The Phantoms opened at home this past weekend, looking to get things on the right track after not getting any points in the standings during the Fall Classic. We managed to mess that up royally, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on Friday and barely even showing up to skate on Saturday. We did manage to get 1 point for a regulation tie on Friday but that wasn't enough to lift us out of the basement, leaving us in 17th place out of 17 teams. To make it worse, both losses were against out divisional rival, the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Friday's game was a battle of goaltenders. Jonathan Mor starting in net for the Phantoms and Brandon Bussi for the 'Jacks. Through most of the first half of the game, it didn't look like either netminder was going to give an inch. It was scoreless until the 7:31 mark of the second frame when Conner MacEachern managed to jab home a shot from Jack Malone off a faceoff to Bussi's right to give the Phantoms a 1-0 lead. They would hold the slim margin until the waning moments of regulation when, with Bussi off for an extra man, former Phantom Jagger Joshua returned the favor off a James McIssac point shot with 0:48 left on the clock. Neither team would score a goal in the 3-on-3 OT, despite the Phantoms having 1:53 of powerplay time to close the frame. Only the 'Jacks Bobby Lynch would score in the shootout, weaving through the slot before going with forehand, top shelf shot on Mor's glove side. Shots were even at 32 a side, the Phantoms 10-12-9-1 and the 'Jacks 10-9-11-1.
With no change in netminders, it looked early like it was going to be a similar game on Saturday but the 'Jacks would get the lead in the first and never look back. They opened the scoring on the powerplay with a shot from Hunter Skinner at the top of the circle to the right of Mor that bounced to the left side of the crease for Daniil Guschin to tap home into a wide open net at 11:16. They would add to that in the second off a Gianfranco Cassaro turnover behind his won net. Brock Bremmer would harrass the retreating defenseman, who tried to blindly pass back to his partner. Bremmer would intercept the pass and center to Nolan Sullivan who would put a backhander off Mor's mask. Sullivan would finish up his own rebound, immediately throwing it over the sprawling netminder. Hunter Skinner would add the cherry on top at 10:00 of the third while on the PP, one-timing a nice pass from Joshua who danced through the slot. That was it, the Phantoms would be blanked at home. Shots were even once again 11-9-13 for the Phantoms and 15-12-6 for the 'Jacks.
Sure, the 'Jacks played hard and won. The Phantoms played hard on Friday and at least earned a point. The late goal and seemed to take the wind out of their sails and they never recovered. If anything, we need to look at the powerplay. We went 0 for 6 Friday, but then again so did Muskegon. Both teams had 5 chances on Saturday and the Jacks took advantage of 2 of those. After Going 3 of 5 against Tri-City in the Fall Classic, we've gone 0 of our next 14 chances. Simply put, that's not acceptable. I really won't fault Mor for any of the goals, save maybe the lone shootout tally. He played well and I did not see any real issue I could pin on him. Also, we really need someone to step up on leadership and take the reigns. There are no players wearing the "C" or "A" for captain or alternate captain yet, I'd like to see someone earn that right but I'll save that for a later rant in another weeks preview.
The crowd was pretty decent for the opener on Friday and not horrible for Saturday. With it being football season, we'll see how things play out. We only have 1 more home game in the month and that's not for a few weeks. There are still 28 home games left so I won't start worrying yet. We'll see how the team does on the road with only one game this weekend, a Sunday revenge game in Muskegon, before a 3-in-3 weekend following. The Hockey Gods are fickle and apparently we did not pray hard enough to the Patron Saints of Scheduling. Oh well, that'll be another rant for preview as well.