Since family matters kept me from catching the webcast of the Indiana game, I'm combining this weekends recaps. I'll probably do this for a lot of road trip or home & away weeks. With the Phantoms struggling to keep puck out of their net and keep their cool, Friday's game was a welcome glimmer of relief on the horizon. The Chicago Steel are a team that looked to be struggling even worse and we started the weekend on home ice. The conundrum was weather to give Jake Moore some relief this weekend and play affiliate call-up, Colin DeAugustine, in abcentia Sean Romeo. Moore had played all 11 games starting in pre-season and it was quite evident he needed some rest. However, the Steel are a team hungry to establish an identity and, more importantly, win their first game. The question was weather they would chance that to a goalie who hasn't played a single USHL game and if so, could he handle it. The answers was "yes" to both and the later emphatically.

DeAugustine, who plays for the NAHL Johnstown Tomahawks, faced a few Steel shots early on including a Steel power play. He showed no sign of being nervous and looked sharp from the beginning to the end. Chicago may not have generated a lot of good chances but they put 27 shots on net and DeAugustine turned aside all 27. The Steel had over a minute of a two-man advantage on the power play and still failed to get one by the Phantoms goalie. The Covelli crowd may not have been large, but the rookie from Burgettstown, PA certainly got the faithful into a frenzy. He also had a few friends and family there too.

A pattern is starting to emerge with the Phantoms, a very bad pattern. That pattern is late third period goals against us. Last weekend we were ahead in both games with only a few minutes left and we gave up a point in the standings and let a conference rival get an extra point because of them. Last night it cost us at least a point on a night Youngstown played a gutsy game against a RoughRiders team that out matched us for a good portion of the night.

The Cedar Rapids team is returning a massive 15 players from last season. That kind of experience is invaluable, especially early in the USHL season. On the Phantoms side we have some injuries, suspensions and other scratches, depleting our already less experienced defensive squad. D-man Kyle Mackey served the second game of his suspension, he has two left. Alex Carle was scratched for his second straight game, injury related according to Bart Logan's tweet. Also scratched on defense was Blake Christensen. The Phantoms called up affiliate Carson Vance, a 1996 birth year who has 3 assists in 7 games for the Janesville Jets of the NAHL. Bobby Palzar warmed the bench again as Jake Moore's emergency backup in the absence of starter Sean Romeo.

The 'Riders experience showed in the first period as the held the Phantoms to just two shots on goal the whole frame while getting ten of their own. The defense and Moore did what they could to contain them but Andrew Oglevie, in his 3rd USHL season and 115th regular season game, scored the only goal of the period on a powerplay. After being stifled on offense so thoroughly in the first, the Phantoms came out with a good jump in the second. However, after a nice initial push Phantoms defensman Matt Miller got caught out of position and the 'Riders took a 2-0 lead just 2:25 into the period. With Miller backpedaling way too far to the middle of the ice near his own blueline, Andrew Poturalski hit and unabated Jason Kalinowski with a stretch pass going up the right wall. The Cedar Rapids forward went right around the Youngstown defense and in one-on-one with Moore. Moore looked to make the stop but The 'Riders forward plowed over the Phantoms goaltender and the puck somehow went over the line as the net was dislodged. The ref, who was in position to see it, deemed it a good goal. 

The Phantoms responded quickly on a powerplay. Kyle Connor was denied on a shot but JJ Piccinich stuffed home the rebound to halve the deficit. Then with just under 5 minutes to go in the period the Phantoms evened it up, again with Connor leading the charge up ice. He managed to get the puck to Ryan Schwalbe who then passed it laterally over to Maxim Letunov who scored his 2nd goal of the season. The Phantoms managed to match the 'Riders in shot total for the period at eleven.

Cedar Rapids went back to smothering the Phantoms offense early in the 3rd and scored a little over 3 minutes into the final frame. 'Riders forward Nathan Widman took the puck behind the Phantoms cage and went for the wrap around shot. Moore seemed in control and made the initial pad save but the the rebound went back off the handle of Moore's stick and just inside the far post. Later in the period though, the Phantoms would tie it again when Kyle Connor came charging down the wing and started to make his way behind the net. He threw a pass to JJ Picchinich, who was hovering around the crease in front of the net, and Picchinich put it in the basket for his 5th of the season. Connor also picked up his 3rd assist of the night. The Phantoms held the fort and seemed to be heading towards overtime and a point in the standings. Unfortunately, this wasn't in the cards for them Friday night. Late in the period the 'Riders entered the Phantoms zone on a 2-on-2 after Alfred Larrson was stopped on a breakaway attempt the other way. Instead of making a move or a pass, Andrew Poturalski just took a shot on more from the circle and beat Moore with 1:14 left in the game and that was it.

So frustratingly close but yest so disappointingly far away. With less than a minute and a half, we gave up a goal that shouldn't have happened. There were far more chances for Cedar Rapids that could have gone in but Moore or the defense somehow kept it out. I would think that even getting a point in the standings with a regulation tie would have been an emotional victory for the team but now they go into Waterloo empty handed. What's worse is that there is no rest in sight for Moore. Very little has been mentioned about Romeo's injury and his name almost seems taboo from the official sources. The best note we got is that the injury is 'nagging' and I'm no doctor but that doesn't sound too descriptive. With no one being called up in earnest to give him a night off, he's had to shoulder the entire load, starting from preseason. It's hard to fault him on the last goal even though it seemed like a stoppable shot. He's faced a lot of rubber this year after playing in only 8 total games last season, 2 of those in relief. He's looked to get stronger every game despite the load. I guess tonight's game in Waterloo will show us how he and the rest of the team handle a loss like that and if last weekend was any indicator, it should be a good game at least.

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.