The Phantoms looked to kick off the 17-18 season with a win, something we haven't done the past 4 years. Unfortunately, we'll have to wait another season for that. The Phantoms seemed to lack some of the energy we saw in preseason and displayed some of the goaltending issues that were present in Cranberry.

The Phantoms got off on the right foot.Working the puck behind the Aces net, Matthew Barry made a pass to the point to defenseman Gianfranco Cassaro who blasted it past the Aces netminder Zach Stejskal at 9:21. However, the Aces would get it back 1:30 later, with goalie Ivan Prosvetov screened, Jakub Lacka tipped a point shot in from Sebasitan Driven to tie it. Later in the period, with time expiring, Tyler Madden threw a backhander towards the net that may have hit the far post or crossbar and was deflected down and behind a flailing Prosvetov and behind him with 1.0 seconds left in the frame. The puck may have been hit with a high stick but was not called as such. The initial shot seemed to catch the Phantoms goalie off guard. Shots were 9-8 Aces.

The Aces would rule the second frame. A Tyler Madden shot would cleanly beat Prosvetov stick side at 6:40. The Phantoms though they had one back a few minutes later when an Eriks Zohovs shot was gloved by Stejskal , who was then shoved into the nety by a sliding Aces defender. I could not tell you if the refs had considered the play blown dead prior or that the puck did not cross the line, what I can tell on replay it's probably the latter, but the goal was not signaled and not counted after a short discussion. Moments later, the Aces were up ice and Max Andreev tried to tuck one in while going behind Prosveltov's net. He was unsuccessful but Drew Elser managed to poke it in with Prosvletov not able to hold the post at 9:35. Aces would out shoot us 11-5.

And just like that, the series is tied. After dropping the first pair of games to the Steel in Chicago, the Phantoms are right back in it and the series will now be determined by one last game back in Illinois. 

The Phantoms came out dominating once again - out hitting, out skating, and massively outshooting the Steel from the drop of the puck. The Phantoms would be the first to strike on the scoreboard as well, at 14:56 of the first. Michael Karow wuld take a wristshot from the blueline with Asutin Pooley set up shop infront of Steel netminder Ales Stezka. Jake Jaremko was attempting to clear the Phantoms center from the top of the crease but just added to the screen and may have added a little contact with the steel netminder as Pooley tipped the puck in. Shots were 10-1 Phantoms at this point and 12-2 at the end of the frame.

The Phantoms quickly turned their lead from one goal to a pair early in the second, just a minute in. With a lot of neutral zone chaos, Eric Esposito and Jack Badini trading cheap shots, the puck ended up on the stick of Coale Norris in the attack zone. Norris snapped a shot from the right faceoff circle that Stezka probably wants back. The cheap shots would continue all period for both teams as the game got a little chippy. The Steel's Tyler Gratton would take a head contact penalty just about a minute after the second goal. Ivan Kulbakov would get a roughing call on a shot to the back of Derek Daschke later in the frame, moments after a non-call on a trip by Marc Johnstone who hauled down Max Ellis in the neutral zone. There was a moment when it looked like Steve Ruggiero and Johnny Walker might drop the gloves. Shots were a little more even in the second, 9-6 in favor of the Phantoms.

This is what playoff hockey is all about. After struggling just to squeeze in the post-season, the Phantoms dropped the first two games against the Chicago Steel, 4-1 in the first game and a dismal 6-0 rout in the second. The Phantoms would need to do a little soul searching and find some way to get themselves going. What we saw at the Covelli last nigh was a completely different team than game 2, a team ready to play from the moment the puck dropped.

The Phantoms came out with a shoot first mentality and a stifling defense. The Phantoms would take the lead at 7:41 on an unforced error, to swipe a tennis term, by Stell netminder Ales Stezka. The Steel defense would attempt to clear the puck from the corner around the boards to to the opposite side. The puck made it to the blueline but not out as Michael Karow corralled it and sent it back on net. Stezka attempted to direct the puck to the corner with his stick but the puck jumped up off his stick and bounced across the goal line, his stick sent flying in the process. Pierce Crawford was cutting through the area and initially got credit but I don't think he was a factor, he never touched it or even screened the Steel netminder. Shots were 7-0 at this point and the Phantoms would actually add another shot before the Steel would even get their first on Ivan Kulbakov, a little over 12:00 into the first frame. Shots would end up 11-3 in favor of the Phantoms after the first.

The Steel would briefly tie it early in the second. Jack Badini made a nice pass from behind the Phantoms cage to Alec Regula who one-timed it in on Kulbakov. Kulbakov made the initial save but lost track of the rebound at the side of the cage and Eduards Tralmaks (that name is fun to say) slammed it home just 1:49 into the second and on just their 5th shot. The Phantoms would get back to work and retake the lead at 6:10 of the second. Max Ellis would settle the puck just outside the Chicago blueline and Marshall Moise would carry the puck in, dance around a few Steel defenders and fire a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle beating Stezka. Tommy Apap would add another on a shorthanded rush up ice, beating Stezka from the right faceoff circle at 9:23. Shots were 12-8 in the second.