It always amazes me the way bottom teams in the league manage to pull off a few upsets along the way. In some regards, it goes a long way to showing the parity of the level of competition from top to bottom, lower standing teams are able to play up to the level of the top teams. In other aspects, it shows how some teams can play down to the level of their opponents, no matter how bad they are. Saturday's tilt against the Madison Capitols was a showcase for the latter. After beating the Caps 5-2 on Friday, the Phantoms seemed to lack any sort of motivation, (and there certainly wasn't much in the way of team effort) at least through the first 2 periods.
At least the first frame wasn't so bad. The Caps seemed to outplay us by some margin but it didn't seem that either team was really in the game. The only excitement came on a Phantoms powerplay, with Matthew Gould off for a hold, his second penalty of the game. Gould didn't seem too happy with the call, I guess, and about 15 seconds into his time in the box, he gave the glass a few good whacks with his stick that resulted in a stoppage to change a pane of broken glass. Needless to say, that was all for Gould's night. It was a scoreless period with shots 11-8 in favor of the Caps.
The Phantoms pretty much did not show up for the second, and we paid for it. Early in the frame, Phantoms affiliate defenseman Michael Brown lost an edge allowing the Caps Alex Mella to feed a pass up ice to a wide open Anthony Stark. John Larkin was the only Phantoms player back and he could not close the gap quick enough as Stark made a couple forehand to backhand dekes before putting a backhander behind Vincent Purpura at 4:33.
Towards the end of the frame, defenseman Jason Dobay would be the victim of his own poor puck handling. On a weak dump in by the Caps, Dobay tried to turn to skate up ice when he bobbled the puck near his own blueline. Kristoff Papp quickly stripped the puck, and as Dobay wiped out trying to fight to keep the puck, Papp had a clear lane to skate in and out-waited Purpura, eventually elevating a shot over the outstretched leg pad of the sprawling netminder to make it 2-0 at 18:31. Shots in the frame were 10-3 in favor of the Caps.
The Phantoms would show some fight in the final period of regulation. Gianfranco Cassaro would get his fourth goal of the season, getting a laser shot from the point through some traffic and by the Caps netminder Garrett Mackay at 11:33. The Phantoms would have numerous chances but, despite outshooting the Caps by a good margin for the period, seemed to pass up on several good opportunities.
One such opportunity was when Joseph Abate created a 2 on 1 break with Brett Murray while shorthanded. Abate had some space between him and the defender to take the puck in or shoot from the slot, but elected to make a behind the back pass in the high slot to Murray that did not come anywhere close to connecting. The 2-1 score would hold until the final buzzer. The Phantoms outshot the Caps 14-5 for the period with the Caps having the narrow edge in shots for the game, 26-25.
I don't know what happened, folks. It was not a pretty game with very little flow to it. Everything seemed sluggish for both teams. With only 582 people in the attendance, there wasn't a lot of energy in the building, either. You could hear the chants of "shoot it" several times in the final frame, and that about summed up the night for the Phantoms. Next week is a rematch of last years Clark Cup Finals, with the Fargo Force coming back to the ice they won the cup on. So, maybe we'll see something better. Anyway, I guess, here's the lone highlight.
Gianfranco Cassaro gets one from the blueline!