Chad Veltri celebrates the win against the Gamblers on HFC night.Hockey Fights Cancer in Youngstown! - Chad Veltri celebrates the win against the Gamblers on HFC night.

Hockey Fights Cancer, it's one of those universal hockey themes. If you can't pump a crowd up with that, then do you even play hockey? With over 2,400 in attendance last night for the Phantoms' HFC night, the Phantoms proved they could.

The game started with a couple quick strikes for the Phantoms. Aresenii Smekhnov reversed the puck behind the Gamblers net. Craig Needham was able to pick it up when a Gamblers defenseman, Chase Pilawski, was unable to intercept it. Needham burred the biscuit just 0:24 into the game.

There was a brief delay after the goal, not only to pick up the carnations thrown for the HFC promo, but also to fix some loose glass. Shortly after the delay, the Gamblers picked up a holding penalty which lead to a Liam Dennison wrist shot finding it's way through traffic and behind the Gamblers netminder, Maxsim Zhukov, at the 2:03 mark. The goals came on the first two shots on net by the Phantoms.

The Gamblers weren't going to fold 'em just yet. On a two-on-two rush up ice, Luke Mylymok laid a pass to the top of the crease where Noah Prokop, who had gotten a step on defenseman Jeppe Urup, was able to tap it in behind Chad Veltri at 7:55.

Brett Murray in the celebratory skate after scoring a hat trick against the NTDP U17s.Hats off to Brett Murray! - Brett Murray in the celebratory skate after scoring a hat trick against the NTDP U17s.

Almost every year, I hear people talking about the NTDP U17 squad as not being as good as last season's. Okay, last season was an exception when you have kids like Jack Hughes and a couple others who are obviously heading towards a first round NHL draft position even at age 16. 

This year I can confidently say this years U17 isn't as good as last seasons, or the past several seasons. After the first meeting of the Phantoms and the U17s, I am left unimpressed with the NTDP's younger group.

The Phantoms got things rolling early. On the rush, Matthew Barnaby was unable to take a pass that would have put him in on a breakaway but he was the first to the puck behind the USA net where he centered a no-look behind the back pass to a trailing Trevor Kuntar, who put the puck behind NTDP netminder Noah Grannan at 4:24.

The Phantoms continued to dominate in the first half of the opening frame. The NTDP did not even register a shot on goal until the 8:13 mark of the frame. They tied the score at 1 all when Zakary Karpa hit a trailing defenseman, Eamon Powell, who put a shot high from the high slot stick side on Christian Stoever, who may have been partially screened by one of his own players, at 9:15. 

The Phantoms have a fun celebration lap after a 6-3 win over the Lincoln Stars.Celebrate good times, come on! - The Phantoms have a fun celebration lap after a 6-3 win over the Lincoln Stars.

As I said in the recap of Friday's game, Lincoln is a team we should beat without issue, but, if you let up even a little, you'll get burned. I was nearly proven right but a strong third period pulled us out for a 4 point weekend. At times it wasn't pretty, but at this point in the season, that is how things go.

The Phantoms got off to one of their typically bad starts. The Stars opened the scoring at 4:43 of the first with Josh Lopina winning an offensive zone faceoff back to his defenseman, Ryan Carmichael. Carmichael floated a wristshot from well above the right faceoff circle that found a hole through traffic and behind Christian Stoever, who was in net for the second straight night.

Just after the ensuing faceoff, Brett Murray picked up an interference penalty. Dalton Messina won the faceoff back to the corner but the Stars Michael Colella won the puck from Aiden Gallacher along the boards. The puck eventually made it's way around to Tristian Ashbrook at the top of the right faceoff circle for a one-timer that beat Stoever cleanly at 5:23, just 0:40 after the opening goal. Both goals were on the Stars first and second shots of the game.