Another game against the same team less than 24 hours from a disappointing overtime loss. Your riding your backup goalie, who only had 8 starts the last season, throughout the entire preseason and now four games into the regular season. How a team handles obstacles like this is what defines a season. I'm very happy to say the Phantoms handled the situation like the hockey team we've come to expect form the past few seasons, with hard work and win. The Youngstown boys managed their first notch in the W column in true Phantoms form in front of an appreciative home crowd.

The first period was pretty uneventful, neither team getting on the scoreboard save for some penalties. Kyle Connor opened the scoring less than 5 minutes into the second, beating Green Bay Gamblers goalie Cam Hackett. Their lead was short lived as the Wisconsin squad scored shorthanded less than 2 minutes later on a play that that at least woke the crowd up and, to me, kicked off Phantoms hockey. It started with a Matthew Weis penalty for holding. The puck cleared the Gamblers zone and the Phantom's defenseman Fredric Larsson was pressured by Sebastian Weberg. Weberg blatantly tripped Larsson and fed the puck over to Gavin Stoick who beat Jake Moore.

There was nothing subtle about it and the ref was looking straight at the play. This brought the crowd out in full force with a roar of disapproval. And as we're accustomed to, this led to a string of bad no-calls with the Gamblers taking quite a few cheap shots in the minutes that followed and Alex Smith was called for a tripping penalty less than 2:30 after the Gamblers goal, which brought a few remarks from the Phantoms faithful concerning the inconsistency of the calling. Still the Phantoms kept their cool, played through and played harder, eventually drawing a few calls as Green Bay seemed to lose their discipline in the last 5 minutes.

The animosity boiled over into the third period and finally culminated in fisticuffs. Connor Lemirande, a 6-5 235 pound forward for Youngstown dropped the gloves with 6-3 195 pound defensman Matthew Purmal. Both players exchanged heavy punches before going down to the ice no worse for the wear. This brought the hungry crowd to their feet and into the game. Phantoms hockey was finally in full effect! The Phantoms finally broke the tie at the 11:43 mark with Weis in the box again. Luke Stork took a pass from the point and ripped a shot from the right face-off dot. The puck popped out front and team captain Alfred Larsson tied up the front of the net looking for the rebound. Keifer Sherwood sneaked in from the left face-off circle and banged the puck up behind the crossbar for the lead.

This would remain the score until just 0:24 left. With their goalie pulled for an extra attacker, the Gamblers simply out-manned the Phantoms in front of the net and Kevin Irwin (no relation) put the puck on the stick of Ryan Siroky who put it in. That set us up for the second OT in as many days. However, this time it would be the Phantoms raising their hands in celebration as Keifer Sherwood laid the puck back to Alex Smith who netted his second goal, much like his first in Ann Arbor, by walking into a shot and just blasting it through. The OT frame lased only 1:52 and Green Bay didn't even record a shot on goal in this one.

It's great being able to talk about a win. Less than a day after being so close this really comes as a relief to fans. I happiest just to see no huge mistakes. Jake Moore played an exceptional game, easily his best this year if not his career. They played hard and kept their composure when the calls went against them. Actually, that seemed to galvanize the team a little, finally having something other than themselves to blame gave them a rally point. Before they were their own worst enemy. Now they need to take some momentum from this on the road with them next weekend.

For most of the evening, the Phantoms looked to be a much improved team who had shaken off the previous weekends poor performance. The defense only allowed 25 shots in over 63 minutes on backup goalie Jake Moore, who's turned into the starter in the absence of Sean Romeo. The offense looked hungry too. It seemed opening night was shaping up well and, all things considered, it was still the best game of the season for the Youngstown team. It still wasn't good enough to earn two points in the standings as a couple of costly mistakes kept the Green Bay Gamblers in it during regulation.

The Phantoms started well, JJ Pichinich scored early on a power play. Less than four minutes into the tilt and with a Gambler in the box, Josh Melnick fed the puck to the second year forward and Pichinich elevated the shot, hitting the bottom of the crossbar and in. I had just sat down in my seat after some issues with the box office and was scrambling to find my rally towel. Later in the period however, the Phantoms got into a little trouble shorthanded by two and the Gamblers were able to tie it up.

The second period gave us the first costly error. Defenseman Alex Carle made a weak outlet pass right inside his own blue line and Green Bay's Ryan Lough fed Drew Best on a 2-on-1 to take the lead. Youngstown's Luke Stork tied it up early in the third with the Phantoms second power play of the evening. Later in the frame the Phantoms went up a goal on an incredible move by rookie Maxim Letunov. The young native of Moscow Russia took a to the left of the Green Bay goal. He made a little hesitation move as if he was going to take the puck to the net or shoot on his forehand but instead dodged behind the net and wrapped it around and inside the unguarded post.

This wasn't do svidaniya for the Gamblers though. With less than two minutes in the game, veteran forward Kevin Irwin (no relation) was pressuring Youngstown's Tyler Spezia just in front of Moore's cage. The official report intimated that Irwin forced a turnover and beat Moore. This wasn't how I saw it and the replay seemed to show Spezia putting the puck behind his own goalie. I'm not sure if this was a miss-communication or if Spezia just lost track of where he was but this tied it up and sent us to OT. Then in the extra period, a little bit of a bad bounce put the puck on the stick of Green Bay veteran Nick Shcmaltz. Moore went for a poke check, probably his only bad play of the game, as Shcmaltz put the puck up and over to win the game.

There was so much positive last night it just seems such a shame a couple little errors put us on the losing side. We did get a point in the standings. The offense looked strong and the defense certainly held together better. The biggest improvement was the play of Jake Moore. There were a few scrambling moments where it looked like he was going to give up a goal but somehow managed to make a save or at least make the shooter miss. Last nights backup was Bobby Palzer who played last season with the Philadelphia Revolution in the EJHL. It's another quick turnaround game today, I'll be really interested to see how Moore handles himself today.

Opening night and the Phantoms took on the NTDP U-18 squad in Ann Arbor. Due to the horrid wifi at Motel 6 I'll keep it brief; it was ugly. It was very ugly. I don't know any way to sugarcoat this... we got beat by a touchdown. Jake Moore gave up 9 goals on 38 shots and that's pretty much the bottom line. The offense never had a chance to get going and the defense never had a chance to get settled. USA scored on their first shot just 1:09 into the game and it snowballed from there.

After USA rattled off the first three goals in the first period, Youngstown looked like they were getting back on track. Recent arrival Alex Smith scored a goal at 14:10, less than a minute after the Phantoms killed off a dumb checking from behind penalty he took. That rounded out The First period with the Phantoms down by a deuce. The Phantoms came out of the gate flying in the second. You could feel it as they hit the ice. Less than half a minute in he drew a penalty and JJ Pichinich scored on the ensuing powerplay to draw within a goal. That was as close as it got as USA knocked in four more before the period ended. Ryan Schwalbe scored a goal after a lengthy review, an odd occurrence to those who remember the Dubuque playoff series, to start the third. USA scored two more just to make sure

Of course, Moore can't be blamed for everything. There were plenty of stupid penalties and Team USA played a solid game. The Phantoms have a lot of newcomers and the this U-18 squad is mostly returning U-17 kids. Moore played the full preseason schedule with starting goalie Sean Romeo sidelined with an undisclosed injury and may be tired but we needed him to play a lot better, especially the first half of the game. And with a quick turnaround game at 3:30pm the next day, it will be interesting to see how Moore handles the U-17 squad. Non-affiliate goalie Scott Trellis was on the bench for the first game so unless something changes they'll probably start Moore again.