Posted 131 days ago ago by David Fine
Cross-conference foes clash again
Kearney, Neb. – The Tri-City Storm (6-5-1-2, 15 pts.) begins its only series of the season against the Youngstown Phantoms (7-8-0-1), countering its out-of-conference opponent in the opener of a weekend set Friday at the Viaero Center.
Friday’s game is UNK Night, featuring $8 college tickets for any student with a student ID. It’s also a $5 Kids Friday, presented by Kearney Taco Bell. Kids 12 and under will receive a voucher for a free taco and soft drink.
The weekend marks Youngstown’s first trip to Kearney since 2014-15, when the Storm swept the Phantoms.
Tri-City enters the weekend with points in six of seven games (4-1-1-1) and tied for fifth in the conference. Des Moines has 17 points, two ahead of the Storm for third. Fourth-place Fargo has 16 points.
Alex Limoges is tops on the squad with seven goals and 15 points. Philip Alftberg leads USHL blueliners with four goals and is Tri-City’s leading defenseman scorer, collecting nine points.
Youngstown is on a five-game losing streak and has dropped to sixth in the Eastern Conference.
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Viaero Wireless Pregame Show at 6:45 p.m.
Radio: The Breeze 94.5 FM | Listen Live |
Mobile: Free audio on your mobile device with the Tri-City Storm Mobile App (iPhone App Store // Google Play)
Streaming Video: Pay-to-watch on http://USHL.HockeyTV.com
Social: @TriCityStorm for in-game updates and broadcaster @RealDavidFine
Upcoming Schedule (Download here)
Sat., Nov. 19 vs. Youngstown, 7:05 p.m. – Wiener Dog Races, Free Postgame Skate
Wed., Nov. 23 at Lincoln, 7:05 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 25 at Sioux Falls, 7:05 p.m.
Sat., Nov. 26 at Des Moines, 7:05 p.m.
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Since the Phantoms joined the USHL in 2009, the Storm is 11-2-1-0 against Youngstown. Further, Tri-City is 7-1 at the Viaero Center against the Phantoms.
The Storm has won four straight home games against the Phantoms and Tri-City’s only home defeat was in the 2011-12 campaign.
The last time the teams played in Kearney, the Storm swept the Phantoms on back-to-back nights, December 12-13, 2014. Youngstown won the Anderson Cup in 2014-15.
Last season, Tri-City split a weekend set at Youngstown after the Storm’s travel was delayed due to a snowstorm on February 1-2, 2016 that dropped 18 inches in Grand Island, 11 inches in Kearney and shut down Interstate 80 for most of February 3.
Youngstown is the furthest-east team in the league and Tri-City is the western-most outpost. The two clubs are 1,035 miles apart, the second-longest distance separating two teams in the USHL (Fargo to Youngstown is 1,045 miles).
Since starting the season 7-4-0-0, the Phantoms have lost five straight games (0-4-0-1). During the skid, the offense has been shut out twice, managed one goal in two games and collected three goals once. The squad is tied for 10th in the league, averaging 2.69 goals per game.
Youngstown’s top line of Alex Esposito, Nicolas Werbik and Brett Murray has provided 17 of the team’s 43 goals (39.5%) and all are ranked in the top-15 of the league in points. Esposito has eight goals to lead the bunch and is tied for the points lead (16) with Werbik.
The Phantoms have six returning players, including Alex Esposito and his younger brother, Eric. In total, nine Youngstown skaters played in the USHL last season.
Belarusian-born Ivan Kulbakov is one of two new faces in net. Boasting a 6-4-0-1 record, 1.67 goals against average and .926 save percentage, Kulbakov two or fewer goals in his last seven appearances.
Backup goalie Darion Hanson has suited up for six games, collecting a 1-4-0-0 record, 3.91 goals against average and an .846 save percentage.
Last Time Out
Despite a late rally by the Tri-City Storm, the Sioux City Musketeers held on to send the Storm to its second straight defeat, 3-2, Saturday at the Tyson Events Center.
Danny DiGrande tallied to pull Tri-City within a goal, 3-2, halfway through the third. Continuing to pepper Matiss Kivlenieks, the Storm nearly tied the game with exactly one minute left. After a net-front scramble, officials determined that the puck did not completely cross the goal line, keeping the Musketeers ahead by one. Sioux City ran out the remaining 60 seconds.
The Storm penalty kill went 3-for-3, giving Tri-City successful kills on 21 straight opponent chances. With a 1-for-6 power-play effort, the Storm has scored man-up goals in nine of ten contests.
Eric Dop stopped 26 of 29 shots in his second USHL appearance. Kivlenieks turned aside 25 Storm opportunities.
The Storm is on the road for three games during Thanksgiving week. On Wednesday, November 23 Tri-City is at Lincoln, a 7:05 p.m. puck drop with the Viaero Wireless Pregame Show at 6:45 p.m. on the Breeze 94.5. Friday, November 25, Tri-City travels to Sioux Falls for the final time this season and drops the puck with the Stampede at 7:05 p.m. The next night, Saturday, November 26, the Storm matches Des Moines for the first time.
The Storm returns home for a pair of home games on Friday, December 2 and Saturday, December 3 against Waterloo. Friday’s game is a 7:05 p.m. puck drop for First Responders Night, presented by New West Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Surgery, plus a $5 Kids Friday. Tri-City will honor local first responders throughout the night, paying tribute to the hard work and efforts of so many in the central Nebraska community.
Saturday, December 3 is Boy Scout Day, presented by Cabela’s, and features a special 3:05 p.m. start time and one-game-only specialty jerseys that will be auctioned off after the game.
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