OK, I'll start yet another article off with an apology for slacking off. I did not get any updates in on last weekends pair of games in Bloomington or a preview of this weekends home-and-home against Muskegon. I've been a little under the weather, nothing serious or contagious, and a lot overworked at my job. I also had to take a couple days to calm down and keep this a PG(13) rated page. I'll go into that later.

The Phantoms began a three game road trip in Bloomington on 11/21 and kicked it off in typical Phantoms fashion, scoring three goals in the first, chasing David Jacobsen from net with 2 goals in 6 shots.  Logan Halladay gave up a quick goal to Ryan Lomberg, his second of the night, just 0:07 into the second and the phantoms seemed to be cruising. But that's when Bloomington seemed to turn the corner on their slump. To condense this down for time and space, 0:53 seconds after the Lomberg goal the Thunder would rattle off 5 goals in the period, all on Collin DeAugustine, to go into the final frame with a 5-4 lead. This included a penalty shot awarded to the Thunder on a Phantoms PP, Josh Melnick being the only one back had to haul down Ryan Siroky who converted his chance. Some late heroics by Melnick, who is relishing the his role as a clutch player this year, tied it up with 5:06 left and Max Letunov scored just 0:18 into the OT period. In addition to a high scoring affair, it was extremely physical tilt and the Phantoms went 2-7 on the PP and Bloomington 0-3. The biggest issue for the Phantoms was the 1 game suspension handed to Ryan Lomberg for interference. Initially he was only assessed a single minor but it looked like slamming his stick into the glass earned him a 10 minute misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct, his second call for that in the period with the first being a separate minor penalty. Coach Noreen left DeAugustine in the whole tilt and he came out with a 6-5 win.

Well, here is another another (slightly) late recap. As usual, work prevented me from a proper recap yesterday and time isn't on my side today either. The Phantoms came into the last game of an eight game home stand where they had posted a 4-3-0 record. A win would put them a half game above Chicago for fourth place in the Eastern Conference before playing the next three games on the road. However, the Lincoln Stars are playing much better hockey than their win/loss record would indicate and after they forced us to a shootout on Friday night, everyone knew it would be no easy task. Chris Birdsall would get the nod in net again for the Phantoms and the stars would go with Cam Hackett after Peyton Jones played Friday.

The Phantoms would draw first blood early, just 5:11 into the match. A good cycling shift and some physical play on the boards set up Connor Yau to take a shot from the point that tipped off a stick and landed in the low slot. Stars defensman Ryan Cook had lost his stick and was unable to defend and the puck landed right in front of Kyle Connor and the Phantoms scoring leaded would not miss his chance to pass Sam Anas and take sole control of the Phantoms all time goal scoring record.  The Phantoms would own the ice most of the first half of the period but the Stars would push back in the second half of the frame. The Stars would tie it up late. Defensman Cam Lee would make some nifty moves to cross the Phantoms blueline before dishing to Chris Dodero who would take it deep behind the iceing line to Birdsall's right. Dodero would make a subtle pass out front to Miguel Fidler who one-timed it past Birdsall with 3:15 left in the period. The teams would go to the locker room tied at 1-1 with 12 shots a piece. The second period was almost entirely dominated by the Phantoms. Taylor Best would notch his third of the season after Trey Bradly forced a turnover in the Stars zone on a relentless Phantoms forecheck. Bradly got the puck to Best who crashed the net. Again, the Stars would push back. Chris Klack would dig the puck out of the corner to the left of the Phantoms netminder and former Phantom Blake Christensen would send a pass to the faceoff circle to Birdsall's right where Michael Gillespie would one-time it just inside the post past the Phantosm goalie. Despite the Phantoms outshooting the Stars 15-7 it was 2-2 after the second.

The struggling Lincoln Stars rolled into town last night for the first of two games this weekend. The Phantoms were looking to turn things around themselves, coming off their first back-to-back losses and having lost 3 out of the last 4 at home. The Phantoms needed some momentum to close out this long home stand before heading out on the road but the Stars were coming in off one of their best performances of the year, beating the red hot Des Moines Buccaneers 5-2. The Phantoms would also be without two of their top defenseman again. Veteran Matt Miller missed his third consecutive game and Carson Vance would also be scratched. This weekend, the Phantoms would call up affiliate Ryan Shea. Shea, 17 year old (1997 birth year) product of the Boston area youth and prep school systems, would suit up and get his first taste of USHL action. I saw no faults in his game, he seemed to adjust well to the speed of the game and didn't look uncomfortable or nervous. Chris Birdsall would get the nod in net for the Phantoms, his first start since 11/5 though he did play in relief of DeAugustine last Sunday. Payton Jones would start in net for the Stars.

The first period was uneventful for the most part. A lot of rough stuff and a few penalties but no scoring as the teams got the feel of each other. Things really got underway quickly in the second though, as Grant Jozefek forces a turnover in the corner and fed a pass to the low slot for a one-timer by Patrick Polino just 1:57 into the second period. The Phantoms would get back into it on the powerplay a little over the halfway mark of the frame on a Josh Melnick wrister from the point that found it's way through traffic and behind Jones. Just 1:12 later, Ryan Lomberg would fire a shot that rebounded off of Jones directly to the stick of Matt Alvaro for his second goal of the year. The Phantoms would take the 2-1 lead to the locker room.