YOUNGSTOWN – The Youngstown Phantoms announced on Tuesday that Ryan Ward will take over as head coach this season.
Ward has been floating around the hockey world since 2008 and got his start as a video coach for the New York Islanders.
Since then he has made several stops and spent time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Soo Greyhounds (Ontario Hockey League), San Antonio Rampage (American Hockey League) and most recently the Tri-City Storm. and their youth program, the city’s Windy Storm.
Over the years, he crossed paths with Phantoms co-general managers Jason Deskins and Ryan Kosecki, which made this transition much easier.
“Jason Deskins, Ryan Kosecki and I practiced against each other for a while,” Ward said. “Being on the same page as those guys was great. … Being on the same page of how we’re going to play and player development and obviously getting those guys to achieve their goals at long term as players and as people, everything lined up and couldn’t have worked better.
Ward, a Bowling Green alum, will return to Ohio.
From all of his stops over the years, Ward has adopted a philosophy of learning, then taking what you’ve learned and adapting it.
Working with guys like current Maple Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe and former Phantoms coach Anthony Noreen has broadened Ward’s philosophies.
Expect to see the Phantoms do a bit of everything on the ice this season.
“I strongly believe that one plus one is three,” Ward said. “You take what you like from the people you work with, learn from it and combine it with your own philosophy. I think the way we’re going to play in Youngstown is going to be a bit of everything from those guys I worked with and those people I learned from.
Ward went on to explain how the Phantoms would play a faster-paced game focused more on defensive zone outs and puck possession.
“We’re going to be a team that’s in your face, defending hard, winning transitions from offense to defense and defense to offense,” Ward said. “We are going to be a team that always comes out. I think that’s the most important thing for me is that everyone is going to be involved in our attacks. We’re going to try to own the puck, we’re going to be tight, and we’re going to play a style of hockey that I think our players are going to love to play and everyone benefits from. It will be a very fast and competitive style.
The Phantoms also announced that the contracts of associate head coach Andy Contois and assistant coach Brandon Gotkin have been extended through the 2024-25 season.
“Extending Andy and Brandon’s contracts was a priority for us and for our program,” president of hockey operations Keith Primeau said in a press release. “They have done a great job guiding and developing our players and are integral to the future of the Phantoms.
“They are highly respected among our ownership group and our leadership team, and we couldn’t be happier to have them part of the leadership of the program as we move up the ranks of junior hockey and the USHL. These signings, along with Ryan’s, provide long-term stability for our program and we can’t wait to get started.
The Phantoms and former coach Brad Patterson decided to part ways when Patterson’s contract expired.
Patterson has been with the Phantoms since the 2009-10 season as an assistant coach and was promoted to head coach for the 2016-17 season.
He is finishing his tenure with the Phantoms as the all-time leader in games coached and won and had a final regular season record of 164-136-43.
“I want to thank Brad for all he has done for the Youngstown Phantoms organization,” Phantoms president Andrew Goldman said in a press release. “He was a consummate professional and developed elite hockey players and, more importantly, incredible young men.
“The Phantoms are in fantastic shape heading into next year and beyond, and that’s thanks in large part to Brad’s years of tireless commitment to the team and its players.”
Phantoms camp kicks off in July at PrintScape Arena in Pittsburgh.