YOUNGSTOWN - Before every third period at the Covelli Centre, the video screen above the benches shows the Youngstown Phantoms assert that the third period is their period.
Down two goals and 20 minutes away from the end of their season, the Phantoms lived up to that claim, scoring three unanswered goals to pick up the 4-3 win over the first-seed Dubuque Fighting Saints on Monday night.
Youngstown coach Anthony Noreen praised the team's unflappable mentality coming out of the intermission.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
Youngstown’s Austin Cangelosi, back, and Cam Brown (8) celebrate after scoring the first Phantoms’ goal late in the first period. Shane Sooth, left, of Dubuque looks on.
"It's the story of our year," Noreen said. "It's the story of our first couple of months, it's the story of our first series and it's the story of just about every big win we've had. It's where we're comfortable.
"Your life is on the line, and you see it threatened. They fought tooth and nail for it."
The Phantoms may be comfortable with come-from-behind victories, but they managed to do what no other team has done against Dubuque all season: come back from a two-goal deficit and win.
Needing a goal quickly to make it a game, the Phantoms started the comeback just 3:34 into the period on the power play. Ryan Lowney passed to Cam Brown on a backdoor pass, and the shot trickled down Saint goalie Arthur Brey's back and into the net.
As much as that goal lifted the Phantoms, it took a whole 27 seconds later to tie up the game. Alfred Larsson passed from behind the net to Markus McCrea, who created space for himself right in front of the crease and tapped in the puck.
"It felt like the entire arena was full," McCrea said. "When that (third goal) happened, the place just erupted, and that's exactly what we need every night."
With everything seeming to go Youngstown's way, the team completed the comeback on another power play at the 16:23 mark. Playing at the point, Sam Anas fired a shot that deflected off a Saint defender and John Padulo before going into the back of the net.
At that point, the Phantoms seemed to have shattered Dubuque's confidence, as the Saints had trailed in the playoffs for 33 seconds - in Game 2 of this series - up to that point.
"Once we had that lead, you could see it on their bench and on our bench," McCrea said. "Our guys were standing up and cheering for each other, even if we had a bad shift. On their bench, you could tell they were just dead."
What made the Phantoms so effective in the third period was the pressure they put on Brey.
Statistically one of the best goaltenders during the regular season, Brey had a goals against average of 1.74 and a save percentage of .926 in the playoffs. That didn't stop the Phantoms from peppering Brey with shot after shot.
Halfway through the third period, Youngstown held a 15-2 shot advantage and outshot the Saints 22-6 by the end of the 20 minutes. Both Padulo and McCrea said that it looked like the Phantoms got under his skin.
"We know that if we put some shots at him, he doesn't catch things cleanly," Padulo said. "He always gives up the big, juicy rebounds. We're going to make him work for every save he's going to have to make.
"He might be the weakest point of their team, and we're going to make him steal the games."
Up until the third period, however, the Phantoms' season appeared to be ending.
The Saints had a 3-1 advantage at the 11:42 mark when they received almost six straight minutes of power play thanks to a double minor high-sticking penalty to Alfred Larsson and a slashing by Josh Nenadal toward the end of Larsson's penalty.
The Phantoms managed to kill off the 5:56 man advantage for Dubuque, and Noreen said that sequence changed the game.
"That's a momentum stealer," Noreen said. "The fact that we were able to not only kill it off but really grab the momentum it got us back to our aggressive mentality."
Despite the big win, the Phantoms have little time to celebrate, as the teams go at it today in the Covelli Centre at 7:15 p.m. Youngstown still faces a must-win situation.
"It's a good feeling," defenseman Eric Sweetman said. "You want to celebrate this victory, but in the back of your head, you know that you got two more ahead of you."