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.

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.