Iowa for two games. The team will first take on the Des Moines Buccaneers at 7 p.m. on Jan. 12  and the Waterloo Black Hawks at 6:05 p.m. on Jan. 13. 

The games can be watched on FloSports or listened to on WDRB radio.