For the first time this season the Phantoms faced off against conference rivals, the Chicago Steel. With neither team being well known for defense and goaltending this season, it looked like the weekend series might feature some high scoring games. And Friday did not disappoint.
The Steel jumped out to an early lead. With Gunnarwolfe Fontaine carrying the puck into the Phantoms zone along the boards, the Phantoms defense collapsed over to the left side leaving Mathieu De St. Phalle alone skating up the slot. De St. Phalle backhanded a shot that netminder Christian Stoever got a piece of but the puck still carried up and over him and the score was 1-0 at 4:09.
The Phantoms would get it back on a powerplay with 3:04 left in the first when a Liam Robertson shot was partially blocked. The puck trickled to Brett Murray who tapped it to the slot for a Connor MacEachern one-timer. Shots were 10-9 in favor of the Phantoms heading into the first intermission.
The Steel would retake the lead early in the second. De St. Phalle will get credit for their second goal of the night but the puck looked like it came off the stick of MacEachern. De St. Phalle lifting MacEachern's stick as he tried to skate it behind his own net, the puck rolling passed an unprepared Stoever just 0:22 into the frame.
The Steel would extend the lead to 2 goals when defenseman Matteo Pietroniro skated the puck in from the point, cutting laterally through the slot and through three Phantoms defenders. He used the mass of bodies in front of him for a screen and put a shot behind Stoever, time of the goal was 3:02.
The Phantoms pushed back quickly. On the powerplay, Trevor Kuntar put the puck on the stick of Gianfranco Cassaro in the right faceoff circle, and Cassaro fired a laser shot glove side, beating the Steel's Justin Robbins glove side at 4:10.
The Phantoms tied it 0:35 later on Ben Schoen's first USHL goal. After Cassaro tapped the puck off a Steel stick in the Steels zone, the tendered forward picked the puck up and skated into the slot between four Steel defenders and rifled a shot stick side that Robbins waved at but did not get any of. Despite being outshot the rest of the frame, the Phantoms held onto the tie. Shots in the frame were 13-5 Steel.
The third frame would see the Steel back on top by a pair. The first goal came on a 5-on-3 powerplay as John Spetz launched a shot from the high slot through traffic that beat Stoever at 4:21. Then on another powerplay, Trevor Treloar made a pass to Neil Shea, a one time Phantoms prospect, who was all alone in front of Stoever with Adam Robbins. A Phantoms defender made a sliding attempt at Shea, but the Steel forward made a nice behind the back pass to Robbins for the easy tap in at 11:32.
Once again, the Phantoms needed to make multiple goal comeback. The first goal came in the way of Brett Murray controlling the puck down low, holding off Steel defenseman Jimmy Dowd and firing a shot from an nearly impossible angle that somehow found a crack to slip behind Robbins at 12:51. Matthew Barnaby would set up the tying goal skating up the right side boards and turning the corner into the faceoff circle, where he laid a perfect pass through the top of the goalies crease to the stick of Craig Needham to tap home at 14:14.
The Phantoms completed the heroics with just 4:05 left in regulation. On a 4-on4, Brett Murray skated the puck behind the Steel net and centered a pass for Craig Needham. The pass never connected, hitting the stick of either John Spetz or Justin Robbins, taking a weird path to the skate of Steel defenseman Uula Ruikka. The puck would bounce off the back of his skate and slowly trickle across the goal line. Robbins would have had time to stop it but had totally lost track of the puck and was visibly surprised when he saw the referee signaling the goal. Shots were 12-4 in favor of the Steel in the third, but the Phantoms scored on 3 of their 4 shots to take a 6-5 victory. On the night, the Steel outshot us 34-19.
It was a fun game to watch despite being a little sloppy at times on the part of both clubs. Neil Shea picked a fight with Liam Dennison, many thought he should have gotten the instigator penalty but we'll see how the league handles it. And with another pair of games to play, we'll see how both teams handle their tempers.
For attendance, we did a little better at 816 but we're still falling behind the rest of the league. Maybe tonights game will see that turn around. Here are the highlights to tide you over until then.
Connor MacEachern scores on the PP!
Brett Murray finds a seam for a goal!
Matthew Barnaby to Craig Needham to tie!