- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 504
The playoff push continues at home this weekend in Youngstown as the Phantoms (26-14-4-1) face off against an opponent in a very similar situation with a very similar record, the Fargo Force (26-15-2-1). The Force are in fourth place in the Western Conference, a game and a half behind Des Moines for third with a game in hand over the Bucs. This is very similar to the Phantoms dogfight against the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The biggest difference is the Force has a much closer fifth place opponent with the Lincoln Stars, a half game behind the Force with the Force a game in hand. Needless to say, neither team wants to give an inch this weekend.
The Force come in with one of the top lines in the USHL. They're led by the leagues leading goal scorer,Jack Adams, who has 26g and 20a on the season. Centering the line is Blake Lizotte (10g,31a), who is described as a guy who thrives in the chaos in front of the net and is able to make the last second pass. Hank Crone rounds out the top line, a smaller skilled forward with 16g and 24a. They have a few other dangerous forwards like Shane McMahan (12g, 12a), a big center who can cause a lot of damage and Jacob Panganelli (11g, 14a), another smaller forward who makes up for size with skill. On defense, Clayton Phillips is a highly touted bluelliner, a B-ranked skater on the NHL CSS watch list for his defensive ability. Fargo native Cody Haiskanen (4g, 16a) is a good playmaking defenseman as is Finnish import Philip Alftberg (4g, 15a). In net I thought I'd be telling you about Matt Murray, and no not the Pittsburgh Penguins netminder. Murray is a guy who has logged a lot of minutes and put up very good numbers, nto far off our Ivan Kulbakov in many areas. However, Murray whacked a guy in the head with his stick after a bit goaltender interference outside the crease last weekend. Nothing extremely serious but the league deemed it enough he'll sit this weekend out in suspension. In net will be Ryan Bischel, a '99 born rookie who has only played 10 games and 422 minutes. In his short USHL career he has a 4-3-0-0 record and has posted a 2.27 GAA and a .902 SV%.
The Phantoms saw Pierce Crawford join the team last week from Omaha. In his first 2 games he has 2 assists and the shootout winning goal in last Saturday's game agaisnt the USA NTDP U17s. However, Nicolas Werbik left Friday's game in Muskegon early and did not play the game on Saturday. I suspect this is bad news and possibly a long term head injury. This will mean others will need to step up their play. Brad Cocca is a player who has been on the healthy scratch list a lot and could really use this ice time to make a case for himself. Team captain, Tommy Apap is another guy I'd really like to see score some goals and even more is Werbik is out. On defense, we'll need to see a little more physical play without the big guys getting in penalty trouble. I don't think anything has changed in net for the Phantoms. I have not heard much in the way of updates on Britt League's injury. I won't feed the rumor mill as of yet, but I'm led to believe there are other issues. Ivan Kulbakov has played in 17 straight games, only getting a brief relief from League back on 1/6 in a loss to Muskegon. The trade deadline is in a few days, if League is not going to be able to contribute it might be wise to bring in some sort of backup at least to give Kulbakov a night off.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 420
It feels like a while since I've done one of these, and this one is going to be pretty short since I have to get to other projects this weekend. The Phantoms were back at the Covelli after 5 games on the road, kicking off a stand of 7 straight at home. Kicking off the stretch, a match against the USA NTDP U17s. The U17s aren't usually the hardest games on the schedule but if you let up on them at all, they'll make you pay. To make matters worse, the Phantoms were without Nicolas Werbik, their top scorer injured the night before in the 2-1 loss to Muskegon.
The Phantoms got on the board first, late in the opening period. On the rush, newly acquired Pierce Crawford slid a nice backhand pass to the low slot to the stick of Coale Norris who redirected it past USA netminder Ryan Ullan at 18:57 of the first. USA would not let the lead stand for long. Just 0:38 into the second, Tyler Weiss would skate behing the Phantoms net and stepped out to the right of Ivan Kulbakov and threw a backhand shot to the top left corner that looked like it caught Kulbakov by surprise. The Phantoms would retake the lead shorthanded when Austin Poolet intercepted a pass in the neutral zone. He and Alex Esposito would take it in on a 2-on-1 and, freezing Ullan with the option to pass, Pooley ripped one home at 8:40 of the second. USA would tie it again on the powerplay, Johnathan Gruden backhand flipping a rebound over a sprawling Kulbakov at 12:07.
The Phantoms and USA would remain knotted at 2 a piece through the rest of regulation and a full overtime. Despite outshooting the NTDP in every period - 9-7, 12-8, 10-7, 2-3, it would require a shootout to decide the winner. Pierce Crawford would net the winner in the 4th round, no fancy dekes or moves, just a good wristshot stick-side on Ullan from the slot.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 470
Well, it's another exciting week in the USHL. The Phantoms (25-13-4-1) finish up a 5 game road stretch this week against the Muskegon Lumberjacks (25-14-2-1) on Friday before heading home to the Covelli for a match against the USA NTDP U17 squad (4-14-1-0 in USHL games). In this last road stand, we're a perfect 4 for 4 and have gotten just a little help in the standings to keep us in third place. With the trade deadline getting closer, we saw some teams making big trades last week. This week we only saw one but it was a big one for the Phantoms, sending Noah LaLonde and a few draft picks over the next two seasons to Omaha for Pierce Crawford, a good scoring left winger who has some snarl to his game. With this trade I see the Phantoms roster as being pretty much set but I'd be lying if I said I didn't wait till the last minute to publish this just in case.
First up is Muskegon. The Lumberjacks have made big trades as well. Picking up Ty Farmer and sending Scooter Brickly to Des Moines was just the start. The traded picks and a prospect to Omaha for Austin Alger, a very capable scoring second year center with 12g and 14a on the season. Centering the line with Colin Adams (20g, 21a) and Andre Svechnikov (20g, 18a) give the 'Jacks one of, if not the top line in the league. Add Bo Hanson on the blueline with 4g and 25a, as well as solid defense, and you have lot to contain, especially on the road where you don't have the last change. Speaking of defensemen, I'm not sure if I've mentioned Zach Berzolla yet this season. Berzolla is a big, shutdown defenseman and probably not given enough credit for his work in his second full season. In net, as always, are a formidable pair of NHL CSS ranked goaltenders. Kieth Petruzzelli is 13-8-0-0 and has played slightly more minutes. He has a 2.67GAA, a .906 SV% and a pair of shutouts on the season. Adam Brizgala is 12-6-2-1 and has posted a 2.56 GAA, .910 SV% and a shutout as well. I won't say I would rather face either but Petruzzelli is 3-1-0-0 against the Phantoms and Brizgala is 0-1-1-0.
Then finally back home to face the U17 NTDP. The last time these teams faced, USA won late on a shot from an odd angle that took a funny bounce through Ivan Kulbakov for the only goal of the game. Jake Pivonka scored that goal, one of his 4g and 4a on the season. He's one of the NTDP players I really anticipate will step up next season on the U18s. Joel Farabee (7g, 6a) and Tyler Weiss (5g, 4a) are another pair of forwards. On defense, I like Mattias Samuelsson and not just because his dad, Kjell, was a monster defenseman in the NHL and won a Stanly Cup with the Penguins. The younger Samuelsson is a much better skater and can play a good two-way game and has 4g and 3a in USHL action. I also like the skating and awareness of K'Andre Miller, another player who may develop into a big name prospect next season. In net is a pair I've not yet developed much of an impression or opinion on. Ryan Ullan is 2-4-0-0 on the season with a 4.02 GAA and a .862 SV%. Keegan Karki is 1-6-0-1 with a 4.21 GAA and a .875 SV%. Neither has been impressive in the single game I've seen them play, both the second week of the season with a call-up getting the shutout in the last game. Both Ullan and Karki are young and probably have improved noticeably since we last saw them and will probably continue to improve moving into next season.