Ah, that time of the year is upon us - the Thanksgiving holiday. We all know what that means, and that's turkey dinner. This weekend, the Phantoms (6-8-0-2) hope to have a little more turkey than usual. By that, I mean this weekend we host the league's biggest turkeys, the Madison Capitols (4-8-1-2). Nothing like a little last place leftovers to get you to .500 after splitting last weekend's games with the Central Illinois Flying Aces.

The Caps are are less a hockey franchise and more an extension of the Suter family, Wisconsin hockey royalty. Bob Suter is best known for his play on the 1980 USA Olympic 'Miracle on Ice' team, and his brother Gary Suter, who played in the USHL in its inagural season as a junior hockey league for Dubuque, played 17 years in the NHL and was a 5 time all-star. The team is owned by Bob's son Ryan Suter, who played 12 years in the NHL, and was a 3 time all-star. Ryan's brother Garrett is the coach. Bob's wife, Diane Suter Hyames, is Director of Hockey Operations. Last season they famously had to change rinks twice, the second time settling in Bob Suter Capitol Ice Arena. Thankfully, they have seats this year. I know hockey in the USA is sometimes a family affair, the Phantoms have a few kids who's dads played, but this smells a little less like sweet potatoes and a little more like nepotism to me. It sounds bad but how does it add up on the ice? Now in their 5th season, the Caps have never broke .500 for a season and their best performance was their inaugural season before Ryan took over the team completely, posting a 24-25-7-4 record.

OK, I'm done roasting the Caps for the Suter thing. How are they this season in terms of a team? To be honest, they've been almost invisible on the ice and have only a handfull of players who have any USHL experience, which makes it kind of hard to quantify. In terms of scoring Chaz Smedsrud (4g, 4a) is their leader, not a name that you've probably heard thrown around as lighting it up. Behind him are Carson Bantle (4g, 3a) and Josh Boyer (4g, 2a). They may get a little help in the way of Kamil Sadlocha, who has left Ohio State University after not getting on the ice in his freshman season. Sadlocha has played two seasons for the Caps, last season adding 16g and 21a. He did not play in Wednesday nights game in Dubuque so it remains to be seen if he'll get into the lineup in Youngstown.

Defensively they're not too bad though you wouldn't probably know it by their record. Pete Tabor is a solid defenseman with some USHL experience, playing 37 games with Waterloo last season and 9 games with the Blackhawks as an affiliate the season before. Another defenseman with a season of experience and some time in as an affiliate is Brandon Suter. Yeah, a cousin of Ryan and Garrett, and I swear this is the last time I make a dig at the Suters. I'll also mention Anthony Stark, who is a solid defenseman that played half of last season for the Caps, plus it's fun to make Iron Man jokes.

In net is Joseph Lamoreaux. The '99 birth year goalie is 4-7-0-1 in his second USHL season and, despite the Caps woeful record, he's posted a very respectable 2.34GAA and a .930SV%. Backing him up is Garrett Mackey, who is 0-1-1-0 with a 3.87GAA and a .877SV%

So, we had a fun weekend last week. After one of the bigger shellackings we've taken in a bit, we bounced back to steal one in the last minute from the Leagues best team, the Muskegon Lumberjacks and handed them only their second loss of the season. This week the Phantoms  5-7-0-2 face the Central Illinois Flying Aces (8-6-2-0) again, after playing them just a couple weeks ago. In that 3 game series we were 2-0-0-1.

Not much has changed for the Aces so I'll leave you to read the Week 6 Preview for my thoughts on their roster. They've added Chaseton Sare, who has contributed 17 minutes to their penalty total, a fighting major/misconduct and a slash. Combine that with Ethan Martini who leads the league in penalty minutes and ended up with a suspension in the second game they played at the Covelli, the third one he's received this season, and you can see they are no strangers to the penalty box. Despite this, they have a formidable offense and capable defense. If I need to add anything else to what I've already written on the Aces, I'll have to once again mention Max Ellis. The ex-Phantom was relatively silent in his old barn, held off the scoreboard except for an assist in the second game. I don't expect him to remain quiet in his new home. Let's just hope he doesn't put up one of those games where he makes a statement to hos old team about why trading him was a bad idea.

For the Phantoms, there is quite a bit to talk about. Before I get to the roster changes, I'd like to mention Brett Murray had a good weekend in Muskegon. The big forward scored 3 goals, 2 in the win including the late game winner.Newly acquired forward Jake Suede seemed to fit in well, he was noticeably in on the action a few times, though it didn't get him on the scoreboard I thought he contributed well. Affiliate Cade Lemmer was a little less noticeable, but that's not a bad thing your first game when your first real junior hockey action is a call up the the USHL. Christian Stoever, who was the hero in the series against the Aces, was chased after 7 goals in the first game. Jon Mor finished out that game and got the nod in the second game and stopped 24 of 27. That brings us to this he first part of this weeks big roster moves. Midweek, the Phantoms traded draft picks to acquire veteran Vinnie Purpura from the Omaha Lancers. Purpura, a '98 birth year in his second season, played in 23 games for Omaha last season with a record of 13-4-1-2, a 2.40GAA and a .916 SV%. This season he's played in 8 games, a 2-4-0-1 with a 3.71GAA and a .868SV%. Presumably Jon Mor is out, the official USA Hockey 23 player protected lists do not show him on our roster while Stoever is still there. The other news is that we also traded draft picks to acquire another '98 birth year forward, Matthew Barnaby Jr. from Chicago. Yes, his dad is that Matthew Barnaby. For those of you who didn't follow hockey from '92-'07, the senior Barnaby was considered one of the biggest pests to ever play the game, a true goon. He played a few years with the Penguins and would always have a smile on his face no matter how hard it got smashed in. Fortunately for the Phantoms, it looks like the junior Barnaby plays a slightly different game. With 1g and 5a on the season for the Steel, Barnaby seems like a good utility forward who should fit in on the third or fourth line.

Last weekend the Phantoms (4-6-0-2) started one of the more interesting and difficult stretches of the season, a few weeks of facing the top 2 teams in the East. We started at home with a 3 games in 4 days series against the number 2 team in the conference, the Flying Aces, and emerged with 5 of 6 possible points in the standings. We'll face them again in Illinois a couple weeks from now but first we head to Michigan to play the top team in the league, the Muskegon Lumberjacks (10-1-0-0) in their own barn. This will be the fourth time we've met up with the 'Jacks, only earning a single point in the previous meetings.

First the bad news, since we last met they've added another big scoring forward to their line. Chicago Blackhawks draft pick Mikael Hakkarainen has left the NCAA after 1 game to rejoin the 'Jacks for his final season of junior eligibility. Adding him to a team that already has Egor Afanasyev (5g, 5a) and Bobby Lynch (6g, 7a) makes for one of the more potent offenses in the league. They also have some defensemen who can help out offensively without sacrificing on defense like Colby Bukes (9a) and Alex Yakovenko (1g, 7a). They also have guys like Matthew Staudacher and Nic Belpedio who have a plus/minus of +11 and +10 respectively. In net they have relied on Brandon Bussi, a '98 who is making the most out of his first and only chance in the USHL with a 10-1-0-0 record, a 2.47GAA, .916SV%, and 2 shutouts.

The good news is the 'Jacks aren't as healthy as they were last time we met. With a few injuries that may cause some regular players to be scratched, possibly including Jagger Joshua, they're looking at their affiliate list to help out. Jack Williams, a 2002 birth year player, has already played 2 games and scored 2 goals. Tanner Kelly, a promising talent from Detroit's Little Ceasars youth program and former team mate of Ben Schoen has been added to the roster. Another forward that has been added but hasn't played is Igor Larionov. Yes, he's the son of "The Professor" and if you're not familiar with his father and namesake he's a a NHL Hall of Fame player, former Soviet League player, 3 time Stanley Cup Winner, 2 time Olympic Gold medalist, and generally considered to be one of the all time best. I also hear he makes good wine. Also noteworthy on the injusry list is netminder Keegan Karki. Karki has been absent from the 'Jacks bench most of the season with an injury. He has only played 27 minutes in relief of Bussi in the 'Jacks only loss, allowing 3 goals on 13 shots. He as officially 'tweaked' his knee and the 'Jacks may call in affiliate Cullen DeYoung as a backup, who has already sat at least one game on their bench this season.