Since family matters kept me from catching the webcast of the Indiana game, I'm combining this weekends recaps. I'll probably do this for a lot of road trip or home & away weeks. With the Phantoms struggling to keep puck out of their net and keep their cool, Friday's game was a welcome glimmer of relief on the horizon. The Chicago Steel are a team that looked to be struggling even worse and we started the weekend on home ice. The conundrum was weather to give Jake Moore some relief this weekend and play affiliate call-up, Colin DeAugustine, in abcentia Sean Romeo. Moore had played all 11 games starting in pre-season and it was quite evident he needed some rest. However, the Steel are a team hungry to establish an identity and, more importantly, win their first game. The question was weather they would chance that to a goalie who hasn't played a single USHL game and if so, could he handle it. The answers was "yes" to both and the later emphatically.
DeAugustine, who plays for the NAHL Johnstown Tomahawks, faced a few Steel shots early on including a Steel power play. He showed no sign of being nervous and looked sharp from the beginning to the end. Chicago may not have generated a lot of good chances but they put 27 shots on net and DeAugustine turned aside all 27. The Steel had over a minute of a two-man advantage on the power play and still failed to get one by the Phantoms goalie. The Covelli crowd may not have been large, but the rookie from Burgettstown, PA certainly got the faithful into a frenzy. He also had a few friends and family there too.
Josh Melnick opened the scoring for the Phantoms with his first of the year and the game winner a little over 5 minutes into the second period. Alex Smith took advantage of weak play from the Steel at his own blue line sent Melnick off on a breakaway. The Steel netminder, Chris Nell, made an initial save but was unable to control the rebound. Melnick stopped in front of the net and cached in his own lose change. Later in the period, on a power play, Fredric Larsson ripped a shot from the point that Nell managed a save. A Chicago defensman looked to have the rebound on his stick but inexplicably pushed it weakly across the top of his own goalies crease where the only one near was the leagues leading power play scorer, JJ Piccinich. Piccinich made no mistake on one of the easier goals he's seen. Kyle Connor would add another insurance marker in the third when the Chicago defense just stroll out of the corner and whip a wicked wrister through traffic.
So we got the momentum builder in the first game, two points we needed in the standings and a night off for Moore and took that on the road to Indiana. Again, I didn't see the game but here's the bottom line I got. DeAugustine got the nod for the second night. I'm sure the shutout the night before played a huge role in that decision. He kept the streak going through almosty half the game, letting our offense role up a three goal lead. Indiana, another team struggling but hungry, managed to tild the scoring back their way and tie it up in the third and force overtime. Neither team was to score in the 5:00 of 4-on-4. Bring on the shootout. DeAugustine managed to shutdown the first 3 Ice shooters, but so did his counterpart. When Brian Pinho did beat the Phantoms goalie in the fourth round, Blake Christensen answered the do-or-die challenge by roofing one of his own to keep the shootut goain. DeAugustine blanked four more shooters before Luke Stork ended the night with a clean wrist shot.
I guess I have to find a cloud or two in the silver lining. There were a few discipline breakdowns on Friday, leading to unnecessary penalties and penalty kills. They killed them all but a better team might have capitalized. In Saturday's game they still let Indiana back into the game and let them get a point out of it. Those extra points can come back to haunt you down the stretch of a season but it's still too early to pout much over that. All things considered it was about as good a weekend as we've had. We play Indiana twice at home next weekend so this was a good lead-in for that. Now if we can just get a lot more people in the stands next Friday and Saturday.