Well, I didn't get around to a game recap from the Waterloo game. Between a bad cold and crappy viewing conditions I didn't feel I could give a review that would either be informative or critical. I'll keep it brief because it sets up the importance of this weeks games. Despite another great effort from Piccinich with a goal and Connor with a couple assists, the Blackhawks doubled us up 6-3. Letunov scored his third of the season goal and Shwalbe put in his second. The Phantoms were without the services of Josh Nenadal, who was serving a 1 game automatic suspension for abuse of officials during the Cedar Rapids game.

The Phantoms managed to hang in and tie it 2 goals a piece at 8:42 of the second period on the Schwalbe goal and looked to be the stronger team at that point. However, they seemed to lose their discipline and things turned ugly real quick. Tommy Parran took an elbowing penalty leading to a 'Loo goal at 15:21. The coughed up another one about 0:45 later. Alex Smith took a roughing penalty less than a minute after that. That all lead to Fredric Larrson dropping the gloves with Alec McCrea with less than a minute to go in the period. I don't know what transpired before during of after the fight but coach Anthony Noreen was ticketed a bench minor for abuse of the officials. Matt Miller took a crosschecking minor with 0:05 to go in the second.The Blackhawks took advantage of a 2 man advantage plus another goal later in the period before Letunov closed out the scoring.

That brings us to this week with a 1-4-1 record. The good news is that the Phantoms scorers are leading the USHL points race. Kyle Connor has 11 points (3g, 8a) to lead the league and Piccinich (6g, 3a) and Letunov (3g, 6a) are tied with 2 others for second. It's been pretty obvious that offensive capabilities is the least of our issues. Affiliate goaltender Colin DeAugustine has been called up, just in case Sean Romeo isn't cleared to play from his nagging injury, now identified as lower body in nature pulled groin. DeAugustine sat on the bench last year and if Romeo isn't good to go, I fully expect to see him play sometime this weekend to give Moore some much deserved rest. Defenseman Kyle Mackey will be eligible to return from his 4 game kneeing suspension on Saturday.

It's opening weekend at the Covelli and I'm sure we're all ready for some hockey, especially those that couldn't make the trip to Ann Arbor last weekend. It's a new season and there are a lot of new faces. There has also been a little drama to start the season. I suppose by now I don't have to go into details, Nathan Walker is now a member of the AHL Hershey Bears after an exceptional camp with the Washington Capitals. Trust me fans, we all have the same mixed feelings. But if anyone has paid the price to get to the big dance, it's Stormy and we all hope this is the big step he so deserves.

To be honest, other than the Nathan Walker deal became finalized I hid a little from the news. I'm still on a weird work schedule so I've been a little behind on things to begin with. I've been more concerned with the status of Sean Romeo and, unfortunately, I have no news in the regard. Unless they mentioned something on BTG, which I missed, I don't know what his status is for this weekend. To me his absence is way more of an issue that the loss of Walker. I won't blame Jake Moore for everything but, again, .800 or below and 8.00GAA can't be acceptable. But make no mistake, the defense must also cut down on the shots. Moore faced better than 35 shots both nights and even a good goalie is going to wear down at that pace. I can't site any player or players or narrow it to any specific area that they played bad, they just need to pull it together a little tighter. This should come with time as out D-men are lacking a lot of experience. The question is how much time do we have? A bad start to the season could haunt us come the final stretch of the season. Veteran goal tending could buy us some time with that. This will be a testament to Noreen's coaching and system.

The good news is our offense looks good even without Walker. We have a lot of returning forwards. Kyle Connor and Luke Stork played great. Newly christened captain, Alfred Larsson looked a little bigger and stronger as did JJ Pichinich. A few of the newcomers really stood out too. Tyler Spezia and Maxim Letunov showed a lot of potential and Ryan Schwalbe played a solid game and looks like he could really add some offensive support in the dirty areas.

Green Bay, whom we play both games against this weekend, went 1-0-1 to start the season with a 5-1 beating of the Chicago Steel and a 5-4 shootout loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The Gamblers and the Phantoms have traded turns knocking each other out of the playoffs the last two seasons with Youngstown downing them last year as payback for the year before. This should be an interesting challenge for the home opener.

In most hockey leagues the so-called puck luck starts before any games are played. I'm talking about the schedule of course. Junior hockey and the USHL are no exception. Long bus trips, back-to-back-(to-back) games; it all is part of the season. Everyone has to deal with it and that's sometimes what defines a team is how they deal with it. Other times, it's just bad timing. Playing the third game in as many nights on the road after losing a few top players can hurt you in more ways than just the standings if the team can't pull through. You also have to look at who your playing. Are you playing a lot of games against the defending champs who have most of their core players returning from last season or do you have more than your share against a group that's rebuilding with new, younger, players? So with the season opener looking, let's take a look at how the Phantoms upcoming season stacks up.