A win in Ann Arbor is a rare feat for the Phantoms. Prior to last nights game I'd been to the Ice Cube four time and seen four losses. In fact, I had to go back to the 12/13 season to find a game we won. One game in the past two seasons was it. One out of the past nine games including this years season opener. I don't care how old these kids are, it's still hard to win in Ann Arbor. Last night was the fifth time I made the trip up and last night I was well rewarded. Yes Phantoms Phans, we won! This despite a delayed start. We got to the A2Ice3 box office only to be told the teams bus had broke down and the game was pushed back an hour. Hey, it gave us a little time to take a fruitless quest around the city for some Tim Horton's... but that's another story.

The Phantoms had an "at least we made it!" attitude when they hit the ice for warm-ups and Chris Birdsall got the start, his first in the regular season as a Phantoms. The first period was a scoreless one and more or less even. There was a little bit of feeling each other out and the late start may have dampened both teams emotions. The Phantoms may have taken their opponents a little lightly to start but after the U17s gained a little confidence by winning a couple physical battles, we quickly became serious. Both Birdsall and the USA goalie, Joseph Woll, were tested and both made good saves to keep the first scoreless.

Same old story - the Phantoms fail to win a game they at least had a good chance to win. After a valiant effort to tie the game up twice, a bad penalty at the end of the 3rd period sets up a quick exit in OT, just 0:10 into the frame. Colin DeAugustine, sporting a name on his jersey for the first time in front of the Covelli crowd, made a ton of excellent saves but the first shot of the OT eluded him.

The Steel opened the scoring in the first wit Alec Vanko getting open on the back door of a Chicago powerplay. With less than 4 minutes to go, they made it 2-0 on a Robbie Payne re-direction from the point. Then in the second, the Phantoms began their push and ties it up on a pair of JJ Piccinich goals. The first came on a 4-on3 powerplay where Piccinich put home a rebound shot off a Kyle Connor shot. Just over 5 minutes later he knotted it up at 2 a piece on another Kyle Connor assist, this time Connor drawing all the attention to himself on an awesome up-ice rush and, with the Steel defense falling over themselves to keep up with him, made a sharp cross-crease pass to Piccinich for the goal The Steel wouldn't stay down though and tied it up with less than 2 minutes in the 2nd on a Connor Yau goal powerplay goal.

The Phantoms played hard in the 3rd and just over the halfway mark of the period Kyle Connor tied it up on a wicked wrist shot that eluded Chicago's netminder, Chris Nell. The two teams would battle it out for most of the rest of the period. The Phantoms would have one powerplay opportunity during the stretch but failed to capitalize on it, going 1 for 8 on the night. As the clock was winding down to the final few minutes and looking like OT, the Phantoms made one final mistake. With the puck going around the boards behind the Phantoms net, Connor Lemirande checked and pinned a Steel skater to the boards after the puck went by. This elicited a 2 minute interference minor with just 1:45 left. The Phantoms killed the regulation penalty time and went into OT with just 0:15 of the penalty to carry-over and the Steel tallied the 3rd PP marker of the game on their 5th pp opportunity. 

That's it. Just a point in the standings and a lot of hard work down the drain. It's getting too late in the season to look at the single point as a positive. Not against the only conference rival worse than you in the standings. The Phantoms need to find the discipline and will to stop blowing it late in games. We're facing the U18 NTDP team tonight, we need to step it up a notch and come out dominating early. We need physicality combined with discipline for 60 minutes.

 

I knew it would be an entertaining game when I sat down and saw Blake Christensen wearing the #25 jersey for Muskegon about a day after wearing #88 for the Phantoms. When the Lumberjacks come into town, throw out things like records and standings, winning or losing streaks, because neither team is going to care about that for at least 60 minutes. The focus will be all on winning in-game battles and the final score. You can also throw out old allegiances and Christensen was now the enemy. Also to keep the storyline interesting, F Keifer Sherwood and D Fredric Larsson were back in the lineup after injuries.

The 'Jacks didn't waste any time getting to work. On the first shift of the game, the Phantoms turned the puck over to Robbie DeMontis behind their own net. He put a beautiful pass out front to Matt Iacopelli, who was skating through the face-off circle and into the slot. Phantoms netminder Colin DeAugustine was unable to move laterally quick enough and the 'Jacks leading scorer ripped it right by him just 1:22 into the game. The Phantoms managed to regroup and take some of the momentum back quickly and started to get to work themselves. They managed to tie it up at the 13:03 mark of the first period when Josh Melnick took a shot coming down the right side with Zach Evancho skating to the net who deflected the puck past Muskegon's goalie, Jordan Uhelski. Maxim Letunov would put the Phantoms ahead just 0:18 later. Defensman Kyle Mackey managed to slip a shot in from the point and the rebound ended up at the feet of Letunov. The 17 year old Moscow, Russia native was facing away from the goalie but managed to chop the puck behind him on the backhand and past Uhelski. The Phantoms ended the period outshooting the 'Jacks 16-5

The Phantoms took the 2-1 advantage to the locker-room along with some momentum. A jovial Covelli crowd watched that all disappear quickly in the second. 2:19 into the period defensman Tommy Parran was whistled for a 'questionable' roughing penalty. The politically correct, official recap called it questionable, to me there was no question. I was watching the play and could see the action very clearly and there was nothing that could be considered roughing by this leagues standards, or in T-ball for that matter! To compound it, coach Noreen took an unsportsmanlike penalty for arguing a call that should have been argued. This gave Muskegon a 5-on3 PP for a full 2 minutes. 1:02 into the penalty the 'Jacks tied it when Blake Christensen beat his old team on a shot through traffic. That was as close as they would get to taking back the game though.