The Youngstown Phantoms Bantam AA hockey team advanced to national competition with a 9-1 victory over Toledo Cherokee on Mar. 8 in the Ohio Bantam Championship game in Mentor.
With the win, the Phantoms won the Ohio 14U Tier II state championship and advance to national championship play in Salt Lake City, Utah, beginning on Mar. 25.
The Phantoms end their season ranked first in Ohio with a 37-13-6 record, while outscoring their opponents 223-103. The team is also ranked 50th of 1060 teams nationally
Last year the team, the Bantam Phantoms were ranked 86th in the country, but went an 18-22-3 record for the season.
“They were the youngest team in the league and their schedule taught them to play hard, dig deep, and keep focused, said Head Coach Bob Hawthorne.
The team, comprised of 14-year-old boys from the Boardman-area and western Pennsylvania opened this season ranked #1 in of Ohio. They held onto this position and earned a spot in the Silver Sticks National Tournament in Port Huron, Mich. in January.
Following that tournament, the Phantoms returned to competition in the Pittsburgh Amateur Hockey League.
On Feb. 22, they team clinched the league title with a record of 16-2-2 against 11 other teams. The Phantoms recorded 86 goals during the season in league play and also had the lowest number of penalty minutes.
Coach Hawthorne has played hockey all his life, most notably in his youth in upstate New York and Canada. Hawthorne participated as a player at the U.S. Olympic camp for the 1980 ‘Miracle” Team. He has served as a level 4 USA Hockey coach for 36 years and has earned numerous honors and awards. He has also been a USA Hockey official for over 30 years.
The Salt Lake City event will be his fourth appearance at the national tournament with a youth hockey team. Assistant coaches are Zach Skook, Jamie Hamilton, and Taylor Cera.
Rostered players include: Drew Murphy (A), Stone Elias, Tallon Price, Colin Frost, Bo Gray (A), Devin Whitaker, Danny LaFontaine, Michael Fetsko, Vince Hepola and Rob Stanko of the Boardman area. Western Pennsylvania players include Darrin Smith (C), Max Hamilton (A), Brayden Forsyth, Cole Luther, Richie Phipps, RJ Pozzuto and Bradley Ryniawec.
The team practices at the Ice Zone on McClurg Rd. in Boardman.