The Phantoms were back in action at Covelli last night for a little after-Thanksgiving action. This time it was to face off against the Madison Capitols, a team that is struggling but also coming off a big win against Dubuque and hungry for more. The Phantoms, for their part, are just trying to get back to .500, and this was the first introduction to the Covelli Center for a few new faces.
The first period lacked a little bit of energy from both teams. Probably a little holiday lag for the Phantoms, and bus legs for the Caps. A little over midway through, it looked like the Phantoms were going to get a golden chance to get things going when the Caps took a couple penalties just 0:21 apart, giving us an extended two man advantage. However, it wasn't the Phantoms that would score first. Josh Boyer would block a shot from Connor MacEachern and from his knees, Boyer managed to fight off the stick of Gianfranco Cassaro, poking the puck to center ice between Cassaro and MacEachern for Chase Brand to take off on a breakaway. Brand made a forehand to backhand deke and went top shelf on the Phantoms netminder Vincent Purpura, making his first start as a Phantom.
The Phantoms would strike back quickly with the manpower advantage. Liam Dennison would take the initial shot, which was deflected in on net by Trevor Kuntar. Caps netminder Joseph Lamoreaux would make the initial save, but Matthew Barnaby (in his first game at home as a Phantom) would net his first goal as a Phantom, just :23 after the Caps tally. That was all for the frame and shots were 6 a side in the first. The Caps took an extra shot well after the horn sounded ending the period which lead to a scrum that saw both sides send 2 players to the box for the next period.
The second period would begin with a bang. The Caps' Calvin Pokorny decided to start something with John Larkin. About a minute into the period, Pokorny laid a check into Larkin at the Caps blueline as Larkin played the puck, then decided to give Larkin a little more, a crosscheck which Larkin responded in kind to. Pokorny then decided it was time to go, throwing his gloves off and launching punches before Larkin had any chance to drop his gloves. By the time Larkin was able to defend himself, the refs were breaking it up. Both got the usual major/misconducts but Pokorny got shown the door with an additional game misconduct for being the aggressor. The Phantoms would take the lead at the 11:17 mark when Dalton Messina would take a pass on the rush from Kuntar, launching a shot from the right faceoff circle farside past the stick of Lamoreaux, Messina's first goal on the season.
Shortly after this was when things got weird. Just 0:17 after the ensuing faceoff, the Phantoms Liam Robertson would take a tripping call. The Caps bench seemed a little overly entusiastic about the call with a lot of clapping and stick tapping on the boards, possibly some sarcastic remarks about previous decisions the ref had made. Whatever the case, the ref called a bench minor for abuse of officials. Head Coach Garrett Suter did not like that and proceeded to add on to the abuse, earning himself a game misconduct and had to leave the bench. The Caps weathered the rest of the frame, shots were 12-7 in favor of the Phantoms.
The Phantoms would push the lead to 2 goals early in the third. Josh DeLuca would fire a shot on the rush that Lamoreaux would make the initial save. Dalton Messina would find the bouncing puck in his skates and fire it home for his second of the night at the 0:23 mark. Chase Brand would get the Caps back to within a goal at the 10:38 mark with his second of the night, backhanding a lose puck from the low slot over Purpura. Jack Malone would seal it with an empty net goal as time was running down and the Caps pulling Lameroux for the extra attacker. The shots were 12-8 for the period as 30-21 for the game in favor of the Phantoms.
I don't imagine this will sit well with the Caps. This was a winnable game from their standpoint and having your coach tossed, as well as a forward earlier, just adds to the burn. We'll have to see what, if any, supplemental discipline is handed out as well. In any case, I'd expect a contentious game tonight. For the Phantoms, we played decent and didn't do much in the way of shooting ourselves in the foot. I'll take that any day playing the last place team. For the second time in the space of a week, and only the second time since the Fall Classic ended, we're a win away from being back to .500 in the standings. That could, with help from other teams, put us in a tie for third place in the Eastern Conference.
Now to the gorilla and elephant in the room, so to speak. Last nights attendance was a whopping 538. Come on Youngstown, you can do better. Anyway, here are the highlights.
Matthew Barnaby scores his first as a Phantom!
Dalton Messina puts in the game winner!