- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 470
Anytime you beat a division rival is a big win, but when it's late in the season and your trailing that team by a half game in the standings it's even bigger. And when you do it in a shutout despite being outshot and giving them a few big powerplay chances... we'll I'm still looking for the word to describe how big it is. It's hard to quantify just how much last nights 3-0 win over the Muskegon Lumberjacks really is.
The Phantoms would start off playing a little behind the 'Jacks, momentum favoring Mukegon early on. Just as the Phantoms seemed to get things going their way they found themselves in a lot of trouble. Austin Pooley would take a questionable checking from behind call as 12:55. Pierce Crawford would go off at 13:47 for hooking Andrei Svenchnikov who was skating dangerously straight down the slot with the puck. I don't think the 'Jacks got a puck on Ivan Kulbakov in the 1:08 of 5-on-3 powerplay and the Phantoms managed a big kill late in the period. A few moments after the PK expired, Keegan Howdeshell would make a pass from the left faceoff circle to the slot for Koby Bender who stepped to his left and put a backhand towards what looked like an open net. Kulbakov dove from his left to his right and somehow kept the puck out. Despite being outshot 12-4 in the period the Phantoms had to feel good about a scoreless tie going into the first intermission.
The second period would be a more even frame. Neither team really getting much of an advantage until late. The 'Jacks would lose track of Chase Gresock in the neutral zone as Tommy Apap dug the puck out of a couple Muskegon defenders just inside the Muskegon zone. Apap would hit Gresock who was all alone entering the zone and skated it all the way down the right side of the slot. 'Jacks netminder Adam Brizgala came out of the crease to challange him by Gresock waited him out until Brizgala made a move, an attempt to smother the puck as Gresock skated. The Phantoms forward got around the goaltender and flipped a puck at the empty net which may have been knocked in by a 'Jacks defenseman at 16:17. On the shift just after the first goal, former Phantoms defenseman Ty Farmer would put a pass from his zone into the neutral zone that was intercepted by Alex Esposito who charge in and got s shot off from the high slot that Bizgala was able to get a piece of but not able to fully stop as it trickled through just :27 after the first goal. Shots were 9-8 Muskegon in the period but the Phantoms had a 2 goal lead.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 451
OK, once again I have to start off a pweekly preview with an apology for missing last Saturday's recap. My real job again, sorry. Anyway, this week puts us back at home for what is now one of the biggest pair of games left on the schedule in terms of playoff positioning. This weekend the Phantoms (27-15-4-1) face their longtime division rivals the Muskegon Lumberjacks (28-15-3-1). With just a point in the standings, a half game, between 3rd and 4th place. Every point is crucial now but against division rivals this close even the point from OT can have huge consequences heading down the line. This is the last time these teams meet in the regular season too.
The 'Jacks have made a couple moves towards the trade deadline. Most notably they acquired a pair of Austins, Austin Alger from Omaha a few weeks ago and Austin Albrecht from Sioux Falls this week. They paid a good price in picks and prospects but did not sacrifice any big pieces of the current roster to get them. Albrecht had 5g and 30a with the Stampede and his playmaking ability will go a long way to boosting their second or third line. Algers has 14g and 17a, 2g and 5a in 5 games with the 'Jacks. He can easily be put between their two top forwards, Jack Adams and (21g, 24a) Andrei Svenchnikov (22g, 23a) to create an extremely dominate line or be moved to another line to add depth throughout the lines. Svenchnikov set Algers up for the late, game winning goal the last time these two teams met in Muskegon. The last time these teams met I had made an effort to sneak Zach Berzolla into the the preview since I thought he had played well throughout the season and had not gotten much mention. He was probably their best defenseman that game, a plus/minus of +2 and several key defensive plays. Also on the blueline is Bo Hanson, as solid as they come on the blueline and has 4g, 27a on the season. The 'Jacks have had no troubles in net this season, no call ups needed. They've been about as evenly balanced there as any team I've seen in the league. Kieth Petruzzelli has a 16-9-0-0 record, a 2.61 GAA, .908 and 2 shutouts. Oh, and he scored a goal into the empty net last week. Adam Brizgala has a 12-6-3-1 record, a 2.58 GAA, a .910 SV% and a shutout. No goals for Brizgala yet.
So this is where I usually mention who's hot for the Phantoms and who I'd like to see step things up. I'll forgo that and just make a prediction that I think Pierce Crawford will score his first goal as a Phantoms this weekend. What I really want to talk about is the insane amount of games Ivan Kulbakov has played. Most of us thought things were going to get better when Britt League was brought in to replace Darion Hanson but League has played less in more time. League has had good numbers when he's played but was first listed as out due to illness and then due to injury, a groin injury from all reports. For whatever reason, he's been scratched since January 13th. If he is injured and it is this severe, why isn't he on the injured reserve list? What about affiliates? We could play John Mor, he's sat the bench some and is listed as an affiliate last I knew. Ivan Kulbakov is good and relishes the ice time, I get it. However, he's not looked the sharpest the last few games and extended fatigue is a huge contributing factor to injury. What's the point of pushing for the playoffs if you don't have a healthy goalie or at least one that's not burned out? It's highly doubtful he'll get any rest this weekend with the stakes as high as they are. Kulbakov has played all of the last 17 straight and has only had about 13:00 off in the last 19, the last full night off a suspension on 12/27. Kulbakov has played all but 13:00 of the last 19, the last time League played at all was a late relief effort on 1/6. Something is not right here.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 429
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.