KEARNEY, Neb. – The Tri-City Storm (8-16-2) used two goals from red hot forward Joel L’Esperance to defeat the Youngstown Phantoms (7-13-5) on Saturday afternoon at the Viaero Event Center by a score of 3-1.
L’Esperance is now second in the USHL with 18 tallies and has scored nine times in his last four games. His streaky play has helped Tri-City to wins in three of their last four games.
The Storm had their netminder Jacob Johansson serving as the backbone once again, making 24 saves and keeping the Phantoms off the board until the final minutes of the game.
The game was marred by lots of minor penalties on both sides, with the officiating crew calling 19 combined between the two teams. Neither side could take advantage of their chances early in the game, as the goaltenders kept the contest scoreless for the first 20 minutes.
Tri-City took the lead in the second when L’Esperance scored his second shorthanded goal in as many games. Forward Garrett Gamez started the play, winning possession in the Youngstown zone while a man down. Gamez put the puck right on his linemate’s stick, and L’Esperance roofed the puck top shelf over Youngstown netminder Sean Romeo to make it a 1-0 game.
The Storm extended their lead to 2-0 when Austin Poganski scored his sixth goal of the season with 7:20 remaining in the third. The tally was set up by his hard-working linemates Drew Mayer and Chase Berger, who were both credited with assists on the play.
A late power play goal from Youngstown forward Maxim Letunov got the Phantoms within one goal at 2-1.
But a bench minor assessed to Youngstown head coach Anthony Noreen complicated their comeback attempt, giving Tri-City a late power play.
The Phantoms pulled Romeo and L’Esperance capitalized on the empty net, sealing the win with his second goal of the afternoon.
Youngstown finished the game 1-9 with the man advantage, while Tri-City was 1-10.
Romeo kept his team in the game all afternoon, making 30 saves in a losing effort.
The Storm have the next 12 days off for winter break. When the players return to the Tri-Cities, they’ll head to Omaha to face the Lancers on Dec. 27 at 7:05 p.m.
Tri-City is back at home on Saturday, Dec. 28 to play the Sioux Falls Stampede, also at 7:05
Notes: The Storm scratched forwards Kyle Eastman, Joey DiBenedetto and Nick Hutchison, along with defenseman Cutler Martin.…
Tri-City – Joel L’Esperance (shorthanded) (Garrett Gamez) 8:43
Tri-City – Austin Poganski (Drew Mayer, Chase Berger) 12:40
Youngstown – Maxim Letunov (power play) (Kiefer Sherwood, Alex Rauter) 16:37
Tri-City – Joel L’Esperance (power play) (empty net) (Garrett Gamez, Jacob Johansson) 19:52
Youngstown – JJ Piccinich – (Tripping), 2 min, 0:43
Youngstown – Fredric Larsson – (Holding), 2 min, 3:29
Tri-City – Nolan Aibel – (Slashing), 2 min, 3:39
Youngstown – Conor Lemirande – (Tripping), 2 min, 8:46
Youngstown – Conor Lemirande – (Slashing), 2 min, 10:54
Tri-City – Nolan Aibel – (Holding), 2 min, 13:06
Youngstown – Josh Nenadal – (Checking From Behind), 2 min, 15:50/
Tri-City – Christian Horn – (Slashing), 2 min, 16:31
Tri-City – Kevin Kerr – (Slashing), 2 min, 19:20
Tri-City – Nolan Gluchowski – (Holding), 2 min, 1:49
Tri-City – Jalen Schulz – (Hooking), 2 min, 3:22
Tri-City – Chase Berger – (Head Contact), 2 min, 8:21
Youngstown – Luke Stork – (Abuse of Officials) (Misconduct), 10 min, 10:15
Youngstown – Conor Lemirande – (Interference), 2 min, 10:15
Youngstown – Kyle Mackey – (Hooking), 2 min, 18:53
Tri-City – Kevin Kerr – (High Sticking), 2 min, 1:53
Youngstown – Ryan Schwalbe – (Checking From Behind), 2 min, 3:34
Youngstown – Zach Evancho – (Interference), 2 min, 7:08
Youngstown – Lukas Klok – (Abuse of Officials) (Misconduct), 10 min, 12:40
Tri-City – Chris Wilkie – (Hooking), 2 min, 16:16
Youngstown – Anthony Noreen – (Abuse of Officials) (Bench Minor) 2 min, 18:02
Youngstown – 1/9
Tri-City – 1/10
Youngstown: 4, 13, 8 = Total: 25
Tri-City: 9, 9, 15 = Total: 33
Youngstown – Sean Romeo – 30/32
Tri-City – Jacob Johansson – 24/25