Colin Purcell stops 16 of 16 in relief of Dominic Basse as the Phantoms score 6 unanswered goals to beant the NTDP U18s 6-3Purcell Saves the Day. - Colin Purcell stops 16 of 16 in relief of Dominic Basse as the Phantoms score 6 unanswered goals to beant the NTDP U18s 6-3

The last time the kids from the NTDP U18 squad were in the Covelli, they were the U17s pretending to be the U18s. For those who don't remember, they were send to Youngstown in lieu of the U18s after last years brawl in Plymouth, an incident that made a lot of people real upset. The U17 kids were caught in the middle and lost the game, this was their first trip back. It started out looking like another "one of those games" against the U18s but the Phantoms regrouped and we managed to pull out not just a win - but a dominant win over a squad that usually gives us a lot of trouble.

We also had some new faces in the lineup. Jan Kern has been with the team for a few weeks but this was his first game at the Covelli. Now add Georgi Merkulov to the mix, a Russian forward we picked up on a tryout about a week ago and just added to the roster hours before the game. And for good measure, added Scott Morrow, an affiliate defenseman from Shattuck St. Mary's. 

Like I said, it started off as "one of those games." With John Beaton off for interference, Thomas Bordeleau wristed a shot on net from well outside the left faceoff circle to score on Dominic Basse at 4:41. The Phantoms would get some powerplay time of their own, including 55 seconds of 5 on 3. Not only did the Phantoms squander the man advantage but Matthew Beniers stripped Jayson Dobay at the point and scored on a shorthanded breakaway, sliding the puck through Basse's 5-hole at 8:48. Chase Yoder made it 3-0 0:38 later, getting around Nikolai Jenson and putting it 5-hole on Basse.

Here's another late review as I get readjusted to a normal work schedule. Last weekend we got our first look of the Madison Capitols and it was an eye opener. The Caps were very impressive for an expansion team without any big name players. The expansion franchise came in and handed us or worst home loss of the year and followed it up with another strong game and left Youngstown four points richer in the standings and nothing for us. This won't be so much of a recap as a breakdown of what went wrong.

Friday night's shutout was the Phantoms first of the season and our worse game. It started out at an even pace with both teams feeling each other out but the Caps slowly took over in the first period. Despite seeming to tilt the ice a little the Phantoms got good chances but posts and a good goaltender, Garrett Metcalf, kept the door closed for Madison. Late in the period, Haralds Egle, after Northeast Ohio native stole a bad clearing attempt the eventually made its way to Haralds Eagl who put it past Chris Birdsall. Freddy Gerard, Charlie's brother, made it 2-0, earning credit for the goal as the puck bounced of him in front of the net. Freddy would make to 3-0 early in the third on a shorthanded rush up ice and Marco Richter would finish the nights scoring off. After being outshot in the first, the Phantoms lead the offensive charge. Metcalf rose to the challange and kept second chances for the Phantoms to a minimum. The Caps played a good defensive game as a team, no one skater really stealing the show. The Phantoms could never really get the looks at the net they wanted and their passing was just not connecting. Birdsall looked OK in net but didn't make the saves he had to and just maybe a big save early would have put a little doubt into the minds of the Caps shooters.

Saturday started just as brutal. The Phantoms played an even first period for the most part, focusing mostly on phyisical play, but Collin DeAugustine gave up 3 goals on 13 shots for Youngstown while Darren Smith stopped 12 of 12. The Caps scored just under 3:00 into the game and Freddy Gerard added his second shorthanded tally of the weekend with about 2:00 left in the frame. The Phantoms would set the offensive pace from there but it was too little too late. James Winkler scored off the faceoff to get back to within two but Tyler Nanne took it back to a three goal lead midway through the frame. Bryan Lemos would score a rebound goal in the third but with time dwindling down and Chris Birdsall, who replaced DeAugustine to start the second, was pulled for the extra attacker leading to a Caps emty net goal to make it 5-2. Max Letunov would get another with the goaltender pulled again but 5-3 was as close as we would get.  Once again, good team play and great goaltending won the day and Smith stopped 51 of 54 shots. The Phantoms were still denied most second chances and just could not get into the scoring groove they normally exhibit. Birdsall stopped 7 of 8 shots in relief. Once again a lack of sharp passing also contributed to the early offensive shutdown.

Well, we only have a single game on tap this weekend but it should be a good one. This Saturday the Muskegon Lumberjacks roll into the Covelli. Yeah, someone who isn't Bloomington*. The 'Jacks are a familiar foe and rekindling the old rivalry shouldn't take too long. By virtue of total points (14 pts), Muskegon is currently tied with Cedar Rapids for the top spot in the Eastern Conference but just a half game ahead of Youngstown(13 pts). Youngstown has played two less games than the 'Jacks who only play once this weekend too. Suffice it to say, the Phantoms want a win in regulation to leapfrog the 'Jacks. The red hot Cedar Rapids RoughRiders have played a game less than the Phantoms but play twice this weekend so with a little luck and two losses for them, we could be in first place to start next week. But the focus for now should just be beating Muskegon.

The 'Jacks are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Team USA U18 squad. Starting goaltender Eric Schierhorn was pulled after giving up 4 goals. He was replaced by Jacob Gwillim who was recently called up from the Johnstown Tomahawks (NAHL) and getting his first USHL action. Gwilliam was perfect in the 37:29 he was in net. Schierhorn has posted mediocre numbers this season, as he did last season, with a 3.12 GAA and .893 SV%. Despite this he's 6-3-0 on the season. Defensively, they have a decent core of blueliners. They have a few players with some USHL experience, Joseph Cecconi played 28 games for the 'Jacks last season and Liam McGing played 42 games for the Chicago Steel. While this might not be the deepest of USHL experience, they also have Christian Wolanin who anchors their defensive squad with 119 games of USHL experience going back to 12/13 when he played with the Green Bay Gamblers. He's also contributing offensivly with 3 goals and 3 assists on the season. Though, considering the 'Jacks have only scored one more goal than  they've given up (34/34), there may be issues on the backend with the goaltending and defensive scheme that the Phantoms can exploit to fill the net.