The Phantoms playoff hopes are still alive. With the Phantoms needing 3 of the 4 possible points this weekend, last nights win put us just an overtime away from the playoffs. Faceing the NTDP U17 squad, who are having some issues of their own at the moment, seems like it should be an easy task but it never is. When you add in the pressure of having to get points and how inconsistently we have  played down the stretch, you never really know what will happen. The good news is the Phantoms rose to the challenge and picked up a big win at home.

Things started scary enough. Early in the first period, Jake Gingell sent a clearing attempt from behind the Phantoms net to the blueline where only a pair of NTDP forwards waited for it. Josh Maniscalco  was the one who corralled it and sent a wrist shot in on net that Phantoms netminder Ivan Kulbakov failed to get a glove on and the NTDP took a 1-0 lead just 2:34 into the game on their first shot. The Phantoms would get their chance to even it up when Jack DeBohr took a double minor penalty for high sticking. Shortly after that the NTDP would mess up a line change badly, jumping three men on for two off. The result was a full 2:00 of a two-man advantage powerplay. Austin Pooley would be the recipient of a rebound from a Dominic Dockery shot from the right faceoff circle and Pooley would backhand the puck around a sprawled NTDP netminder, Anthony Yamnitsk who was recently called in from the BCHL. The tie would hold into the intermission, shots on goal were 11-9 in favor of the Phantoms.

The Phantoms would take the lead on another Pooley special teams goal, this time short handed. The play would start with a Steve Ruggerio hit on Jake Pivonka crossing the blueline into the Phantoms zone. This propelled the puck back into the neutral zone. Pooley had a step on two USA defenders and the closest NTDP skater lost his stick trying to reach around Pooley for the puck. Pooley would skate to the right faceoff circle and shoot, beating Yamnitsky over his glove on the short side with very little room to sneak the puck in at 8:34 of the second. The Phantoms would add another a little over 2:00 later. Pierce Crawford would pick off a clearing attempt and make a nice pass to Ruggiero who sneaked in from his defensive position to the right facoff circle. Ruggiero quickly slid the puck over to the left faceoff circle for Alex Esposito to slam home for a 2 goal lead at 10:49. The Phantoms outshooting the NTDP 7-6.

Sorry for the lack of a timely Frday recap, I'm just going to combine the two games. I don't like to do this but my time has been limited lately and frankly, I was too disappointed Yesterday to write the Frday recap. Yep, the Phantoms went .500 again and this took control of their own playoff destiny out of their hands and now we need some help from either Madison or Bloomington to continue the season past next weekend.

Friday's game started out good. The Phantoms came out with a lot of energy and looked to be ready to play. That probably lasted about 5 minutes before we settled into a much more lax routine. Lincoln would get a powerplay and at 13:08 Christian Evers would put a shoit low glove side on Ivan Kulbakov that would sneak in just inside the post for a 1-0 lead. With 041 left in the second, Alex Esposito would get a poweplay goal of his own off a great feed from Evan Wiscocky. Lincolns netminder, Josef Korenar, would make a great initial save but Esposito would shovel home a rebound over the sprawling netminder.

The tie would not last long, a failed clearing attempt put the puck on the stick of Carter Long, who took a shot from outside the right faceoff circle. What should have been an easy save for Kulbakov tipped off some piece of his equipment and in the net at 2:46 of the third. Just 0:31 later, Chayse Priemeu would circle from behind Kulbakov's net and try backhanded wraparound that Kulbakov made the save on but Primeau would continue to stab at until it went in. Brandon Schultz would add the empty net to seal it. The effort just wan't there, pretty much everyone in the building commented on it heading out to the parking lot.

The Phantoms needed a win against Green Bay to keep on the right track heading towards the playoffs. After a tough loss to Muskegon last Saturday it was not only imperative that they not lose any more ground in the standings but I think the team, as well as a few individual players, needed to prove they could bounce back after such a big loss. The Gamblers came into Youngstown just trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. With the number of games remaining on the season dwindling, a weekend pair of head-to-head match-up games might be the last chance they get to catch up.

Things got off to a quick start for Green Bay. After the Phantoms won a faceoff just outside the their defensive zone, Alec Mahalak bobbled the puck a little in the high slot area. The Gamblers John Leonard jumped on the oppertunity, stripped Mahalak of the puck. Ivan Kulbakov made an initial save but Leonard got his own rebound and shoveled a backhand hot over the sprawled Phantoms netminder just 1:05 into the game. One of the Phantoms who needed a big game after last week was Kulbakov. After giving up 3 goals on 10 shots and getting pulled last weekend, this would be a big test of the netminders resiliency. I'll be honest, I was a little worried. The Phantoms would push back and not long after Pierce Crawford would pull up just inside the attack zone and fire a wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle that eluded Gamblers goaltender David Hrenak, time of the goal 6:18. Neither team would get much advantage in the period after that and the shots were 9-7 in favor of the Phantoms into intermission.

The deadlock continued in the second period until the the Phantoms took the puck from their own end in a transition rush up ice. Coale Norris carried the puck into the Gamblers zone with Pierce Crawford flanking him. Green Bay managed to defend them but did not pick up a trailing Evan Wisocky as Norris manage to look off Crawford and hit Wisocky with a pass for the go ahead goal at 9:10 of the second. Again, neither team really looked to have a dominant edge in the period, shots were 9 a piece but the Phantoms took the 1 goal lead into the third frame.