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Youngstown phantoms sweep the fargo force to win first-ever clark cup.

youngstown phantoms clark cup

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Youngstown Phantoms captain Shane Lachance lifts the Clark Cup trophy after the Phantoms defeated the Fargo Force 1-0 in Game 3 of the Clark Cup finals Friday Night at the Covelli Centre.

YOUNGSTOWN — The rafters in the Covelli Centre will have a new banner come next fall because the Youngstown Phantoms are Clark Cup Champions.

In a game where goals came at a premium, it was the team in purple and white that did it. The Phantoms took down Fargo 1-0 in a 3-0 series sweep.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” first-year Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “When you get to players that come to the rink every day and just are so bought in and they want to work so hard to have success, I mean it’s just an unbelievable feeling. These guys deserve a night like tonight, that they can relive forever and remember this.”

It was a hotly contested first period with scrums in the corner after nearly every whistle. While neither team could push a puck past the goaltender, the Phantoms held a 6-5 advantage in shots on goal.

The second period held more of the same goal luck, with neither team hitting the back of the net. William Whitelaw had a Grade-A chance to break the deadlock, but Fargo’s Slovakian netminder, Matej Marinov stalled another Phantom opportunity.

Just 24 seconds into the final frame however, the Phantoms changed things.

Forward Andon Cerbone continued his playoff masterclass, sneaking one past Marinov on a tipped puck to put Youngstown up a goal.

“There’s a reason why we brought him here,” Ward said. “We targeted him from day one when we got this job and he just was our type of player. He’s unbelievable in big time moments. He’s been through it before and his experience is invaluable. He’s unflappable on the bench. Just an unreal kid.

The Quinnipiac commit went on a tear in the postseason, scoring five goals, four assists, and averaged a point-per-game.

A mid-season trade, Cerbone came in and adapted quickly

“Coach Ward did a really good job taking me in and the guys in the locker room are incredible, so they welcomed me with open arms,” Cerbone said. “I knew it was a good fit right away and we kind of just took off from there.”

Goaltender Jacob Fowler continued to prove why he was named the USHL’s Goaltender of the Year, pitching an elimination game shutout with 22 saves and won the Clark Cup Playoffs Most Outstanding Player award.

As the seconds ticked down, it was hard not to get excited.

“That clock is winding down, you don’t want to think too far ahead, but as soon as that puck got out and there were three seconds left, you couldn’t help but just chuck everything in sight and just hug your teammates.”

Fowler is a highly-rated draft prospect for this upcoming NHL Draft, and it’s easy to see why. He faced a high-powered Fargo offense filled with some of the league’s top players and held them to just two goals in the three-game series.

“I don’t think words can describe it, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Fowler said. “All that you went through since August and to finally have this day come, it’s unbelievable and to get the job done, it’s pretty much perfect.”

The Phantoms finished the postseason with just one loss, losing a game to Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals.

From a first-round elimination last season to champions.

Ward took the job just over a year ago, and talked about bringing a banner to the Covelli Centre from day one. He achieved his goal.

From the top of the organization on down, everyone bought into that vision and it paid off.

“It’s just a lot of hard work. I have the best coaching staff, the best group of players, our ownership, our management, Jason (Deskins) and Ryan (Kosecki) and everyone just buying into one individual goal. It’s amazing,” Ward said. “I don’t think we were the most skilled or talented team but there was not a team that was ever going to out-work us, out-compete us and when you’ve got a group of players that are completely bought into what you’re doing, it makes it a lot easier. Having people with one linear vision, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”

If just for one night, the center of the hockey universe was in Youngstown, Ohio.

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  • AGRICULTURE

Youngstown edges Force 1-0 to clinch Clark Cup title

youngstown phantoms clark cup

(USHL) Youngstown, Ohio. — The Youngstown Phantoms completed its historic run through the postseason by earning a 1-0 win over Fargo in the championship-clinching game Friday night.

Tonight’s victory gave the Phantoms a 3-0 win in the best-of-five series over the Force and is the first Clark Cup Championship in team history. The Phantoms, who were making their second appearance in the Clark Cup Final, have been members of the USHL since the 2009-10 season.

A combination of superlative goaltending and timely scoring proved to be the keys for Youngstown’s win tonight.

The Phantoms owned a six-to-five shot advantage in a scoreless first period and by the end of the second Youngstown was outshooting Fargo by a total of 18-14. But with Youngtown’s Jacob Fowler and Fargo’s Matej Marinov both turning in stellar goaltending performances, neither team was able to push the puck past the goal line.

Then, just 24 seconds into the third period, Youngstown forward Andon Cerbone collected an errant pass in the Fargo defensive zone and ripped a shot past Marinov for his fifth goal of the playoffs. The Force outshot the Phantoms eight-to-six in the final frame, but Cerbone’s goal held up as the game-winner.

Cerbone, who tallied the overtime game-winning goal in last Saturday’s 2-1 triumph, finished the year riding a five-game point-scoring streak going during which he registered 3-2—5.

Youngstown, which fashioned an 8-1-0 mark in nine playoff contests, outshot the Force, this year’s Anderson Cup winners as the USHL’s regular-season champions, 24-22 in the game.

Fowler, Boston College commit who went 3-0-0 in the championship round with a sterling 0.64 goals against average, .976 save percentage and a 22-save shutout in the final game, was named the Clark Cup Most Outstanding Player.

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USHL Clark Cup Final: Fargo Force Vs. Youngstown Phantoms Preview, Schedule

It all comes down to this. The Clark Cup Final will feature two of the league’s most explosive teams as the Fargo Force meet the Youngstown Phantoms in a best-of-five series.

The Force will be going for a double after winning the Anderson Cup as regular-season champions. They’re also trying to win the second Clark Cup in team history, last winning in 2017-18. And who did they defeat in that championship series? None other than the Youngstown Phantoms.

Youngstown is seeking its first ever Clark Cup, having only gotten as close as a runner up in that 2018 final that Fargo won three games to one. 

The two teams are advancing to the championship series after each winning their respective conference finals in four games.

The Force closed out the Lincoln Stars in a wild game that saw Cole Knuble net six points including four goals as Fargo earned a 8-4 win in Game 4. Meanwhile, the Phantoms won an overtime thriller with the Chicago Steel, earning a 2-1 decision with William Whitelaw scoring the game-winner in the extra period.

This series will feature the USHL’s Goaltender of the Year (Youngstown’s Jacob Fowler), USHL Coach of the Year (Fargo’s Nick Oliver), three first-team All-USHL Selections (Fowler, Fargo’s Knuble and Joe Palodichuk), a second-team All-USHL goalie (Fargo’s Matej Marinov) and two All-Rookie selections (Fargo’s Mac Swanson and Youngstown’s Whitelaw).

On top of that, there will be four drafted NHL prospects playing in the final including Youngstown’s Shane Lachance (Edmonton Oilers) and Tomas Machu (New York Islanders), and Fargo’s Owen Mehlenbacher (Detroit Red Wings) and Zam Plante (Pittsburgh Penguins). Additionally, there will be seven players that appeared on NHL Central Scouting’s final 2023 NHL Draft Rankings.

There is no shortage of star power and high-precision play from both of these teams.

Here are a few key things to know about the teams participating. And stay tuned for my players to watch in the Clark Cup Final coming soon.

youngstown phantoms clark cup

Series Schedule

Game 1: Youngstown at Fargo (Friday, May 12 at 8:05 p.m. ET)

Game 2: Youngstown at Fargo (Saturday, May 13 at 7:05 p.m. ET)

Game 3: Fargo at Youngstown (Friday, May 19 at 7:05 p.m. ET)

Game 4*: Fargo at Youngstown (Saturday, May 20 at 7:05 p.m. ET)

Game 5*: Youngstown at Fargo (Tuesday, May 23 at 8:05 p.m. ET)                                  

*If necessary

2023 Youngstown Phantoms vs Fargo Force

Fargo looking to complete historic season with first-year head coach.

The Force were won of only two teams to hit the 40-win mark this season in the USHL. Their .710 points percentage was by far the best in the league and the team had never had a better record than their 40-14-4-4 mark this season, which earned them the league's regular-season title.

Not done yet⚡️ #OneForce pic.twitter.com/niJpBfY9uv — Fargo Force (@FargoForce) May 11, 2023

They’re doing it with a first-year head coach in Nick Oliver, who actually played for the Force in their first year of existence and two seasons after that before embarking on his collegiate career. Oliver started his coaching career immediately after graduating from St. Cloud State, joining the Sioux Falls Stampede as an assistant coach and learning from Scott Owens who had a decorated career in the league. Oliver then went back to St. Cloud State, where he was an assistant for.four seasons before the opportunity to return to Fargo arose. 

It's been a successful run for the rookie head coach as he was named the league’s Coach of the Year and has gained a ton of respect in the hockey world in very short order. At just 32 years old, his future will only look even brighter if the Force can secure their second Clark Cup. Stay tuned for a forthcoming feature from USHL writer Ryan Sikes and Oliver's remarkable rise on FloHockey.

Oliver's prowess behind the bench was maximized with a good roster. Veteran players have made a significant difference throughout the postseason with Cole Knuble playing a leading role for the team, especially in the last series. Others like Joe Palodichuk, Bret Link, Verner Miettinen, Owen Mehlenbacher have played key roles for the team throughout the season and into the postseason. 

Despite all of that veteran experience, though, it's been rookie Mac Swanson who has played a leading offensive role in the postseason. He has a team-high 10 points so far despite just turning 17 in January. 

There's depth and scoring ability throughout the lineup, a senior defensive unit that doesn't allow offense to come easy for the opposition and a solid last line of defense in goalie Matej Marinov. They've gone practically wire to wire as the best team in the USHL, but they'll want the big trophy at the end to make sure this season is as memorable as it can be.

Youngstown Engineering Dramatic Turnaround

Two years ago, the Youngstown Phantoms were dead last in the USHL. They played 49 of a possible 54 games in a season that was still being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. They only won 12 of those games. The team improved to 29 wins and 68 points in 2021-22, earning a playoff spot but got swept out of the first round.

Fast forward to this year, the Phantoms fell two points shy of the top spot in the Eastern Conference with 38 wins and 81 points in the standings. They outscored the opposition 225-173 this season and proved they were among the top class of teams in the USHL.

We’re heading to the Clark Cup Finals! 🏆 #IgniteTheValley pic.twitter.com/d7vbwTDQML — Youngstown Phantoms (@YtownPhantoms) May 10, 2023

Youngstown had one last step to prove, though, and that was beating longtime nemesis Chicago in the playoffs, which they did in four games including both contests on home ice.

A lot of credit belongs to co-GMs Jason Deskins and Ryan Kosecki, who managed to help build up the team and strengthen it with a few key deals. 

One included bringing in Andrew Strathmann to shore up the blue line in the offseason. The team also secured a commitment from William Whitelaw who had designs on returning to Shattuck-St. Mary’s this year before opting to stay in the USHL. Whitelaw averaged nearly a point per game for the Phantoms.

An early-season trade with Omaha to acquire Andon Cerbone also proved incredibly beneficial to the Phantoms as Cerbone put up 49 points in 43 games after joining Youngstown.

The group also managed to secure a mid-season commitment from Martin Misiak who had been playing overseas. Misiak has been a big-time performer in the postseason, leading the team with eight points.

The Phantoms also made a key move behind the bench as they added first-year head coach Ryan Ward to the mix. He joined Youngstown after two seasons with the Tri-City Storm in various capacities with that organization. Ward had also been a video coach at levels as high as the NHL, including time spent with the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.

Just two years removed from a dismal season that saw them finish with the league's worst record, the Phantoms are three wins from the franchise’s first Clark Cup. There’s still a lot of work to do to get there against a highly-motivated Fargo team, however, but getting to this point is a major accomplishment considering where they started from.

Stay tuned for more Clark Cup Final coverage, coming soon on FloHockey.

  • USHL - Eastern
  • USHL - Western
  • Junior Tier 1
  • Fargo Force
  • Youngstown Phantoms
  • United States Hockey League (USHL)

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Youngstown Phantoms capture first-ever Clark Cup

youngstown phantoms clark cup

Staff photo / Brian Yauger Youngstown Phantoms captain Shane Lachance lifts the Clark Cup trophy after the Phantoms defeated the Fargo Force 1-0 in Game 3 of the Clark Cup finals Friday Night at the Covelli Centre.

YOUNGSTOWN — The rafters in the Covelli Centre will have a new banner come next fall because the Youngstown Phantoms are Clark Cup Champions.

In a game where goals came at a premium, it was the team in purple and white that did it. The Phantoms took down Fargo 1-0 in a 3-0 series sweep.

“I’m so proud of these guys,” first-year Phantoms coach Ryan Ward said. “When you get to players that come to the rink every day and just are so bought in and they want to work so hard to have success, I mean it’s just an unbelievable feeling. These guys deserve a night like tonight, that they can relive forever and remember this.”

It was a hotly contested first period with scrums in the corner after nearly every whistle. While neither team could push a puck past the goaltender, the Phantoms held a 6-5 advantage in shots on goal.

The second period held more of the same goal luck, with neither team hitting the back of the net. William Whitelaw had a Grade-A chance to break the deadlock, but Fargo’s Slovakian netminder, Matej Marinov stalled another Phantom opportunity.

Just 24 seconds into the final frame however, the Phantoms changed things.

Forward Andon Cerbone continued his playoff masterclass, sneaking one past Marinov on a tipped puck to put Youngstown up a goal.

“There’s a reason why we brought him here,” Ward said. “We targeted him from day one when we got this job and he just was our type of player. He’s unbelievable in big time moments. He’s been through it before and his experience is invaluable. He’s unflappable on the bench. Just an unreal kid.

The Quinnipiac commit went on a tear in the postseason, scoring five goals, four assists, and averaged a point-per-game.

A mid-season trade, Cerbone came in and adapted quickly

“Coach Ward did a really good job taking me in and the guys in the locker room are incredible, so they welcomed me with open arms,” Cerbone said. “I knew it was a good fit right away and we kind of just took off from there.”

Goaltender Jacob Fowler continued to prove why he was named the USHL’s Goaltender of the Year, pitching an elimination game shutout with 22 saves and won the Clark Cup Playoffs Most Outstanding Player award.

As the seconds ticked down, it was hard not to get excited.

“That clock is winding down, you don’t want to think too far ahead, but as soon as that puck got out and there were three seconds left, you couldn’t help but just chuck everything in sight and just hug your teammates.”

Fowler is a highly-rated draft prospect for this upcoming NHL Draft, and it’s easy to see why. He faced a high-powered Fargo offense filled with some of the league’s top players and held them to just two goals in the three-game series.

“I don’t think words can describe it, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” Fowler said. “All that you went through since August and to finally have this day come, it’s unbelievable and to get the job done, it’s pretty much perfect.”

The Phantoms finished the postseason with just one loss, losing a game to Chicago in the Eastern Conference Finals.

From a first-round elimination last season to champions.

Ward took the job just over a year ago, and talked about bringing a banner to the Covelli Centre from day one. He achieved his goal.

From the top of the organization on down, everyone bought into that vision and it paid off.

“It’s just a lot of hard work. I have the best coaching staff, the best group of players, our ownership, our management, Jason (Deskins) and Ryan (Kosecki) and everyone just buying into one individual goal. It’s amazing,” Ward said. “I don’t think we were the most skilled or talented team but there was not a team that was ever going to out-work us, out-compete us and when you’ve got a group of players that are completely bought into what you’re doing, it makes it a lot easier. Having people with one linear vision, it’s just an unbelievable feeling.”

If just for one night, the center of the hockey universe was in Youngstown, Ohio.

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IMAGES

  1. Celebration for Youngstown Phantoms Clark Cup title planned for

    youngstown phantoms clark cup

  2. Youngstown Phantoms sweep the Fargo Force to win first-ever Clark Cup

    youngstown phantoms clark cup

  3. Youngstown Phantoms Win First Clark Cup Title Thanks To Fowler, Cerbone

    youngstown phantoms clark cup

  4. Youngstown Phantoms complete sweep over Fargo and win first Clark Cup

    youngstown phantoms clark cup

  5. Youngstown Phantoms credit culture change en route to first Clark Cup

    youngstown phantoms clark cup

  6. 2018 Clark Cup Final Dates and Times Announced

    youngstown phantoms clark cup

COMMENTS

  1. Phantoms Blank Fargo 1-0 to Claim First Clark Cup Title

    YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO - A stout defense, stellar goaltending, and one advantageous shot lifted the Youngstown Phantoms to a 1-0 win over the Fargo Force in Game 3 of the 2023 Clark Cup Final Friday night at the Covelli Centre. Youngstown swept the best-of-five series three-games-to-none, earning the first Clark Cup title in club history.

  2. PHANTOMS HOST CLARK CUP FINAL

    News 5/11/2023 3:08:00 PM PHANTOMS HOST CLARK CUP FINAL REMATCH OF 2018 CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES YOUNGSTOWN, OH - The Youngstown Phantoms are back in the Clark Cup Final this season after defeating the Chicago Steel three games to one in a best of five series for the Eastern Conference title.

  3. Youngstown Phantoms win first USHL Clark Cup title, Shane Lachance

    Updated: Jun 12, 2023 / 10:49 AM EDT YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - The Youngstown Phantoms woke up Saturday morning ready to continue celebrating the sweep of the Fargo Force to raise the Clark...

  4. Youngstown Phantoms sweep the Fargo Force to win first-ever Clark Cup

    YOUNGSTOWN — The rafters in the Covelli Centre will have a new banner come next fall because the Youngstown Phantoms are Clark Cup Champions. In a game where goals came at a premium, it...

  5. Whitelaw'S Overtime Winner Sends Youngstown to Clark Cup Final

    YOUNGSTOWN, OH - William Whitelaw 's goal at 7:50 of overtime lifted the Youngstown Phantoms to a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Steel Tuesday night at the Covelli Centre in Game 4 of the 2023 Eastern Conference Final. Youngstown won the best-of-five series three-games-to-one to earn the second bid to the Clark Cup Final in team history.

  6. Phantoms advance to Clark Cup Finals with thrilling win

    YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) - The Youngstown Phantoms topped the Chicago Steel 2-1 in overtime in game four of the USHL Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night at the Covelli Centre. With the...

  7. 2023 Clark Cup Final

    Sioux Falls Tri-City Waterloo Jacob Fowler had 29 saves in backstopping Youngstown to a 4-1 win over Fargo Friday (Alex Dalum photo) 2023 Clark Cup Final | Youngstown Claims 4-1 Win in Series Opener 5/12/2023 10:01:31 PM GAME SUMMARY

  8. Youngstown Phantoms blank Fargo to claim first Clark Cup title

    A stout defense, stellar goaltending, and one shot lifted the Youngstown Phantoms to a 1-0 win over the Fargo Force in Game 3 of the 2023 Clark Cup Final Friday night at the Covelli Centre. Youngstown swept the best-of-five series three-games-to-none, earning the first Clark Cup title in club history.

  9. Clark Cup

    The Clark Cup is symbolic of supremacy in American junior hockey, presented annually to the playoff champions of the nation's only Tier I circuit, the USHL. It is ... Youngstown Phantoms: 2021-22: Sioux City Musketeers: 2020-21: Chicago Steel: 2019-20: Not Awarded: 2018-19: Sioux Falls Stampede: 2017-18: Fargo Force: 2016-17: Chicago Steel ...

  10. Youngstown edges Force 1-0 to clinch Clark Cup title

    Fargo Force logo. (USHL) Youngstown, Ohio. — The Youngstown Phantoms completed its historic run through the postseason by earning a 1-0 win over Fargo in the championship-clinching game Friday night. Tonight's victory gave the Phantoms a 3-0 win in the best-of-five series over the Force and is the first Clark Cup Championship in team history.

  11. Youngstown Phantoms Win First Clark Cup: Highlights ...

    The Youngstown Phantoms are Clark Cup Champions for the first time in team history! Watch the goal that handed Youngstown its first title, the celebration, t...

  12. Youngstown Phantoms complete sweep over Fargo and win first Clark Cup

    News reporting YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Youngstown Phantoms clinched the organization's first Clark Cup Friday night with a 1-0 win over the Fargo Force. Andon Cerbone delivered the...

  13. Youngstown Phantoms look to close out Clark Cup Finals

    The Youngstown Phantoms took the 17-hour bus ride up to Fargo, and won the first two games of the Clark Cup Finals to take a commanding 2-0 lead and set themselves up with two opportunities...

  14. Youngstown Phantoms Win First Clark Cup Title Thanks To ...

    For the first time in team history, the Youngstown Phantoms are Clark Cup champions. In front of a sold-out Covelli Centre crowd, the Phantoms took Game 3 on Friday night, sweeping the Anderson Cup-winning Fargo Force in the Clark Cup Final and flipping the script on their rematch of the 2018 championship series.

  15. Youngstown Phantoms defeat Chicago Steel, advance to Clark Cup Final

    Youngstown Phantoms are back in Clark Cup Final. Youngstown returns to the Clark Cup Final for the first time since 2018, where they find the same opponent waiting for them as five years ago: the Fargo Force. Fargo won the Anderson Cup this season with 88 points in the regular season and knocked off the Tri-City Storm and Lincoln Stars in the ...

  16. Youngstown Phantoms credit culture change en route to first Clark Cup

    May 19, 2023 at 11:55 PM Share News reporting YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The Youngstown Phantoms clinched the organization's first Clark Cup Friday night with a 1-0 win over the Fargo Force.

  17. USHL Clark Cup Final: Fargo Force Vs. Youngstown Phantoms Preview

    The Youngstown Phantoms and Fargo Force will meet for the USHL's Clark Cup in a best-of-five series starting Friday. May 11, 2023 by Chris Peters. It all comes down to this. The Clark Cup Final will feature two of the league's most explosive teams as the Fargo Force meet the Youngstown Phantoms in a best-of-five series.

  18. CLARK CUP FINALS PREVIEW

    Fargo, ND - The Fargo Force are matching up against the Youngstown Phantoms this weekend for the 2023 Clark Cup Finals. This series is a rematch of the 2018 Clark Cups Finals, where Fargo beat Youngstown three games to one to win their first Clark Cup. The Force have home ice advantage throughout the playoffs and will host three games of the ...

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  20. List of Vancouver Canucks draft picks

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  23. Youngstown Phantoms capture first-ever Clark Cup

    YOUNGSTOWN — The rafters in the Covelli Centre will have a new banner come next fall because the Youngstown Phantoms are Clark Cup Champions. In a game where goals came at a premium, it was the ...