Fargo came to town a Force to be reckoned with, and it took a little extra time but reckon we did. OK, crappy puns aside the Phantoms and Force played a pretty hard fought game with a lot of up and down the ice action, but little in the way of scoring.

The first two periods were pretty uneventful. A lot of good puck movement by both sides but with very little actually happening. The only things registering on the score sheet through two frames were a Alec Mahalak penalty and 25 shots, 16 for the Force and 9 for the Phantoms (8-6, 8-3). At times Fargo seemed to carry the play more than the Phantoms but Ivan Kulbakov was more than up to the taks, The game flowed by quickly, with very few whistles. In fact the only dramatic moment came during the second period during an official timeout when the usual game of Plinko turned into a surprise marriage proposal.

It did not take the third period long for things to change. First, let me clarify something. In the NHL, as most of you know, when a player puts a puck over the glass without it deflecting off an opponents stick or the glass itself it's a penalty for delay of game. This is not the case in the USHL, most of the time it's only a faceoff with the infracting team not being allowed to change lines and only called as a penalty if the goaltender clears it over the glass. That's just what Ivan Kulbakov did when he came out of his net to play a dumped puck away from a defender.Kulbakov would pay for the mistake when Lukas Kable launched a slapshot from near the blueline that Paul Washe deflected under Kulbakov at 3:04. It would not take long for the Phantoms to tie it up. Curtis hall would carry the puck from the Phantoms zone to the bottom of the left faceoff circle, drawing the Fargo defenders down low, turn and lay a pass back to a trailing Dominic Dockery. The defenseman was uncontested due to the defense collapsing arounf Hall and would opt for the one-time shot and ripped a low shot glove side beating Fargo netminder, Ryan Bischel glove side at 6:05. The Force would outshoot the Phantoms 9-5 in the third but it would take more than regulation to settle it. Not surprising, 7 of the last 12 home games have gone past 60:00 with the Phantoms winning 5 of those.

It feels like a while since I've done one of these, and this one is going to be pretty short since I have to get to other projects this weekend. The Phantoms were back at the Covelli after 5 games on the road, kicking off a stand of 7 straight at home. Kicking off the stretch, a match against the USA NTDP U17s. The U17s aren't usually the hardest games on the schedule but if you let up on them at all, they'll make you pay. To make matters worse, the Phantoms were without Nicolas Werbik, their top scorer injured the night before in the 2-1 loss to Muskegon.

The Phantoms got on the board first, late in the opening period. On the rush, newly acquired Pierce Crawford slid a nice backhand pass to the low slot to the stick of Coale Norris who redirected it past USA netminder Ryan Ullan at 18:57 of the first. USA would not let the lead stand for long. Just 0:38 into the second, Tyler Weiss would skate behing the Phantoms net and stepped out to the right of Ivan Kulbakov and threw a backhand shot to the top left corner that looked like it caught Kulbakov by surprise. The Phantoms would retake the lead shorthanded when Austin Poolet intercepted a pass in the neutral zone. He and Alex Esposito would take it in on a 2-on-1 and, freezing Ullan with the option to pass, Pooley ripped one home at 8:40 of the second. USA would tie it again on the powerplay, Johnathan Gruden backhand flipping a rebound over a sprawling Kulbakov at 12:07.

The Phantoms and USA would remain knotted at 2 a piece through the rest of regulation and a full overtime. Despite outshooting the NTDP in every period - 9-7, 12-8, 10-7, 2-3, it would require a shootout to decide the winner. Pierce Crawford would net the winner in the 4th round, no fancy dekes or moves, just a good wristshot stick-side on Ullan from the slot.

Sometimes weekday games can be a little unpredictable. It's hard enough sometimes for the home team to get the energy ramped up or keep it ramped up for an odd game night, even if it's Thursday instead of Friday. This can mean a smaller crowd and just a slight break from the routine. This goes double for the visiting team, road legs are just a little tougher to shake off. Maybe that explains the way the first two periods went last night, leading into an exciting third frame and eventual overtime and shootout.

The Sioux Falls Stampede came to town and took a little while to show up at the game, everyone except for goaltender Jeremy Swayman. The Phantoms came out and had the energy in the first period. The played a good physical game with some very aggressive forechecking, trapping the neutral zone well and the offense was definitely in attack mode. Despite outshooting the Stampede 12-4, Swayman held the Phantoms off the board and both teams went to the lockers scoreless. In the second frame, the Phantoms seemed to lose a little of the momentum and the Stampede managed to find some defense. Shots were 4-4 and again neither team found the back of the net. I had predicted special teams wouldn't be too big of a factor and both sides had a few powerplay chances through two periods. It looked like I was going to be right on that prediction for the evening. The third period would prove me all sorts of wrong.

Things would escalate quickly in the third. Ivan Kulbakov bobbled a rebound after a routine glove save. As he dove to his right to cover it, a good bit outside his crease, Stampede forward Jack Doremus plowed through him sending him to the boards. Doremus was issued a charging penalty but Kulbakov remained on the ice for several minutes. We're getting pretty used to seeing this, Kulbakov sometimes milking the situation for a penalty or rest. Since he already had the penalty and was down quite a bit longer than usual, this was a scary moment for the fans. Emergency netminder Nathan Reid, a 2000 birth year, was even starting to put on his mask and looked ready to come into the game. Kulbakov recovered and the Phantoms went to work on the powerplay. Coale Norris took a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle though traffic to break the shutout deadlock at 3:01 of the frame. A few moments after the ensuing faceoff and the Phantoms were in the box and 1:27 after the Phantoms goal Eric McAdams would get his own rebound off a blocked shot in the slot and fired it past the glove of Kulbakov.