The Phantoms dropped a third straight game last night after putting up nearly 30 shots on goal. This time they managed to take it to an overtime period and grab a point in the standing out of it. Their opponent was the Western Conference leading Sioux City Musketeers, who they face again tonight. 

The Musketeers got on the board first. Phantoms defenseman Michael Karow attempted to skate out from around his own net and Musketeers winger Sampo Ranta swept the puck right off Karow's stick and into the net for a surprising goal at 5:25 of the first period. The Muskies had pushed the play to this point, out shooting the Phantoms 4-1. The Phantoms picked up the pace and finished the first period outshooting their opponents 11-6.

The Phantoms would strike back in the second. Alec Mahalek would send a shot from the point on net with a lot of traffic in front. I originally thought Max Ellis put the rebound in, the initial credit went to Marshall Moise but was eventually awarded to Tommy Apap. This goes to show how much traffic the Phantoms had down low on the play. Shots were 9-4 in the frame in favor of the Phantoms and the score was tied after two periods.

The Phantoms closed out the New Year with an afternoon matinee against the NTDP U18s in the last meeting between the Phantoms and this NTDP squad. A win would would close out 2016 with the Phantoms in second place in the Eastern Conference and third overall in the league and give us good momentum heading into 2017. And with a new addition to the lineup of forwards in Marshall Moise and an old friend returing to defense in Steven Ruggiero, a win would also be a great welcome party.

This game was not going to be an end-to-end, high tempo game and neither team was going to shoot the lights out. The Phantoms just needed to keep things clean and simple and not let the U18s dictate the pace and the Phantoms delivered for the most part. USA would have an excellent chance to open the scoring in the middle of the first frame when the Phantoms would go down two men to penalties. With Chase Gresock already in the box, Michael Karow went casing after a lose puck that had been tipped behind the USA defense and was rolling into the high slot. NTDP netminder Dylan St. Cyr charged out to the faceoff circle hash marks and tipped the puck aside just before Karow reached it and as Karow was diving for the puck. Karow got a little piece of the USA goaltender who went down, mostly by his own momentum but it was enough to give the U18s 0:33 of 5-on-3 but they failed to capitalize.

Less than two minutes after the kill the Phantoms would convert the momentum into the opening goal of the game when Max Ellis would skate the puck behind the net and put a pass to the slot for Evan Wisocky who put puck top shelf for the 1-0 lead 16:20 into the first. This was only the Phantoms second shot of the period and shots in the first would end up at 7-4 in favor of USA at the first intermission. The NTDP would even it up in the second when the puck took a slow roll through the crease of Ivan Kulbakov, eluding the sprawling netminder and kept going until it reached the stick of Evan Barratt for the tap in at 10:11. The tie would hold until the end of the frame with shots on goal in the second 4-2 in favor of the Phantoms.

The last time the Phantoms faced the Muskegon Lumberjacks the Phantoms needed some last minute heroics to extend the game to overtime only to lose in the extra frame. This time it would be the 'Jacks scrambling to force overtime but still coming up short. The Phantoms pushed their win streak to 5 games, and are 8-1-1-0 in their last 10, despite a couple missing pieces in the way of Brett Murray who left for the NCAA and Ivan Kulbakov who was suspended. Yes, you read the last one correctly and I'll get to that later. For now I'll just say that it was Britt Leagues first forced appearance since I'm pretty sure that Kulbakov would have started if he were eligible.

The first period was a little slow starting. Both teams showing some holiday rust and I heard rumors about both teams possibly missing morning skates due to issues at both facilities, the Ice Zone and the Covelli. Twice the 'Jacks thought they had the first goal but twice the refs waived it off immediately, the first for a high stick and the second for goaltender interference. Shots would be 9-8 in favor of the visiting team after the first period but the score was still tied at nothing a piece.

The 'Jacks would finally get the opening goal when Britt League came behind his net to handle a dump in. He laid a weak pass over to Michael Karow but was intercepted along the goal line by Andrei Svechnikov who tried to put a sharp angle shot into the empty net. His shot did not find it's mark but the rebound hopped out to Will Smith who was able to get it on goal before League was able to get back in place and Muskegon took the lead just 1:02 into the second. The Phantoms would tie it up later in the frame after a high hit from Matt Steeves drew a 5 minute major penalty, as well as a round of fisticuffs with Jake Gingell. With the Phantoms on the extended PP, Nicholas Werbik would take a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle that would deflect off of Alex Esposito and by 'Jacks netminder Adam Brizgala at 11:34. The 1-1 tie would hold to the intermission with the 'Jacks outshooting the Phantoms 9-8.