No matter how hard you try you won't win them all, especially when the other team tries harder.That's my takeaway from this weekends games. On Friday, the Phantoms were clearly the more prepared team and outworked their opponent. On Sunday the RoughRiders seemed to swing things back in their favor and worked a little more than the Phantoms for a full 60:00, and that was the difference.

We all knew Ross Colton would be a key factor in the Sunday game, having served a game suspension for his 3rd misconduct penalty of the season on Friday. This was evident in the first period when, just out of the penalty box, Colton went streaking into the Phantoms zone along his left wing side and launched a wrister that beat Ryan Bednard at 12:27. Ryan Shea had the assignment but seemed to be flat-footed when Colton left the box and was unable to contain him. The Phantoms would tie it up later when Kevin Conley just threw a backhander high on net that took 'Riders netminder Ben Blacker by complete surprise. That was the last time it would be tied as late in the frame, with 0:04 left, Ross Colton found the puck in the traffic in the slot and wristed it past Bednard. The Phantoms outshot the 'Riders by a slim 9-8 margin but trailed by a goal going into the intermission.

The 'Riders would extend the lead early , 4:49 into the 2nd, on the powerplay when Jacob Hayhurst launched a wrister from his right side face-off circle that beat Bednard over his glove, which barely flinched on the shot. James Winkler would get us back to within a goal when he took a Cam Morrison pass at the side of the net, skated around the top of the crease waiting for Blacker to make the first move and depositing the puck when he did, 0:59 after the Heyhurst goal. Later in the period the 'Riders would push the lead back to 2 when Karch Bachman came up his left die boards into the Phantoms end and laid a pass to the slot. All eyes were on Bachman, as both defensemen Connor Moore and Luke McInnis converged on him ,and Mitch Reinke and Johnny DeRoche were alone to set up. Reinke dished a pass to DeRoche as a late backchecking Phantoms forward almost caught up but DeRoche buried it with 3:21 left in the frame. Shots were 9-7 in favor of the 'Riders.

In the weekly preview I thought the Phantoms needed to do a few things to have a successful weekend. After the first game let's sit back and see how things panned out. The obvious, play hard the whole game - check. I thought we needed our defense to help out the goaltender, especially early - check. I wanted to see some players break some slumps - check. I wanted to see a particular defenseman's improvement pay off - check. I thought we needed to stay out of the penalty box... well, you can't win 'em all. You especially can't win that battle when the referee seems to be psychotic, but I'll get into that later.

The Phantoms would get off to a roaring start. Just 3:11 into the game and on just the 3rd shot of the game, Jason Cotton threw a puck from just above the goal line to the stick side of 'Riders goalie Ben Blacker that found it's way in. It may have deflected off the stick of Cedar Rapids defenseman Mitch Reinke or possibly took an odd bounce off of a piece of Blacker's equipment but in any event, it was a quick goal. The 'Riders defense was visibly out of sorts throughout much of the opening frame and the offense did not generate a shot on goal throughout the first 7:00, including a powerplay, and the Phantoms had several excellent chances to push the score to 2-0. The 'Riders would get the second goal of the evening, on just their second shot of the game when Riese Zmolek would lay a cross ice pass to a late coming Zac Robbins who fired an uncontested shot from the left side face-off circle over the shoulder of Colin DeAugustine at 7:28 of the frame. That settled the visitors from Iowa and the remainder of the frame was a more even affair. The Phantoms outshot the 'Riders 15-6 but went to the lockers tied at 1 all.

The second frame was where the penalty situation seemed to start spiraling out of control. Referee Jim White had made a few, let's say odd, choices of what to call in the first and even more odd of what not to call. In the second he seemed to start calling random things, one being a rough to Lukas Craggs that resulted in a PP goal by Ben Foley on a shot from the point that found it's way through traffic at 9:23. The Phantoms would get even on a 4-on-4 play, not a rare situation in this game, when Jason Cotton took the puck and, with Matt Alvaro stride for stride, headed up ice on a 2-on-1 rush with Ben Foley defending. Foley played the pass to Alvaro but Cotton launched a laser from the left face-off dot that beat Blacker high and clean at 14:03 for his second of the night. The 'Riders wouldn't wait long to jump back out front on a 4-on-4 of their own. Zac Robins carried the puck to his left side face-off circle and got a shot off over a sliding Vas Kolias. DeAugustine made a great first save but he would get to the crease where Luke Morgan would pop the rebound over to him for a tap in with 3:10 left in the frame. Of course, the Phantoms had a quick answer of their own, now on the powerplay, Ryan Shea with a point shot through traffic to launch Blacker's water bottle for Shea's first USHL goal and a tie just 1:18 after the 'Riders took the lead. The Phantoms outshot Cedar Rapids 7-6 in the 2nd. A total of 8 separate penalties kept both teams from getting any momentum in the frame.

 The Phantoms resilience would be put to the test, playing the same team that beat us on home ice just 24 hours prior. The previous nights game was not the most exciting and both team knew they would have to try harder to get 2 points. And with just over 3,900 in attendance for military appreciation night, there may have been a little added incentive, or pressure, for the Phantoms to step up their game.

Both team did come out much stronger and looked to be ready to play from the puck drop. Things went back and forth for the most of the first period until Storm netminder David Rasmussen made a mistake and tried stopping the puck and leaving it behind the net for defenseman John Marino. Tommy Apap came in hard on the forecheck and seperated Marino from the puck as he took it. Apap managed kicked the puck over to James Winkler who centered it to Noah LaLond as Rasmussen was getting back into the crease and had no time to set himself as LaLonde shoveled a one-timer over Rasmussen at 14:00. The Storm would even it up just 2:24 later. With Lukas Craggs in the box, some good passing got Ryan Bednard sliding from his right to left as Nico Sturm took a Mattias Goransson pass and launched a shot from the point that tipped off the netminders glove and in. The Phantoms would get a powerplay of their own and, with 0:23 left, Yushirō Hirano would blast a shot from the top of his right face-off circle, through some traffic and by Rasmussen. The Storm would outshoot the Phantoms in the frame 12-9 but the Phantoms took a 2-1 lead to the lockers.

The second frame was scoreless and the Phantoms managed a slight edge in shots 7-6. The Storm would come out in the third with a push to tie the score and tie it they did. On a rush into the Phantoms zone, Walker Duher pulled up and hita  defenseman, Andrew Peski, trailing the play. Peski got a shot off that was saved by Bednard but the rebound fluttered in the air for Joseph Cipollone to bat out of mid-air in a great display of hand-eye coordination, time of the goal 12:57. The Storm were pressing but the Phantoms held after that. It seemed almost impossible to avoid overtime as the period progressed, the Phantoms not able to get much rubber on Rasmussen. But with just 0:21 to play, Vas Kolias would send a pass from the boards to the slot for Jason Cotton and Cotton teed up a slapshot that went over a sliding blocker and passed the waving glove of Rasmussen. This was only the 4th shot of the frame. Cam Morrsion would add the empty net goal to seal the win. The Storm outshot the Phantoms 13-5 in the third and 31-21 on the evening but the Phantoms came out with the win.