Phantoms win first USHL championship in team history
The Youngstown Phantoms clinched at least a share of the Anderson Cup title on Wednesday when they earned a point in the 5-4 shootout loss to the Chicago Steel. The Phantoms improved their record to 38-14-6 (82 points) and are one point away from capturing the title outright.
Only the Tri-City Storm can catch the Youngstown Phantoms in the standings as they currently sit four points behind with two games left to play for each team.
Youngstown trailed 4-2 on Wednesday late in the game against Chicago before Ryan Lomberg netted a goal with 2:23 remaining in the third period and Kiefer Sherwood scored the equalizer, his 40th USHL career goal, with just over five seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime and secure the necessary point for the Phantoms to clinch a share of the Anderson Cup title.
It is the first Anderson Cup championship for the Phantoms, who are competing in their sixth USHL season, and is one of many highlights during the team’s record-setting season. Last month, they completed a 17-game win streak to set a USHL Tier 1 era (2002-present) record for consecutive victories. Their 19 road wins this season established a team record and their 19 home wins equals a team record from the 2012-13 season.
The Phantoms have been one of the USHL’s highest-scoring teams as they currently lead the League with 223 goals, most in team history, while they have also given up the fourth-fewest with 164. Their plus-59 goal differential is the best in the League this season. Youngstown is among USHL leaders in multiple categories including ranking first in power play goals (60), shorthanded goals (16), and road penalty killing (89.4%), while ranking second in overall penalty killing (86.1%).
Three Phantoms are among the top-10 in USHL scoring. Kyle Connor leads the League with 77 points (32g, 45a), Maxim Letunov ranks fifth (24g, 38a), and Josh Melnick is tied for eighth (14g, 45a). Connor, a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft, is the team’s all-time leading scorer and broke his own team record for points in a season after dishing out three assists on Wednesday.
Head coach Anthony Noreen has already led the team to a 42-point improvement in the standings from the 2013-14 season after the Phantoms won just 17 games and finished last in the USHL’s Eastern Conference. It marks one of the best turnarounds in League history.
In one of the most competitive seasons in USHL history, the Phantoms can finish with a maximum of 86 points by earning victories in their final two games of the regular season. Regardless of the outcome of those games, their point total will be the lowest by an Anderson Cup champion since the 2008-09 season (Green Bay Gamblers, 82 points) and only the fourth time in the USHL Tier 1 era that the Anderson Cup champion will finish a season with less than 90 points in the standings.
By clinching a share of the Anderson Cup title, the Youngstown Phantoms have also secured the top overall seed for the Clark Cup Playoffs and will have home-ice advantage throughout the postseason as they hold the tiebreaker over Tri-City for playoff seeding. Youngstown will close out the regular season this weekend with a home-and-home series against Team USA’s Under-17 squad.
There has been a tie for the Anderson Cup just once in USHL history as the Omaha Lancers and Cedar Rapids RoughRiders both finished with 89 points in the standings during the 2004-05 season.
The Anderson Cup is named after Harold Anderson who was an influential figure in the formation of the Midwest Junior Hockey League, the predecessor to the USHL. The Cup, standing nearly five-feet tall, has been awarded every year since 1973 and became the regular season trophy for the USHL when it began play in 1979.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 13th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2014-15. A record 35 players were chosen in the 2014 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters this season are committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.
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