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. 

It's good to be back home. After a couple weekends in Plymouth, Michigan, the Phantoms looked to kick off their home season with the Madison Capitols coming to town. We were hoping to build on the success of last week against the NTDP U17 squad but playing a regular USHL team is a much different beast than playing against kids in face cages, no matter how cherry picked the kids are. Fortunately, the Phantoms were more than up to the task, especially netminder Ivan Kulbakov, as the Phantoms blanked the Caps 2-0 in the first ever home opener shutout in team history.

The opening frame was mostly a feeling out process for two teams that haven't played each other since late last season. The Phantoms quickly settled into their game, an aggressive forecheck and backcheck that left the Caps struggling to get out of their zone and unable to to really set up much in the Phantoms end. Despite the Phantoms not giving hem much room, the first frame was pretty evenly played. That is until a Michael Karow dump in took an unusual bounce off one of the stanchions. Madison goaltender, Daniel Lebedeff, had gone behind the net to cut off the dump but the puck went right into the low slot area for Austin Pooley to easily put into an empty net for his 5th of the season at 16:18 of the first. Shots on goal were 7-6 Madison but the Phantoms had the lead heading to the locker room after the first.

The Phantoms began to squeeze the Caps in the second, holding them to just 4 shots on Kulbakov. On at least two occasions it looked like they initiated contact with the Phantoms goalie in an attempt to stir things up and possibly cause the aggressive netminder to think twice about playing the puck. This backfired in two ways. First, they got called for a minor penalty on the second one, clearly clipping him when he did not have the puck. Secondly, the Eastern European goaltender did not seem to be rattled and quite the opposite, seemed more into the game and his teammates responded physically to protect their goalie. The frame was scoreless with the Phantoms outshooting the caps 9-4.