- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 395
Hello, if you're reading this I managed to escape my cage at work for long enough to type it up. All jokes aside, last weeks preview might not be the last one I miss as the season winds down but I hope to be back up to full speed by the time we hit the playoffs... if we make the playoffs. After splitting the weekend games for 5 weeks running the Phantoms (30-18-4-1) are just a half game ahead of Green Bay but we at least have a two games in hand. We'll play one of those games this weekend on the road in our last three game in three day situation. The first part of the trip will be a stop for a pair of games against the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (11-38-3-1) and then a quick stop for an afternoon tilt against the Chicago Steel (34-13-2-3). With the Gamblers playing all of their remaining games against teams with losing records and out of playoff contention, we can't afford to play .500 hockey this weekend.
First off is Cedar Rapids. The 'Riders aren't just a bad team, they are possibly the worst I've seen in the league. You have to go back to the 10-11 season to find a team with a worse record. This time of year when you're that far out of it you're just looking to evaluate you're younger talent for next year. TJ Walsh (6g, 6a in 40 games) is a '00 born forward who might be a part of better things next season as is '99 born Estonian and NHL CSS ranked Robert Arrak (2g, 3a in 30 games). I was taught if you don't have anything nice to say about someone not to say anything, so I won't comment on the 'Riders defense. The only real bright spot on the season has been '00 born netminder Drew DeRider. Coming in mid-season DeRidder has posted a 9-22-1-0 record with a 3.25 GAA, a .893 SV% along with 2 shutouts. Zach LaRoque is the number two guy, posting 2-13-2-0 with a 3.89 GAA and a .879 SV%.
The Steel, however, are currently the best team in the Eastern Conference as they have been for all but a couple weeks this season. They've had no shortage of scorers all season and at the trade deadline, added Jason O'Niell (18g, 14a) from Sioux Falls. This is in addition to players like Reggie Lutzs (20g, 22a), Jake Jaremko (16g, 26a) and Jack Badini (27g, 12a). They will be without Johnny Walker (16g, 12a) who picked up a 4 game suspension for biting a member of the Waterloo Black Hawks. Yeah, you read that right - biting. On defense, Graham Lillibridge has played outstanding defense as well as adding 4g and 27a. Derek Daschke has also played good defensively. In net, Ales Stezka has played excellent hockey, posting a 2.25 GAA, a .917 SV% and 4 shutouts this season. After trading Tommy Nappier to Omaha to get Brandon McManus, the Steel were left looking for a solid second goalie. They found that in a trade with Tri-City, acquiring Dayton Rasmussen who has a 2.49 GAA and a .911 SV% along with a pair of shutouts. The Steel also are on the road Friday and Saturday, fist Dubuque then Des Moines, so the Phantoms might roll into town before the Steel, negating some of their home ice advantage.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 515
The Phantoms needed a win against Green Bay to keep on the right track heading towards the playoffs. After a tough loss to Muskegon last Saturday it was not only imperative that they not lose any more ground in the standings but I think the team, as well as a few individual players, needed to prove they could bounce back after such a big loss. The Gamblers came into Youngstown just trying to keep their playoff hopes alive. With the number of games remaining on the season dwindling, a weekend pair of head-to-head match-up games might be the last chance they get to catch up.
Things got off to a quick start for Green Bay. After the Phantoms won a faceoff just outside the their defensive zone, Alec Mahalak bobbled the puck a little in the high slot area. The Gamblers John Leonard jumped on the oppertunity, stripped Mahalak of the puck. Ivan Kulbakov made an initial save but Leonard got his own rebound and shoveled a backhand hot over the sprawled Phantoms netminder just 1:05 into the game. One of the Phantoms who needed a big game after last week was Kulbakov. After giving up 3 goals on 10 shots and getting pulled last weekend, this would be a big test of the netminders resiliency. I'll be honest, I was a little worried. The Phantoms would push back and not long after Pierce Crawford would pull up just inside the attack zone and fire a wrister from the top of the right faceoff circle that eluded Gamblers goaltender David Hrenak, time of the goal 6:18. Neither team would get much advantage in the period after that and the shots were 9-7 in favor of the Phantoms into intermission.
The deadlock continued in the second period until the the Phantoms took the puck from their own end in a transition rush up ice. Coale Norris carried the puck into the Gamblers zone with Pierce Crawford flanking him. Green Bay managed to defend them but did not pick up a trailing Evan Wisocky as Norris manage to look off Crawford and hit Wisocky with a pass for the go ahead goal at 9:10 of the second. Again, neither team really looked to have a dominant edge in the period, shots were 9 a piece but the Phantoms took the 1 goal lead into the third frame.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 440
Well, another week and another missed recap. Sorry, but it probably won't be the last. Hopefully this weekend is better but somehow I doubt it. Anyway, the Phantoms (26-16-4-1) finish up their longest home stand of the season by facing a team that very desperately needs to beat them to get into the playoffs. The Green Bay Gamblers (26-20-2-2) roll into town in 5th place in the Eastern Conference, 5 points out of a the last playoff position held by us. We also have a game in hand.
The Gamblers have some offensive firepower. Jared Spooner (17g, 25a) and Dante Palecco (18g, 14a) are both veteran USHL forwards who can burn a defense if given a chance. Last month they added Easton Brodzinski, a decent sized over-ager who has worked his way up from Minnesota High School to the BCHL before joining the USHL with Fargo this season. He was quickly traded to Madison then last month to Green Bay. Combined on the season he has 20g, 13a. What's missing on offense is Casey Mittlestadt, a '98 and potential first round NHL draft pick. Like a lot of Minnesota kids, he opted to return home to play for his high school, Eden Prairie High, once the season started there. In 16 games with the Gamblers he had 8g and 13a. I'm not sure what it is about MN high school that causes so many kids to chose it over the junior leagues but historically it's been a trend that's vexed USHL teams. On defense, Connor Mackey leads the league in points by a defenseman, 6g and 36a. His playmaking ability should be feared, especially on the powerplay. Alexsis Binner is a big Swede what has been mentioned a lot with regards to the NHL draft, a possible 2nd round pick with solid skills on the blueline. In net is a pair of highly touted, NHL CSS ranked, European import netminders. David Hrenak is a Slovakian born goaltender with a 12-12-1-1 record, 2.38 GAA, .917SV% and 3 shutouts. Maksim Zhukov is a Russian impoer, has a 14-8-1-1 record and has posted a 2.44GAA, .905SV% and 4 shutouts. There is no issues between the pipes for the Gamblers to be sure.
The Phantoms catch a lucky break this week. After last Saturday's little meltdown in the Muskegon loss, only Steven Ruggiero ends up with a suspension and only a game for an instigator at that. Pierce Crawford could have gotten a few games for continuing an altercation and taking a cheap shot at one of the 'Jacks after things were broken up by the linesemen. Crawford has played well since joining the team and I'd really like to see him step up this weekend and show he can be a dominate forward, he's shown the potential. This would also be a good time for captain Tommy Apap to up his game. With only 3g and 13a on the season, we could use some leadership on the scoreboard and I think Apap is more than capable. On defense, we'll likely see some of Andrew Petrillo in the first game with Ruggiero out. Being the extra d-man is a hard position and you have to make what you can with your ice time, this will be a good chance for Petrillo. Also worth mentioning, since the New England prep school season is over the Phantoms will be joined by some affiliates. Forward Jay O'Brien will join us from Thater Academy and on defense Jack Rathbone from the Dexter School. I'm excited to see both play, but especially Rathbone who ollks like he could be a very good two-way defenseman. In net, last week saw backup netminder Britt League finally back in uniform and even relieving Ivan Kulbakov after a very uncharacteristic bad night for the Belorussian netminder. I expect Kulbakov won't take being pulled lightly and will be back with a vengeance.