DEFENSE FIRST...The battle of two of the best defensive teams in the league lived up to expectations. The Fighting Saints took down the Youngstown Phantoms 2-1 in overtime, recovering just moments after allowing the tying goal late in regulation time. Brendan Bushy scored his first USHL goal to start the scoring, and Cole Guttman put the cherry on top for the OT winner.
A CRITCIAL POINT...In need to keep pace with the Saints, the Youngstown Phantoms got part one of what they were looking for—a single point in the standings. As opposed to being back four points in the East, the Phantoms are now three points back, with a chance to close the gap futher. It took 59 minutes and 36 seconds to get the tying goal, but they got it.
GET THE BROOMS?...The Saints have taken the first three meetings of this season series over the Phantoms, by a combined score of 9-2. A big reason for the Saints’ success over the Phantoms has been their mainstay in net, Jaxon Castor, who has gotten the win in all three games, to go along with a .970 save percentage and a 0.75 goals-against average.
KULBAKOV-ATION...Youngstown’s Belarusian starting netminder Ivan Kulbakov, a C-ranked goalie via NHL Central Scouting, has carried the ball for the Phantoms all season long. His 1.86 goals-against average is the second-best in the league. That mark is also one of two remaining GAA stats under 2. His .920 save percentage ranks sixth in the USHL.
KUDLA CREATES...Once the USHL’s top preseason scorer, and now one of the best defensive scorers in the league, Patrick Kudla is racking up the points lately for Dubuque since the turn of the new year. Since December 28, Kudla has 9 points (1 goal, 8 assists), including three multi-point efforts. The Arizona Coyotes prospect has scored a power play goal, and seven power play assists, to help the league’s second-best power play work.
MAHALAK BLASTS AWAY...10th in league defensive scoring, Alec Mahalak has shown his ability to create plays for the Phantoms this season. Of his 13 points on the season, 7 of them have come since December 17. That span has included two goals and five assists, including the game-tying goal on Friday night. Mahalak is committed to Miami (Ohio).
ANOTHER ONE BREWING?...Quietly, he’s halfway there. Cole Guttman has strung together the successor to the recently-ended #SolowStreak with one of his own, of which the name is still pending. Guttman’s point streak was extended to 10 games following his overtime dagger on Friday night. Included in that streak is the following: 10 goals, 5 assists, a hat trick, four multi-point efforts, and a 55.5% shooting percentage. The St. Cloud State commit missed a full month of the season due to illness, and is still 9th in league scoring, just 11 points off of the pace set by Muskegon’s Collin Adams, and teammate Zach Solow. Guttman’s point streak is currently the longest in the league, followed by several at five games.