It seems like forever since the Phantoms were last at Covelli. It was just under a month ago, and the Phantoms lost to the NTDP in our last home game. We lost the next 6 straight, including a pair to the Madison Capitols, our 3rd loss to them in 4 games this season. The Caps are a bad team, the worst in the league, but getting better. Needlees to say, the Phantoms needed to turn things around and win this weekend. The good news is, we are halfway there.
The Caps opened the scoring on the powerplay. Ryan Kirwin, skating through the slot, redirected a point shot past Colin Purcell at 7:09. The Caps were dominating early in the period, shots were 6-2 after they scored the goal. The Phantoms would finally find their legs a bit after the goal and the shots were 9-5 Caps going into the first intermission with Madison up 1-0.
The Phantoms looked a little better in the second. They evened the score when Trevor Kuntar went cost to coast, taking the puck out of the faceoff circle in his defensive zone, beating a pair of Caps defenders (Jan Stibigr and Hunter Carrick), and put a shot high short-side, stick side on Christian Stoever at 9:02. The Caps answered that one late on a two man advantage with Austen May off for hooking Carson Bantle on a breakaway, then Jayson Dobay off for a boarding infraction. Ryan Kirwin, again, at 17:29 taking a snap shot from the right faceoff circle through traffic to regain the lead. Shots were 14-8 Phantoms in the middle frame.
The Phantoms came out strong in the third, the best period they've played in about a month, and the Caps started to run out of gas. The Phantoms dominated shots on goal and puck possession. They tied the game on a great zone entry by Kuntar and Georgi Merkulov. Kuntar drew traffic to him carrying the puck up the boards in the neutral zone. As he was force to pull up, he hit a streaking Merkulov who was able to enter the zone untouched. Murkulov carried the puck behind the net, opting not to shoot, and laid a no look, behind the back pass to Kuntar for the one-timer at 11:07 of the third. The Phantoms outshot the Caps 13-2 in the period, but were only able to muster the tying goal.
The Phantoms desperatly needed to win this one and needed somebody to step up to the plate. That would be John Beaton. Ben Schoen dug the puck out along the boards in his own zone and got the puck over to Beaton. Beaton and Schoen headed up ice on a 2-on-1 with Hunter Weiss defending. As they entered the zone, Weiss drifted towards Beaton as Kirwin was catching up to Schoen. Weiss pulled up and stopped to stand up Beaton, but Beaton danced around him like a pylon in practice. Now behind Weiss and with Schoen boxing out Kirwin at the side of the net, Beaton dragged the puck across the top of the crease, waiting for Stoever to go down, and fired the puck into the wide open top of the net to end it at 2:41 of the OT.
Man, it's good to get a win, and one at home like this. Things still aren't great, but we're seeing some improvement. Special teams still were a liability. We went 0 for 4 on the PP while allowing 2 of 5 on the PK, both of the Caps goals came on the PP. If we're struggling on the PK, we need to be more disciplined. The Dobay boarding call was a prime example. Austen May was already in the box, a penalty he was forced to take and not really his fault. Dobay was tying to aggressively defend on the PK, I get that, but he has to recognize the player has his back turned. He was trying to take additional penalties, or worse, at the end of the last road game in Muskegon. The bench must correct this soon.
We don't have the attendance from last night but I'm assuming it's on par with last seasons average or better. It was a good way to start a new decade at the Covelli. We're back on Sunday for a 5pm game, not normally a time slot that draws a big crowd. I'm not going to worry too much about that now. And to kick off 2020, here is a highlight.
Merkulov to Kuntar to tie it!