The Phantoms looked to bounce back after a wild 8-5 loss to the NTDP with the defending Clark Cup champs and current Eastern Conference leaders, the Chicago Steel. Everyone knew this was going to be a tough game and we would need our players to elevate their game.
The Phantoms scored the only goal in the first, Alex Barber's first USHL goal on a hard wist shot from long range that blew the Steel's netminder Oskar Autio at 14:03. Barber used a defenseman in the slot as a screen making it hard for Autio to track. Shots were 9-9 going into the intermission.
The Steel came out of the lockers ready to even things up. Behind the Phantoms net, Steel forward Baker Shore lifted the stick of Jake Gingell forcing a turnover. Chicago defenseman Matteo Pietroiro got a shot on Ivan Prosvetov who was unable to corral the rebound. Shore nicely backhanded the rebound in to tie the game 0:15 into the second. However 1:18 later, Jake Malone would send a shot into traffic and Tommy Parrottino tipped it by Autio.
The teams would trade goals again later in the second. On the penalty kill, Max Ellis would strip Tyler Gratton, a forward dangling the puck on the PP near the blueline, and skate up ice for a breakaway goal. Ellis had used a similar move before in shootouts, nice stickhandling to freeze the netminder and going backhand to forehand around them for open net at 8:12. However, moments after the Phantoms were back to full strength the Steel's Jordan Seyfert laid a nice pass to Robbie Stucker all alone in front of Prosvetov, the Phantoms defense blowing the coverage massively, and Stucker put on a skick handling clinic in front of the Phantoms netminder before popping the puck over him at 8:49. Things would get chippy after that and both sides would have good powerplay opportunities, but 3-2 was the score after 40:00 with the shots 10-6 in favor of the Steel in the period.
The Phantoms would try hard to hold or expand the lead in the third but the Steel were just as determined to get at least a point. Late in the frame, with Phantoms defenseman Julian Kislan pinched down in the attack zone, Steel defenseman Derek Daschke flipped a nice pass out to Jack Dugan who broke out with Blake McLaughlin on a two-on-one with Michael Joyaux alone on defense. Joyaux played it well, eliminating the pass and limiting Dugans options on shots but Prosvetov was unable to control the rebound and McLauglin tapped it in for the tie at 14:01. The Phantoms outshot the Steel 8-7 but 60:00 would not be enough.
Heading into overtime if there was one player you would have named to get the game winner, it was Max Ellis who had multiple opportunities in regulation beyond his shot handed goal and just past the midpoint of the OT period, Phantoms defenseman Zach Metsa hit Ellis with a long pass sending Ellis up ice for a hard wrist shot that Autio managed to get square and use his body to block it off but the rebound popped back to Ellis. Ellis chopped the puck from nearly the goal line a few feet from the Autio and off the netminders back and in, ending the game at the 62:41 mark.
The last time the Phantoms faced the Steel it was when the Steel eliminated us from the playoffs last season. I would have liked our revenge to not have left them with a point in the standings but we needed a win on home ice, I'll take it. It was a good game and a good crowd on hand to watch, a little over 1,300. With a little over 1,000 the night before things are looking up a little in that regard too. I won't hold my breath for the Thanksgiving eve game against Muskegon but it should be a good tilt none the less. I only have one highlight but it's a good one.
Alex Barber opens the scoring with his first USHL goal.