You can't expect to win them all playing from behind. We seem to have this expectation that going into the third 1 or 2 goals down is a good idea. It's worked the previous two games at the Covelli prior to last night. It did not work last night.
The game started off a little better than Friday I thought. However, at the 10:09 mark, Kyler Grundy hit Ryan O'Rielly with a nice pass from the left faceoff circle to the right for a one-timer that Dominic Basse had no chance on. That was all the scoring in the opening frame and the Phantoms outshot the Gamblers by a slim 7-6 margin.
The Phantoms got on the board early off a powerplay when Aiden Gallacher stepped into a loose puck and launched a blistering slap shot that beat the Gamblers goaltender Nicholas Grabko. I don't know if Grabko was screened or not but he probably would have had a hard time with the heavy shot even if he had a clean lane in front of him.
The Gamblers got the next two goals. First, the Gambers Tyler Pauquette tapped a rebound from the side of the crease out to the slot for defenseman Dylan Moulten, and Dominic Basse was not able to change position in time to square up at 8:57. At 13:57 Nicholas Zabaneh fired a wrist shot from the slot on a breakaway, O'Rielly hitting him with a pass after he got behind John Larkin.
The Phantoms were not done though, and had some hope going into the second intermission. Once again on the powerplay, Trevor Kuntar won an offensive zone faceoff cleanly back to Gallacher. Gallacher drifted a little in the high slot area before ripping a shot that Matthew Cassidy deflected in the crease and got the Phantoms back to within a goal at 18:04. Shots were 7-7 in the second period.
Down a goal going into the third, it still seemed like anyone's game and whichever team came out to play would win the game. That was the Gamblers. The only goal came at 8:24 of the period, Jarrett Lee came out of the penalty box just as the puck was poked up ice. This created a 3-on-1 with Caleb Price being the only Phantom anywhere near the puck. Price tried to slide out to take away the backdoor pass but Lee hit Camden Thiesing with a pass across the top of the crease and Basse was not able to go post-to-post quick enough to stop the puck.
Shots were 8-3 in the third, a period the Phantoms desperately needed to generate more offense. Even after going down 4-2, they still did not seem to get into attack mode. Puck support disappeared again as one Phantoms would routinely end up battling several Gamblers deep in the attack zone while the rest of the Phantoms hung out near the blueline. We seemed more worried about not letting odd man rushes than getting back in the game.
One of the most evident issues with the Phantoms game has been passing. This has been an issue of some sort most of the season but last night it was on full display. There are way too many ill advised passes, often times to areas where absolutely no Phantom is to receive it. If someone is there it's behind him, he whiffs on it or it just hops over the stick. If we can't improve on the issue we need to simplify our game and not try so many passes, especially when a shot is available.
Again, I didn't think special teams would be a big factor this weekend. Again, I was wrong. Both of our goals last night were powerplay goals and the only even strength goal we scored this weekend so far was the 3-on-3 powerplay goal. We have gone 2 full games now with no 5-on-5 goals.
At least it was a good crowd and they seemed to be having fun regardless. A lot of extra youth jerseys were available and between the dogs that were at the game for Paws and Pucks night and drunk YSU students, there was enough going on as a distraction for the 2,311 that came last night. I don't have high hopes for attendance for Sunday but who knows this season. Since I don't have highlights, here is a picture to get you by.
MVP (Most Valuable Pupper)