The second week of USHL action is in the books and the Phantoms put a pair of marks in the win column. Granted it was the U17 NTDP squad but the Phantoms looked impressive despite some mounting injury problems. Noah Lalonde and Garrett hall are both still sidelined and now team captain Tommy Apap missed the trip with an injury. Also, in addition to the injuries, Eric Esposito did end up with a 2 game suspension for the altercation with Brady Tkachuk from the previous game. This meant Sam Craggs finally got to see some ice time in a regular season game and affiliate Jack Malone got some USHL action early in the season.

Defenseman Marcus Joseph got things going for Youngstown on Friday. Just coming out of the penalty box and getting into the play, and with the Phantoms still with a man in the box, he took advantage of a Bode Wilde fumble on the blueline and took the puck up ice and slid a shot five-hole on USA netminder Keegan Karki 6:47 in. A little over halfway through the first USA failed to clear seveal times and Sam Craggs had a grade A chance go off the post and back out in front for Austin Pooley to pop in to make it 2-0. With 1:17 left in the frame, Evan Wisocky took a pass from Alex Esposito in the slot and despite a USA defender getting a stick on it, the puck found it's way behind Karki. Shots in the first period were 16-6 Phantoms.

The Phantoms went back to work in the second after USA almost got on the board, Joel Farabee being denied a shot by an agressive Ivan Kulbakov and the Phantoms defense clearing a puck laying still behind their netminders back. On an offensive zone faceoff, Pooley tied up his man and Chase Gresock moved in from the wing to grab the puck in the circle and snapped it passed Karki to make it 4-0. The NTDP would get on the boards a few minutes later with 5:08 left in the frame when defenseman Mattias Samulesson would get a rebound in the slot off a Farabee shot and burried it behind Kulbakov. Pooley would get it back with his second of the night with 1:11 in the second, firing a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle. Shots in the second were 11-4 in favor of the Phantoms, the NTDP did not register a shot on Kulbakov for the first 14:05 of the period. Coale Norris scored the only goal of the final frame when Jack DeBoer failed to clear the puck on a weak attempt and put it on Norris's stick and Norris launched a missile from near the blueline to add insult to injury. The final score was 6-1, shots in the 3rd were 14-7 Youngstown and 39-17 in the game.

And the streak continues. For the fourth year straight the Phantoms have kicked off the season against the NTDP's U18 squad and for the fourth time in as many seasons, we got beat. I won't sugar coat this one, for a good portion of this game it looked pretty ugly. The final score doesn't give the full story on the meltdown, 5-3 sounds respectable. However, 2 of those goals were scored very late when they really didn't mean anything and after a major loss of composure.

It started out well enough. The Phantoms looked to be on track in the first frame. Despite being outshot a little, we kept pace with the U18s. The NTDP got the first powerplay on a Nicholas Werbik penalty for hooking. Josh Norris took a long shot from the point and Phantoms netminder Darion Hanson was unable to corral the rebound and Brady Tkachuk managed to put the loose puck into the net to take a 1-0 lead 9:50 into the game. Just 0:25 late however, Griffin Loughran laid a nice drop pass into the slot for Coale Norris who ripped a shot to the fart post past NTDP goaltender Dylan St. Cyr. The 1-1 tie carried into the first intermission, shots 11-7 in favor of USA.

The second frame is where things began to break down. Despite Hanson making some really good save early in the period on a USA power play, a bad pass by Michael Karow just inside his own blueline lead to a Josh Norris unassisted snipe at 2:24. The NTDP added another one at 9:24 when Jacob Tortora chopped the puck which looked to still be behind the goalline after a bounce off the end boards. The puck somehow found a crack between Hanson and the post where no one else could see any daylight. Evan Barratt extended the lead to 4-1 at 13:03 with a deflection that bounced five hole on Hanson. The shots were almost even 12-11 USA but the score was looking a little lopsided after two.

We're out of the playoffs but the Youngstown Phantoms aren't ending the season on a sour note. Instead, they're playing some of the best hockey they've played all season and on our longest win streak of the campaign - 4 games and counting. The Omaha Lancers found that out as the Lancers aren't playing very well and are on the verge of elimination themselves. 

The game got off to a good pace. The Lancers had some good early puck possession but were unable to make anything of it. Vas Kolias got us on the board with just our second shot of the game 5:20 into it when Chase Pearson sent a pass from the right-off circle to the left where the sneaky defenseman had jumped up into the play and with the Lancers defense backing up way too much. Kolias put the puck in with Omaha netminder Zackarais Skog sliding left to right. The Phantoms would strike again in the opening frame when Chase Pearson would force a Lancer's turnover just inside the Lancer's blueline. With the play still on-sides the Red Wings draft pick hit Cam Morrison alone in the slot who ripped it over the glove of Skog. The Phantoms outshot the Lancers 13-8 in the 1st, taking a 2-0 lead to the lockers. The Phantoms pushed the lead to 3 goals in the second, in a simple 3-on-2 rush up ice, Cam Morrison hit Jason Cotton who just had time to get a shot off from the inside hashmark of the left face-off circle before the backcheck caught up to him and the puck found it's way through Skog at 5:19 of the second. The Lancers outshot us 10-8 but we held the 3-0 lead into the final 20:00.

The final frame would be a good one. Near the mid-point of the frame, Eric Esposito took a slashing call after breaking an opponents stick. on the  ensuing powerplay, defenseman Jake Massie sent a shot from the blueline that, according to the scorecard, was deflected by Nick Rivera. In any event, it was 3-1 at 9:34. This was the first goal on Ryan Bednard in over 120 minutes of play, his shutout streak dating back to 3/20. A few minutes later, Lukas Craggs would put on the speed-skates to negate an icing call and centered the puck to Eric Esposito who was hooked by Massie. This set the Phantoms up for a tic-tack-toe powerplay goal, Yushirō Hirno to Matt Alvaro to Chase Pearson to Lukas Craggs and in at 13:01 in one of the prettiest goals all season. Jason Cotton would fight to get a puck to Cam Morrison open for an empty net goal at 18:15. The Lancers, to their credit, kept playing and with 0:40, took advantage of a Phantoms turnover in our zone and the puck ended on the stick of Josh French who sniped one by Bednard. The shots were tied 8-8 in the frame and 29-26 in favor of the Phantoms overall.