Yesterday was the annual School Day Game, when we bus in the local schools to fill the arena and pad attendance. For the few season ticket holders and other fans who still attend the morning game, it's a surreal experience and a loud one.The kids and fans in attendance were treated to an exciting game, too bad it just wasn't a win. 

The Muskegon Lumberjacks opened the scoring. Anthony Del Gaizo carried the puck into the Phantoms zone but the sweeping stick of Ty Farmer sent the puck to the end boards. Del Gaizo would recover the puck and send a pass to Mikael Hakkarainen, recently acquired from Chicago for defenseman Derek Daschke, and the Finnish forward would launch a shot that was a little faster than the glove of Ivan Kulbakov at 7:28. The 'Jacks lead would not hold too long, just over 2:00 later Cooper Zech tried to bring the puck out from behind his own net but Phantoms affiliate call-up Dalton Hunter stipped him of the puck from behind and put a turnaround shot through the legs of 'Jacks netminder Kieth Petruzzelli. It's easy to see why Hunter, a 2014 9th round Phase 2 draft pick for the Phantoms, is leading the NAHL in points. The Phantoms Michael Karow would pick up a major penalty and game misconduct for head contact late in the period but Muskegon failed to score on it, including the time carried over to the second. Shots would end up 11-10 in favor of the 'Jacks but the score would still be tied at the end of the frame. 

The 'Jacks would add a late second period goal to take a 2-1 lead to intermission when Koby Bender would deflect a shot in the slot from Marc Del Gaizo at the point. Phantoms outshot the 'Jacks 11-7 in the second, setting up a memorabel third period. The Phantoms tied it early in the frame when Petruzzelli weakly tried to clear the puck out of his crease and sent it to Alex Esposito in the crease who immediately hit Brett Murray on the backdoor at 3:36. Both teams would fight to get anything on net for most of the period but nothing got past a goalie until the final few minutes of the period when Bo Hanson cleared the puck with a nice arial dump pass up the boards and Koby Bender poaching behind the Phantoms defense. Bender took the pass near the right corner boards and put a beautiful no-look behind the back, backhanded centering pass to Will Smith on the doorstep of Kulbakov's crease for a go-ahead goal with 3:03 left to play. With mostly zeros on the clock and Kulbakov pulled for an extra attacker, Alec Mahalak sneaked down from the point and found the puck in traffic and jammed it home. The question was, was there any time on the clock when it crossed the line. The refs initially signaled goal and after a brief conference, confirmed 0.6 seconds were left when the Phantoms tied it up. The shots on goal were 8 a piece in the third.

The Phantoms just don't seem to catch a break at home. We're currently the best team on the road but conversely the second worst at home, only the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders have a worse home record. The last team the Phantoms beat at home was the Chicago Steel and the Phantoms were looking to cache in on that again last Friday but fell short by a goal.

The Phantoms started in a dominant fashion, controlling the play for a good part of the first period. The Phantoms got on the board first, Alex Esposito lead the rush into the attack zone and laid a pass to Nicolas Wekbik just as they crossed the blueline. Werbik took the pass entering the right faceoff circle and launched a wrist shot from the dot that beat Steel netminder Ales Stezka at 10:32 of the first period. The Steel would answer back with 3:04 remaining. Jake Jaremko would take a pass from Reggie Lutz and drove into the attack zone. A Phantoms defenseman, I think Ty Farmer, swent down in a slide early to block a shot allowing Jaremko to slide easily into the slot and fire off a shot that beat Ivan Kulbakov. The Steel would grab the lead early in the second period, 2:10 into the frame, when Tyler Gratton flipped a deceiving backhander from the right faceoff circle through a little traffic that I think Kulbakov would have wanted back.

After the second goal the Phantoms seemed a little deflated but would continue to get shots on Stezka throughout the second period. The Steel tightened up the defense and blocked a lot of shots in the third period and Stezka made several excellent saves to keep the score 2-1. The Phantoms would not even get a puck through traffic and on net during the over 1:30 of 6 on 5 with Kulbakov pulled. shots on goal were 8-6, 13-6, 5-6 with the final shots on goal 26-18 in favor of the Phantoms. Good defense and excellent goaltending won the day for Chicago.

A bad start to a game can really hurt a team, the Phantoms put that on display last night. The Phantoms gave up a pair of goals in under 4:00 to start the game and never recovered, only scoring once and losing 4-1 to the Bloomington Thunder. This one may have some consequences down the road as well, the Phantoms management needing to address a few problems.

The Thunder went to work early in the first. Griffin Lunn opened the scoring when he gloved down a fluttering rebound off a Vladislav Dzhiovili shot right in slot in front of netminder Darion Hanson and quickly fired a shot by the surprised goalie just 2:28 in. Moments later, Cameron Burke would strip Tommy Apap of the puck heading through the neutral zone, passing to Marko Reifenburger for a shot. Hanson would make the initial save but the rebound came straight to Burke to shoot from the left faceoff circle for a goal 1:01 after the first. Mitchel Mattson would make it 3-0 when Ethan Somoza would hit him with a pass just above the faceoff circles and Mattson made a nifty move to cut between to Phantoms defenders in the high slot and putting a backhand shot by a sprawling Hanson at 9:00 leading to Hanson being pulled for Ivan Kulbakov.

The Phantoms would get one of those goals back just 1:00 later on a powerplay when Alex Esposito put a cross ice pass to Dominic Dockery parked off the post to the left of Thunder netminder Logan Halladay that Dockery was able to rifle home for his first of the season. That was as close as it would get. Ben Mirageas would add a powerplay goal with 2:05 left in the second, batting a puck out of the air. It looked to me like it was played with a high stick but none the less, it was ruled a goal. Logan Halladay would stop 27 of the 28 shots he faced in the game, 46 of the 28 he saw both nights.