The Phantoms only had one Sunday home game all season and it was a 5pm start yesterday against the league leading, undefeated Chicago Steel. Having won 10 in a row and looking to set a new record for the longest win streak to start the season, a record they had already equaled. The Phantoms were just looking to win the weekend at home and get to .500 at the Covelli before a big road trip.

The first period set the game up as a Eastern European goaltenders duel. The Phantoms Ivan Kulbakov, getting his second start of the weekend and third straight, against Ales Stezka who only had let in 2 goals in 4 games, 3 of those shutouts. It was evident early that neither was going to let in anything soft. Kulbakov would get a little heavier workload, the Steel outshooting the Phantoms 14-8, but both netminders would make big saves to keep it scoreless going into the first intermission.

The Phantoms would strike first on a powerplay. Nicholas Werbik would strip Matt Kirested of the puck after a mishandle behind the net and centered it to Alec Mahalak in the high slot for a wrister that beat Stezka at 3:25 of the period. The Phantoms would add to that before the period ended when Michael Karow would make a great pass up ice to hit Coale Norris, springing him and Griffin Loughran on a 2-on-0. Norris dished to Loughran who made no mistake in burying a laser of a shot top shelf at 12:03. Despite the shot count being much lower and still favoring the Steel, 6-5 in the frame, the Phantoms took the 2-0 lead to the lockers.

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.