YOUNGSTOWN - Heading into Saturday night's 5-2 loss to the Cedar Rapid RoughRiders at the Covelli Center, Sam Anas needed one goal to break the Youngstown Phantoms' single-season goal-scoring record.
At the 9:49 mark in the second period, the forward did just that, coming up with the puck behind the net and pulling around to score at the end of a power play.
"I was supposed to be at the point on the power play," Anas said. "It was kind of a long shift. It was a heads-up play by (John) Padulo. He kicked it to me, and both their defensemen were behind the net, which is a big no-no. There was no one in front, so I knew the goalie slid over, and I tried to stuff it around him."
Coach Anthony Noreen, who coached the previous record holder, J.T. Stenglein, last season, had nothing but praise for Anas following the game.
"His goal scoring as of late is just huge for us," Noreen said. "There probably shouldn't be a guy who deserves (the record) more than Sammy."
Unfortunately for the Phantoms (33-25-0), this proved to be the last cause for celebration on the night, as the RoughRiders (24-29-7) finished the game with four unanswered goals to clinch the weekend sweep. Everything started to fall apart for Youngstown when the RoughRiders tied the game at the 16:08 mark in the second period. The Phantoms tried to clear the puck, but as it neared Markus McCrea by the blue line, the Temecula, Calif., native went after an opponent instead of clearing the puck further down the ice.
Cedar Rapids turned it into a two-on-two, and Gerald Mayhew slotted the puck past goalie Sean Romeo for the goal.
"In that case, you have to be smart," Noreen said. "It was a situation where we felt like a bigger guy was taking the liberty on one of our smaller guys, and we tried to police it ourselves."
In the third period, the RoughRiders didn't outshoot the Phantoms (both teams had five shots on goal), but they were more efficient.
Cedar Rapids struck early through a Corey Petrash goal from right in front of net at the 2:05 mark in the third period, while Davey Middleton put away a rebound from his own shot to give the RoughRiders a two-goal advantage with 9:17 remaining.
An empty-net goal at the 18:47 mark sealed the win for Cedar Rapids. Noreen said that despite the loss, he liked what he saw from his team.
"I think it was one of those things where it just didn't go our way," Noreen said. "There's nobody in our (locker) room or on our staff that's upset with the way we played tonight. We made a couple too many mistakes, but as far as our M.O., as far as working hard, being physical, being tough to play against - I thought we did a really good job tonight."
This weekend marked the first time since late January where the Phantoms lost back-to-back games, and while it looked reminiscent of the team's early struggles, Anas said that the team doesn't believe a stretch of 11 losses in 12 games is going to occur again.
"At the beginning of the year, we really didn't what we were," Anas said. "Now, we know who we are, and we can bounce back from games like this. Even though we've lost a couple in a row, we don't have any doubt in our mind that we can go the whole way."