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PREVIEW: Phantoms vs. Fighting Saints 10/21-22

By Jordan Kuhns, 10/21/16, 7:15AM CDT


In the Eastern-most outpost of the USHL, Saints challenged by Phantoms



ESPOSITO EARNS IT...Four goals on the weekend, including a hat trick against the Muskegon Lumberjacks, made Alex Esposito the unanimous choice for CCM/USHL Forward of the Week last week. The second-year forward ranks tops in the league in goals (7), and second in points (12) behind only Sioux Falls’ Austin Albrecht. As of right now, Esposito is shooting a clean 36.8% on the year. He’s also on a six-game point streak.

CAVERNOUS COVELLI...The Covelli Centre is cursed. That might be the only reason behind the Phantoms having won every single game against the Saints since 2012. Last season, they were outscored 9-3 in Youngstown, but found a way to win both games on home ice in the season series split.

UNSTOPPABLE FORCE, MEET...A rising power play meets a stalwart penalty kill this weekend. The Fighting Saints have converted on the power play in two consecutive games, and will meet up against the league’s second-best penalty kill. Opposition power plays are 0 for their last 21 on the man advantage against the Phantoms.

GOALTENDING SPLIT...Ivan Kulbakov and Darion Hanson have gotten ample opportunities to play in net. Kulbakov has been better statistically (1.50 GAA vs. 3.02 GAA, .930 sv% vs. .883 sv%).


OFFENSIVE FIREWORKS...30 goals in 7 games (4.28 goals per game) is impressive. Only allowing 15 might be more impressive (2.14 goals against per game). 13 different players have a goal, and two players already have more than five goals on the young season. As a team, the Youngstown Phantoms are shooting well above the average of 10%, and more in the ballpark of 14.2%.

WHERE AM I?...This is only the Phantoms’ third home game of the season, further pointing out their success in the early going this season. Up until this point, Youngstown is 1-1-0 at the Covelli Centre after splitting a two-game swing with the Madison Capitols.

STOP THE SKID...It has been a journey of growing pains for the Fighting Saints early on this season. After winning the first two games, the team has dropped three of the last four. The key is not falling too far behind, and while it is early, they are only two points back of fourth-place Muskegon.

PRECAUTION...Colin Theisen will miss this weekend’s games, per head coach Jason Lammers, for precautionary reasons. Theisen suffered an injury last Friday night in Sioux Falls late in the third period.


KINGS OF THE HILL...Youngstown has three players in the top six scorers in the entire league. Alex Esposito is tied for second with 12 points, Brett Murray is right behind him in third with 11, and in sixth is Nicolas Werbek, who has 8 points on the year.

CIRQUE DE SOLOW...Don’t look now, but forward Zach Solow has points in three of his last four games. His effort last Friday against the Sioux Falls Stampede was his first multi-point effort of the year, and his first multi-point game since April 1 vs. Cedar Rapids—a 10-2 win.