YOUNGSTOWN - Green Bay Gamblers forward Alex Broadhurst grew up idolizing former NHL great Theo Fleury.
Tuesday night Broadhurst duplicated a rare feat accomplished by Fleury in 1991, and it's safe to say it won't be done again in any league on any level for a long time. Broadhurst scored a hat trick with three short-handed goals to lead the Gamblers to a 6-3 win over the Phantoms at Covelli Centre.
Broadhurst, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, actually knew Fleury is the only player in NHL history to produce an all-short-handed hat trick for the Calgary Flames in an 8-4 win over the St. Louis Blues.
Tribune Chronicle / David Dermer
The Youngstown Phantoms’ Mike Ambrosia (14) skates with the puck ahead of the Green?Bay Gamblers’ Max Hartner on Tuesday night. The Gamblers won, 6-3.
"It's pretty rare to get a hat trick in general in our league, and it turned out it was three short-handed goals," Broadhurst said after his first-ever hat trick.
"I wouldn't say I was lucky. I think I worked hard for them, and I deserve it."
The win gives the Gamblers a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five playoff series in the semifinals of the USHL's Eastern Conference. Game four is back in Youngstown tonight at 7:15 p.m.
The most important of Broadhurst's three goals was the final one at 13:34 of the third period. The Phantoms had just reduced a 5-1 Gamblers' lead to 5-3 and with a man advantage were looking to add another goal.
"It's that time of the year when special players are going to make special plays," Gamblers coach Derek Lalonde said. "He was the difference. Obviously he got the game started with a shorty, and when the momentum was in their hands at the end he gets another shorty to ice the game."
The Gamblers, the USHL's best team in the regular season with 98 points, used their size, speed and puck-control game to overwhelm the Phantoms. Green Bay had a 1-0 lead through the first period, but they added four goals in the second period to take control.
The short-handed goals obviously proved too much to overcome.
"That was the difference in the game," Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen said. "Chris Bradley, who's as sure-footed and sure-handed a guy for us, is our safety back there. We have a set play, and it takes a bad bounce on them, and our guy who's back to be the defender falls."
The Gamblers opened the scoring with Broadhurst's first goal when he put the puck past goalie Matt O'Connor on a breakaway at 2:41 of the first period. Phantoms forward Todd Koritzinsky evened the score at 16:38 of the first period with a nifty no-look wrist shot from near the base of the face-off circle to the right of Gamblers goalie Ryan McKay.
The Gamblers took a 2-1 lead with just 25 seconds remaining in the opening period when Sheldon Dries tipped in the puck to the left of O'Connor. Noreen argued without success that Dries kicked the puck.
C.J. Eick flipped a wrist past O'Connor at 5:18 of the second period to extend the Gamblers' lead to 3-1. The Gamblers took control three minutes later when Grant Arnold scored off an assist from Andrew Welinski.
Broadhurst, who seemed to have a nose for breakaways when the Gamblers were short-handed, struck again at 18:50 of the second period. His shot from just outside of the face-off circle went between O'Connor's legs to give the Gamblers a 5-1 lead.
The Phantoms made it interesting in the third period. Ryan Belonger scored to cut the Gamblers' lead to 5-2. J.T. Stenglein then added a goal on a two-man advantage to make it 5-3.
Broadhurst then added his third short-handed goal.
Noreen can't wait to get back on the ice tonight.
"I wish we were playing tonight (Tuesday)," Noreen said. "It's do-or-die time. For all of these guys it's the last time they have a chance to play together."