If there was anymore welcome of a sight to Phantoms fans than Sean Romeo in warmups, I don't know what it was. Last years workhorse goalie was back in action last night after missing the beginning of the season, as well as pre-season. Lukas Klok also made his North American debut. However, the Indiana Ice came in in the spoiler role and spoil they did.

It wasn't the most offensive minded tilt this year with less than 40 shots on net combined between the two clubs, despite a combined 14 powerplays. There was plenty of hitting. The bottom line for the Phantoms was 8 powerplays, 2 of which were 2 man advantages for more than a minute, and no goals on any of them. I'll quote coach Anthony Noreen from the official reacp since he said something that I've said for decades:

"...if you get two minute-plus 5-on-3’s – at this level or higher – and you don’t score, you don’t deserve to win the game.”

I'll one better that, if you have 8 chances with the man advantage and fail on all of them you probably deserve to lose. One of those 5-on-3 opportunities was a full 2:00 chance but with 0:31 left the Phantoms too a penalty for too many men on the ice. Mistakes like that are inexcusable.

The Ice manages a goal a period. Luke Stork scored the only Phantoms goal in the 3rd period. Trailing 2-0, Kyle Mackey sprung Keifer Sherwood on a quick up ice pass. Sherwood fed a beautiful cross ice pass to Stork who buried it on the one-timer. However the next shift defensman Truman Reed was called on a trip and the Ice capitalized on the subsequent powerplay. A few minutes later the Phantoms found themselves on their second failed 5-on-3, which really put the emphasis on the fact that this game was boiling down to who could capitalize on their opportunities.

The Phantoms came into the game with one of the most potent offense in the USHL. One of the biggest problems last night was getting that juggernaut rolling. There was an obvious lack of net front presence and none of the Youngstown players seemed to want to just take a shot and look for a rebound. There was a lot of passing behind the Ice net on the powerplays but very few attempts to turn it to the front. Maxim Letunov looked to be the guy to do just that in the early minutes, crashing the Indiana net and taking it to their goalie, Jason Pawloski. However, he ended up getting called on a slash for it. Pawloski was relatively untouched until later in the 3rd.

Another point I'd like to make is the play of captain Alfred Larsson. The second year Swedish forward hasn't produced offensively and is a -12 already this season. Lat night he coughed the puck up at his own blueline which lead to the first Ice goal. The Phantoms really need him to step up the play. I know the captain position was awarded by player vote but this isn't a league where honors like that are for show. We need to see that leadership on the ice.

The Phantoms take on the Lincoln Stars tonight. Amnesia is an art form in hockey. The guys need to forget last night and focus on tonight. Romeo needs to shake off the rust and the rest of the crew needs to work on getting to the dirty areas and capitalizing on powerplays.

Since family matters kept me from catching the webcast of the Indiana game, I'm combining this weekends recaps. I'll probably do this for a lot of road trip or home & away weeks. With the Phantoms struggling to keep puck out of their net and keep their cool, Friday's game was a welcome glimmer of relief on the horizon. The Chicago Steel are a team that looked to be struggling even worse and we started the weekend on home ice. The conundrum was weather to give Jake Moore some relief this weekend and play affiliate call-up, Colin DeAugustine, in abcentia Sean Romeo. Moore had played all 11 games starting in pre-season and it was quite evident he needed some rest. However, the Steel are a team hungry to establish an identity and, more importantly, win their first game. The question was weather they would chance that to a goalie who hasn't played a single USHL game and if so, could he handle it. The answers was "yes" to both and the later emphatically.

DeAugustine, who plays for the NAHL Johnstown Tomahawks, faced a few Steel shots early on including a Steel power play. He showed no sign of being nervous and looked sharp from the beginning to the end. Chicago may not have generated a lot of good chances but they put 27 shots on net and DeAugustine turned aside all 27. The Steel had over a minute of a two-man advantage on the power play and still failed to get one by the Phantoms goalie. The Covelli crowd may not have been large, but the rookie from Burgettstown, PA certainly got the faithful into a frenzy. He also had a few friends and family there too.

A pattern is starting to emerge with the Phantoms, a very bad pattern. That pattern is late third period goals against us. Last weekend we were ahead in both games with only a few minutes left and we gave up a point in the standings and let a conference rival get an extra point because of them. Last night it cost us at least a point on a night Youngstown played a gutsy game against a RoughRiders team that out matched us for a good portion of the night.

The Cedar Rapids team is returning a massive 15 players from last season. That kind of experience is invaluable, especially early in the USHL season. On the Phantoms side we have some injuries, suspensions and other scratches, depleting our already less experienced defensive squad. D-man Kyle Mackey served the second game of his suspension, he has two left. Alex Carle was scratched for his second straight game, injury related according to Bart Logan's tweet. Also scratched on defense was Blake Christensen. The Phantoms called up affiliate Carson Vance, a 1996 birth year who has 3 assists in 7 games for the Janesville Jets of the NAHL. Bobby Palzar warmed the bench again as Jake Moore's emergency backup in the absence of starter Sean Romeo.

The 'Riders experience showed in the first period as the held the Phantoms to just two shots on goal the whole frame while getting ten of their own. The defense and Moore did what they could to contain them but Andrew Oglevie, in his 3rd USHL season and 115th regular season game, scored the only goal of the period on a powerplay. After being stifled on offense so thoroughly in the first, the Phantoms came out with a good jump in the second. However, after a nice initial push Phantoms defensman Matt Miller got caught out of position and the 'Riders took a 2-0 lead just 2:25 into the period. With Miller backpedaling way too far to the middle of the ice near his own blueline, Andrew Poturalski hit and unabated Jason Kalinowski with a stretch pass going up the right wall. The Cedar Rapids forward went right around the Youngstown defense and in one-on-one with Moore. Moore looked to make the stop but The 'Riders forward plowed over the Phantoms goaltender and the puck somehow went over the line as the net was dislodged. The ref, who was in position to see it, deemed it a good goal. 

The Phantoms responded quickly on a powerplay. Kyle Connor was denied on a shot but JJ Piccinich stuffed home the rebound to halve the deficit. Then with just under 5 minutes to go in the period the Phantoms evened it up, again with Connor leading the charge up ice. He managed to get the puck to Ryan Schwalbe who then passed it laterally over to Maxim Letunov who scored his 2nd goal of the season. The Phantoms managed to match the 'Riders in shot total for the period at eleven.

Cedar Rapids went back to smothering the Phantoms offense early in the 3rd and scored a little over 3 minutes into the final frame. 'Riders forward Nathan Widman took the puck behind the Phantoms cage and went for the wrap around shot. Moore seemed in control and made the initial pad save but the the rebound went back off the handle of Moore's stick and just inside the far post. Later in the period though, the Phantoms would tie it again when Kyle Connor came charging down the wing and started to make his way behind the net. He threw a pass to JJ Picchinich, who was hovering around the crease in front of the net, and Picchinich put it in the basket for his 5th of the season. Connor also picked up his 3rd assist of the night. The Phantoms held the fort and seemed to be heading towards overtime and a point in the standings. Unfortunately, this wasn't in the cards for them Friday night. Late in the period the 'Riders entered the Phantoms zone on a 2-on-2 after Alfred Larrson was stopped on a breakaway attempt the other way. Instead of making a move or a pass, Andrew Poturalski just took a shot on more from the circle and beat Moore with 1:14 left in the game and that was it.

So frustratingly close but yest so disappointingly far away. With less than a minute and a half, we gave up a goal that shouldn't have happened. There were far more chances for Cedar Rapids that could have gone in but Moore or the defense somehow kept it out. I would think that even getting a point in the standings with a regulation tie would have been an emotional victory for the team but now they go into Waterloo empty handed. What's worse is that there is no rest in sight for Moore. Very little has been mentioned about Romeo's injury and his name almost seems taboo from the official sources. The best note we got is that the injury is 'nagging' and I'm no doctor but that doesn't sound too descriptive. With no one being called up in earnest to give him a night off, he's had to shoulder the entire load, starting from preseason. It's hard to fault him on the last goal even though it seemed like a stoppable shot. He's faced a lot of rubber this year after playing in only 8 total games last season, 2 of those in relief. He's looked to get stronger every game despite the load. I guess tonight's game in Waterloo will show us how he and the rest of the team handle a loss like that and if last weekend was any indicator, it should be a good game at least.