After a dismal home stand last weekend, the Phantoms were back at the Covelli last night to avenge their only road loss on the season so far, opening night in Plymouth against the NTDP U18 squad. The Phantoms needed to refuel and reload having gone completely flat in the pair of games against Dubuque and they were going to have to juggle players to do it. With Noah LaLonde, Brad Cocca and Max Ellis all added to the injured scratches, the Phantoms resorted to moving Ty Farmer from defense to left-wing.

Last week the Phantoms seemed to gain some life late in the second game and were probably hoping to build from that. However, at the drop of the puck last night things looked like that had slipped away. USA jumped out to an early lead 2:32 into the game when Tyler Inamoto picked up a rebound in the slot and buried a second or third chance goal behind Ivan Kulbakov for his first goal of the season. The Phantoms seemed to be a step behind the NTDP for a good portion of the frame. USA skaters seemed to get a half stride behind the defense too often. Our passing seemed to be off, just out of reach or just plain bad decisions, things just weren't clicking. NTDP netminder Dylan St. Cyr kept what few shots the Phantoms were generating out and also did a great job of cutting off dump ins and handling the puck to set up the outlet for his team. As the frame wore on, the Phantoms started to skate better and generate some better chances but still trailed 1-0 at the end of the first, shots 11-8 in favor of the NTDP.

The Phantoms would get some life early into the second period when a pair of near consecutive powerplays, 0:01 of 5-on-3, gave the Phantoms an opportunity to tie it. With Scott Reedy just leaving the penalty box and barely getting into the play, Alec Mahalak sent a cross ice pass to Alex Esposito who settled the puck and waited for St. Cyr to go down before putting it top shelf at 2:39. The assist was credited to Brandon Estes but on replay it was clearly Mahalak. The NTDP would regain the lead just 1:59 later on a tic-tac-toe play that ended with David Farrance passing from the right face-off circle to the left circle for Sean Dhoogie to put through traffic and past Kulbakov. The Phantoms would tie it again when Austin Pooley took a long shot crossing the blueline that St. Cyr was unable to corral the rebound as Evan Wisockey came crashing through the defense and stabbed the puck out from under the reaching glove of the NTDP netminder before he could cover it at 8:27. The Phantoms were finally looking like the team they had been on the road and in the home opener, pressuring the NTDP in all three zones and putting rubber on net. The Phantoms would finally overtake the lead when Brett Murray fed a puck into the slot for Nicholas Werbik who shuffled it under St. Cyr at 12:47. The Phantoms would outshoot the NTDP 16-7 in the frame. They would continue the pressure and shutdown the NTDP's offense in the third, allowing just 4 shots while taking 8 of their own and the 3-2 score would hold till the final buzzer. Tommy Apap nearly had an empty net goal but time expired a fraction of a second before.

Sometimes it's not which team is better, it's which team shows up to play. The Phantoms may be the former but last night they sure weren't the latter. After an offensive outburst the previous week on the road, the Phantoms end up shooting themselves more in the foot than shooting the puck on the net and the end result was a 3-0 loss the the Fighting Saints.

Zach Solow got the Saints on the boards on a powerplay goal 6:50 into the game with a wrist shot from the point that netminder Darion Hanson never saw due to a well set screen in front of him. The Phantoms fell deeper into the hole when Cole Guttman wrapped a pass from around the net to Dallas Gerads on the back door on a 4-on-4 play at 9:41 of the first. The Saints took the 2-0 lead to intermission, also outshooting the Phantoms 11-7 in the period. The Saints would clamp down in the second with the Phantoms never really getting anything going and taking more penalties than shots on goal. Austin Ruechhoff getting an easy on a powerplay with Regen Cavanagh setting him up in the slot. The Saints outshot the Phantoms 6-2. The Phantoms would try to muster something in the third but even though they managed to outshoot Dubuque 9-5, badly times penalties and Saints netminder Jaxon Castor kept Youngstown off the board. The final shots on goal 22-18.

I can't blame Hanson for this one. It would have been nice if he could have kept one or two of them out of the net but none of the three goals was really his fault. The first powerplay goal looked to have possibly sneaked through the five-hole and I've seen at least two others that have found their way through that way, which maybe something to look at. But without anyone for the Phantoms actually scoring, I can't put it on the goalie. The Phantoms just had no life, no energy and no direction in this game. They looked like I do on Monday before I have my coffee, it was that bad. Penalties were abundant and we gave up 2 goals on the Saints powerplay. Our passing stunk with far too many turnovers, missed passes and pucks bouncing off or over sticks to kill any flow to our game. Attack zone time was kept short by a competent Saints defense and we fumbled a lot of what few chances we had.

Nope, I have nothing good to say about the game. The best thing I can do is just forget about it and that's what the Phantoms need to do too. Write it off as just a loss and hopefully the real Phantoms will show up for the game tonight. As you can guess, no highlights.

Well, you can't win 'em all, or at least they say. However, last night the Phantoms played the same team as they did 24 hours prior and got a much different result. As I predicted, Madison dug down and finally started to find their offense and the Phantoms, despite a late push, were unable to equal the Caps.

The Phantoms drew first blood. A Brett Murray shot was blocked by a Madison skate but Alex Esposito swooped in to fire the puck from a bad angle that deflected off of Caps netminder Dryden McKay 8:52 into the first period. The Caps would get their first goal of the weekend on a mess in front of Phantoms goalie Darion Hanson. An initial shot appeared to hit the post and sit behind Hanson and was swept out by the defense, only for the Caps to put back into the net. The goal was initially waived off, I assumed for goaltender interference, but after a review the Caps were awarded the goal, Kamil Sadlocha getting the credit. The Phantoms outshot the Caps 11-7 but the score was tied going into intermission.

The Caps would get things going in the second and the Phantoms would find themselves sputtering a bit. The Caps would get their first lead of the weekend at 13:01 when Konur Peterson backhanded a rolling puck in the slot that found it's way through traffic and underneath Hanson. Alex Esposito would tie it when McKay would try to play the puck behind his net and the forecheck of Nicholas Werbik managed to dig it out and center it to Esposito for his second of the night with 3:02 left. The tie would not last even a minute, Eugene Fadyeyev snapping a one-timer from the left side faceoff circle just 0:37 after the Esposito goal. Shots were 6-5 caps in the frame.