The Phantoms displayed their best and worst sides both in the same game and despite a great effort to start and finish the game, a frustratingly awful middle doomed them to a 7-5 loss. What started off as a good performance coming off a bad loss found a quick turnaround with a perfect storm of events leading up to a total collapse midway through the second period that they didn't recover from until it was too late. There is a lot of blame to spread around: the the refs, team, the coaching staff, the fans, the refs. Did I mention the refs? OK, I'm certainly biased but there was at least one goal waved off that shouldn't have been and maybe two. Oh, and I guess you can lay some blame on the Steel who rode out a bad start themselves. 

Everyone knows Monday night games are big crowd drawers but last nights 394 total in attendance was even lower than lost years froze out school day game on a Wednesday morning with temperatures well below zero. This would have been a thin crowd at the Ice Zone yet alone the Covelli. I can't imagine how it probably looked from the ice. Despite it all, the fans that were there were hungry for some hockey and the Phantoms started the game strong and everyone there could feel it. Seeing Kyle Mylarri in warmups was a welcome sight after having to rotate only 5 defensman the night before, with forward Josh Melnick playing a little on the defense as well. I was more than a little surprised to see Colin DeAugustine starting in net for the Phantoms. After being yanked the night before after 4 out of 10 shots on net got past him, Chris Birdsall played well in relief, stopping 10 of 11. To me, Birdsall had earned the start.

Kyle Connor kicked off the scoring just 1:13 into the game, taking a Carson Vance pass at the blueline, spinning in on-sides and breaking in on goal. Despite a defender getting a stick in at the last second, he managed to get a low, glove-side shot in on Steel netminder Cale Morris that hit the far-side post and in. Then at the 9:33 mark with the Steel on the powerplay, Ryan Lomberg stripped Chicago's defensman Mikey Joyaux at the point and took it all the way to the faceoff circle in front of the Chicago net before firing a wicked wrist shot past Morris to take a 2-0 lead. The Steel would answer back with just 0:14 left in the frame on a John Earsting tally. The Phantoms would start the second just as fast as the first, with Lomberg batting a puck out of the air and past Morris.

We saw last week how the Phantoms can put up offensive numbers when things go well. Last night we we had a glimpse of how things look when they go wrong... and it wasn't pretty. In fact, things looked bad from the announcement of the scratches and starting lines. Two defenseman, Kris Mylarri and veteran Matt Miller, were new additions to the scratch list and forward Josh Melnick starded the game as a defenseman. 

It was an even affair until a sneaky line change sprung Robbie Jackson, who jumped on the ice behind all defenders and took a pass from Tanner Laczynski, on a breakaway and last seasons Rookie of the Year beat Collin DeAugustine clean. Less than two minutes later, Brandon Kearney picked up a rebound in front of the Phantoms crease, skated around a flailing DeAugustine and tucked into an open net. This ended DeAugustine's night as he only stopped 6 out of the 10 shots he faced. The Steel's Connor McDonald would earn himself a slashing penalty at the end of the first period setting up a full two minute powerplay for the Phantoms to start the second. Just 0:30 into the frame, Mason Bergh would carry the puck into the Phantoms zone on a 2-on-1 with Johns Schilling as Josh Melnick was the lone Phantoms defender. Bergh dished a nice pass to Schilling for an easy shorthanded goal. Then just over the 3:00 mark, the Steel would take a 4-0 lead on a powerplay of their own with a Ryan Blankemeier tally. A late period fight between Kevin Conley and Brendon Kearney would give the Phantoms some life and Josh Melnick would bury a rebound off a Max Letunov shot with a little over 4:00 in the period. 

If there were any doubts left about the Phantoms ability to dominate their division rival the Bloomington Thunder they were erased yesterday morning. In front of a rather light School Day crowd, and without star player Kyle Connor, the Phantoms piled on the goals in a 9-3 rout in the Thunder's last visit to the Covelli during the regular season. Before it was all over seven players for Youngstown recorded goals and fourteen players put points on the sheet including an assist from Lukas Craggs, who was playing his first game of the season. Six players had multi-point games and James Winkler and Chase Pearson both had multi-goal games. Chris Birdsall would get the nod in net, his first start in five games going back to the 5-4 OT loss in Dubuque on 10/17.

Things started out quickly. Trey Bradley took an early double minor for high-sticking at 3:09 into the first. Bloomington jumped on the chance and 0:09 after the penalty, Vince Pedrie put them up 1-0, beating Chris Birdsall. That lead lasted less and three minutes as The Phantoms killed the second minor and Alec Mehr took a hooking penalty at the 5:41 mark: Josh Melnick scored 0:12 later when he took a pass from Matt Alvaro and wristed a shot through traffic that eluded Thunder goalie David Jacobsen. The floodgates opened and Trey Bradley cut through the Bloomington defense, showing his great skating ability, and dished the puck over to Kevin Conley who tucked it up behind the crossbar 0:51 after the first goal. Then just 0:46 later, Kris Mylarri get his first USHL goal after firing a shot that tipped off a stick or skate in front and took a funky hop up and over the goal line. The goal was initially credited to Lomberg who was later credited with an assist on the play after the goal was changed and awarded to Mylarri. That's three goals in 1:37 seconds. Chase Pearson would one-time a pass from Ryan Lomberg and round out the first period scoring with a little over 5:00 left in the frame.

Second verse, pretty much the same as the first. With Logan Halladay in net to replace Jacobsen, the Thunder took and early penalty allowing Kiefer Sherwood to tally at the 2:50 mark, assist to Max Letunov. Another quick penalty put the puck on Chase Pearson's stick again for a goal at 3:52, his second with assists to Sherwood and Letunov. James Winkler would net his first USHL goal just 0:22 after that for the third goal in 1:36. Lukas Craggs would be credited with the secondary assist on the Winkler goal. Tommy Parran would finish up the third peirod scoring at 16:54 with another powerplay goal.