Well, they say a day late and a dollar short... I'm over that on both counts this week. Anyway, bear with me as I try to get back into the swing of things here while doing my day job due to my PC at home taking a small dive Sunday as I wrote the first draft of this recap. Since I didn't get one for the win on the road against the NTDP U18s, I felt a little obligated to get this one done.

With the Phantoms being statistical eliminated from the playoffs the night before with a Bloomington win, there was a noticeable lack of tension in the Covelli Centre. There was also a noticable lack of tension and effort from the NTDP defense. The Phantoms got out to a quick start, which was something I had mentioned in the weekly preview as being key to keeping the U18s from getting chippy early in the game. The NTDP defense seemed keen on letting the Phantoms transition up ice and get odd-man rushes. Things would get a little physical and both sides would get a pair of powerplay chances in the first frame and the Phantoms would capitalize on their second to get on the board first. Matt Alvaro would take the puck and wheel around out of the right side face-off circle and drive the net. The puck came lose in the crease and may have deflected off the skate of Chase Pearson and, in any event, slid under NTDP netminder Jake Oettinger at 14:03 of the period. About half a minute later Alex Esposito drove into the attack zone with Patrick Kramer on a 2-on-1 against defenseman Chad Krys, 3-on-1 if you count a trailing Kevin Conley. The elder Esposito ripped a bar-down shot that sent Oettinger to the bench for Joseph Woll. The Phantoms took a 2-0 lead to the lockers, the NTDP outshooting us 11-9.

USA would stabilize things a little in the second but still looked flat, committing some bad turnovers and other mistakes. The Phantoms would get the lone tally, Tommy Apap driving the net with Garrett Hall ultimately getting an easy tap in at 15:03. That sent Woll off the ice and Oettinger back on. I'm not sure what the purpose of that was but at 3-0 it seemed like the NTDP was raising the white flag. A few minutes later they showed their last bit of life with a scrum behind Ryan Bednards net that sent a couple players off with coincidental minors. The Phantoms had a slim 9-8 lead in the shots on goal for the second frame. The third would be uneventful with only 7 total shots on goal, 4 of those for the Phantoms. Ryan Bednard would get the Phantoms first shutout of the season in game 55, stopping 22 of 22. Both NTDP netminders faced 11 shots, Oettinger stopping 9 and Woll stopping 10.

If the Phantoms want to make it to the post-season they need to put points up in the standings when and where they can. Last night they played a wounded Madison Capitols team for the second straight night and earned their first weekend sweep in about a month. At least we had Coach Wroblewski back on the bench.

The Phantoms got off to a better start and got on the board first, just over 5:00 into the game. Matt Miller would carry the puck up ice on the rush and layed a pass from the half boards to the slot, seemingly intended for Chase Pearson defended by Alexandre Payusov. Payusov managed to keep Pearson from getting the puck but the biscuit rolled to the top of the crease for a crashing Cam Morrsion who stuffed it over Caps netminder Ryan Edquist. Shots were 11-9 in favor of Madison but the Phantoms had the only goal of the frame.

The second would see the Caps surge a little tie it back up. After a few Caps chances just trickeled wide, Cooper Watson sent a shot from the point that was deflected by Luke McElhenie and past Ryan Bednard at the 12:28 mark of the frame. At this point the Caps had outshot the Phantoms 10-4 in the period but the Phantoms would respond in kind. With the Phantoms putting more pressure on the Caps and time ticking down in the frame, Lukas Craggs send a pass to the slot. Luke McInnis pinched in from his defensive position and made sure he was the one who got the puck with a Caps defender in good position to make a play and McInnis blasted a shot that found the back of the net for a 2-1 lead with 0:30 left in the period. The Phantoms evened the shots up 10-10 in the frame meaning that the Caps did not get another shot on goal in the period after they scored.

The Phantoms were desperately in need of a win at home after losing the last 3 games. Enter the Madison Capitols, this season only real big trade deadline seller. This wasn't exactly a "must win" game but we're very, very close to that kind of situation. We knew we would be without Kris Myllari who is suspended 3 games. What wasn't announced, at least not that I heard, was that Head Coach John Wroblewski was also suspended, at least 1 game, presumably from whatever caused his ejection last week. Assistant Coach Brad Patterson would have to take over as bench boss, at least for the night. This is not new ground for him, Anthony Noreen was no stranger to suspensions, but we've had other assistant coaches. Last season John Rohan was also on the bench to split the duty. That position has been unfilled all season and now we were in a awkward position. Enter call-up coach, Russ Sinkewich. Sinkewich is a well traveled pro-player, mostly playing in the ECHL but also plenty of AHL experiecne including some with the Lake Erie Monsters. He also played 37 games for the Lincoln Stars in 2004-2005 and NCAA with Bowling Green from 2005-2009. Most recently he was an assistant coach for the Cleveland Barons AAA bantam youth team. 

Things started out a little rough. After a few good offensive pushes out of the gate, Patrick Kramer got tangled up skating into Caps goaltender Drew Hotte, and received a minor at 3:03. The Phantoms technically killed the PP but as Kramer was stepping out of the box, Marcel Godbout snapped a turn-around shot from near the blueline with Guillaume Leclerc parked no more than 6 inches from Ryan Bednard, more of a wall than just a screen, and the Godbout shot hit the back of the net 2 seconds after Kramers penalty expired, 5:05 of the 1st. The Phantoms would get their chance on the PP later as well. Vas Kolias would do a little side ways skating with the puck along the blueline and let a wrist shot fly that may have caught the Caps Alexandre Payusov and, in any event, knuckled through traffic and bounce under Hotte and off the inside right pad above his skate for a five-hole shot that scored from a little over 60 foot away on the powerplay at 8:57. The Phantoms would keep going and Luke McInnis would lay a diagonal pass from the left point to Lukas Craggs in the right face-off circle. Craggs settled the puck and snapped an unbelievable shot from the outer hashmark over Hotte's shoulder and sending the water bottle a foot into the air with 4:34 remaining. The Phantoms outshot the Caps 12-7 and took the 2-1 lead into the 1st intermission.

The Phantoms would push the lead to a pair on another powerplay when Yushirō Hirano loaded up on the powerplay and blasted a shot down the middle of the ice from near the blueline high glove side on Hotte and the netminder barely waved at it at 8:20 of the 2nd.I sit on the opposite end of the ice and even I saw the daylight high glove side so I'm sure Hirano could see it and there was very little traffic. The Phantoms controlled the play most of the frame but the Caps persisted and Eugene Fadyeyev would throw a puck at the net just before being rode into the boards. The puck somehow trickled through Bednard and must have just crossed the line as Carter Ekberg scooped it out of the crease. The light came on and the ref, in good position to see, signaled goal immediately. After a decent discussion it was confirmed a goal, the Caps cutting the lead to just a single goal at 17:53. Chase Pearson would get called for a hook with just under a minute ln the frame. However, a miscommunication between Hotte and defenseman Daniel Willett lead to a turnover behind the net. With Hotte out of the net the puck bounced to Matt Alvaro behind the net who sent if in front for Tommy Apap who sent it to Luke McInnis who put it in the net as Hotte waqs trying to get back in and square to the shot with just 0:38 left. The Phantoms outshot the Caps 13-7. Ryan Edquist replaced Hotte in the 3rd period. The Caps took a slight edge in shots in the final frame, 10-8, but both sides held and the Phantoms cruised to a 4-2 win.