- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 1153
I knew it would be an entertaining game when I sat down and saw Blake Christensen wearing the #25 jersey for Muskegon about a day after wearing #88 for the Phantoms. When the Lumberjacks come into town, throw out things like records and standings, winning or losing streaks, because neither team is going to care about that for at least 60 minutes. The focus will be all on winning in-game battles and the final score. You can also throw out old allegiances and Christensen was now the enemy. Also to keep the storyline interesting, F Keifer Sherwood and D Fredric Larsson were back in the lineup after injuries.
The 'Jacks didn't waste any time getting to work. On the first shift of the game, the Phantoms turned the puck over to Robbie DeMontis behind their own net. He put a beautiful pass out front to Matt Iacopelli, who was skating through the face-off circle and into the slot. Phantoms netminder Colin DeAugustine was unable to move laterally quick enough and the 'Jacks leading scorer ripped it right by him just 1:22 into the game. The Phantoms managed to regroup and take some of the momentum back quickly and started to get to work themselves. They managed to tie it up at the 13:03 mark of the first period when Josh Melnick took a shot coming down the right side with Zach Evancho skating to the net who deflected the puck past Muskegon's goalie, Jordan Uhelski. Maxim Letunov would put the Phantoms ahead just 0:18 later. Defensman Kyle Mackey managed to slip a shot in from the point and the rebound ended up at the feet of Letunov. The 17 year old Moscow, Russia native was facing away from the goalie but managed to chop the puck behind him on the backhand and past Uhelski. The Phantoms ended the period outshooting the 'Jacks 16-5
The Phantoms took the 2-1 advantage to the locker-room along with some momentum. A jovial Covelli crowd watched that all disappear quickly in the second. 2:19 into the period defensman Tommy Parran was whistled for a 'questionable' roughing penalty. The politically correct, official recap called it questionable, to me there was no question. I was watching the play and could see the action very clearly and there was nothing that could be considered roughing by this leagues standards, or in T-ball for that matter! To compound it, coach Noreen took an unsportsmanlike penalty for arguing a call that should have been argued. This gave Muskegon a 5-on3 PP for a full 2 minutes. 1:02 into the penalty the 'Jacks tied it when Blake Christensen beat his old team on a shot through traffic. That was as close as they would get to taking back the game though.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 1855
Well it's Friday and more importantly, (in my best Mike Lang voice) it's a hockey night in Youngstown. After a split decision in 2 rounds against Fago last weekens Fargo, the Phantoms get a home-and-home against our arch nemesis, the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The reason I wait until Friday morning to write this is because this league likes to spring things on you at the last minute and that's just what these two clubs did yesterday evening. Late Thursday, they announced a trade. Phantoms forward, #88 Blake Christensen, has been sent to the 'Jacks for a 6th round Phase II (Futures) draft pick. We also swapped Phase I (Entry) draft picks, the Phantoms getting the 'Jacks 3rd round and the 'Jacks getting the Phantoms 4th round and picked up 'future consideration.' FC terms are always sketchy but Muskegon also is announcing that the Phantoms get one of their affiliate forwards in the deal, James Winkler of the USPHL (premiere) Portland Jr. Pirates. The 6'3" 194 pounder has 6 goals and 1 assist in 16 games with his current club. He's a 1995 birth year player (18 years old) but born on January 1st so he's about as old as a '95 player as you can get. He's a 1996 birth year (4/22) and a commit to Northeastern University.*
I'm not sure how Christensen fits into Muskegon's picture since tonight is our first look at them. They've only a few returning players from last season from what I can discern. It's not out of the question that Christensen plays tonight in Youngstown or tomorrow in Muskegon but probably not. Matt Iacopelli is the Lumberjacks top scorer but they have a nice balanced mix of contributors down their roster. Trevor Morebeck is one of those contributors but he'll be sitting out the weekend due to a 2 game suspension for an Elbowing infraction last Saturday against Dubuque. Additionally Mason Jobst, on of their most experienced players, is on the IR. This sets up affiliate Grant Jozefek for his first USHL game. Don't let the fact that he's only 16 years (and 20 days) old fool you. In his freshman year at high school he led all scorers in the State of New Jersey with 51 goals and 52 assists. He added 109 points in the Atlantic Youth Hockey League and 3 goals and 10 assists in 8 games with the New Jersey Hitmen of the USPHL (U18). He'll definitely be a kid to watch out for and not just in the future.
The Phantoms get head coach Anthony Noreen and sniper Kyle Connor back from the World Jr. A Challenge. The Phantoms representatives in Nova Scotia won the gold and hope to translate the experience into something positive for the Phantoms. This was Noreen's first time getting the nod for a tournament like this so I'm especially interested to see what he can bring back to our table. With Christensen being shipped off to the enemy and no affiliates coming in that I know of, I assume we'll be getting back some injured players... or at least I hope so. Other than that I don't have much to talk about for the Phantoms.
Now for this week I expect a much more physical game and it's not like we've been playing soft. I mean we need to get to hitting anyone who touches the puck and including the goalie. I wouldn't mind seeing a goalie interference call, but one of the keys to winning will be keeping emotions in-check in a hard hitting game. 'Initiate, don't retaliate' is the expression and I think that will be the way to go here. If you see the refs arm go up against them, just walk away. I think net-front presence is the other key. We need to outnumber their players in front of the cage. Muskegon has a good tandem in net with Eric Schierhorn and Jordan Uhelski. Schierhorn (2.35 GAA, .937 SV%) played some the the NTDP last year and is 4-4-0 this year and Uhelski (3.70GAA, .888 SV%) was Kevin Lindskoug's backup last season and is 4-2-3 this year. Rebounds, deflections and screens go a long way and we're not doing enough to set those up. I'd like to see bodies like Conor Lemirande parked in front of the cage, especially during poweplays. Steven Ruggiero is a defenseman, but he's a fast skater and has good skills for someone as young and with the frame that he has and I wouldn't mind seeing him go to the front of the net on the PP.
As always, a good crowd at the Covelli won't hurt the Phantoms any. The 'Jacks are a good rival and a fan favorite to come out to jeer against. Let's make them as uncomfortable as we can.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 830
Another late recap, I suppose you're getting used to that. Saturday's game was a hard one to describe. If you're a glass half full type person you saw two of the best periods of hockey the Covelli has seen in a while. The glass half empty camp saw how a bad first period lead to a loss despite throwing everything and then some at the Fargo Force's net in the second and third. Both sides are correct.
Coming off a win where we let the Force come back to force (pun intended) a shootout the question was who would have the momentum going into the tilt on Saturday. The answer was evident at the beginning of the game that it was Fargo. The Force scored just a second shy of the 2 minute mark and tallied for goals before the first period buzzed sounded. John Baiocco, Andrew McDonald, Garrick Grey and Aaron Herdt all got a goal and most of them were from screens, deflections and rebounds. Net front presence was the key. Fargo outshot the Phantoms 14-10 but the score was a much better indicator of the Forces domination of the period, especially attack zone time.
The Phantoms came out a different team in the second. Defenseman Steven Ruggerio took an early slashing penalty but his teammates killed most of it and Fargo's Christopher Buchanan evened things up with just 0:03 left. Luke Stork won the faceoff and with Ruggerio racing to the bench from the penalty box and, I believe but am not certain, Conor Lemirande jumped into the play and stormed to the net. Stork fired a shot and the Force's goalie, Brendan Jensen, made the initial save but the rebound landed on the stick of Ryan Schwalbe who buried the shot and cu the deficit to 3. The Phantoms would outshoot Fargo 20-4 in the frame but still trailed by 3 going into the 3rd.
The Phantoms kept their foot on the gas pedal in the 3rd. A slew of penalties at the end of the 2nd lead to a 4-on-3 powerplay for the Phantoms. Tyler Spezia's rebound came out to Luke Stork and the 2nd year Phantom cut the lead to 2 with 19:29 left to play. The Phatoms would go on to outshoot the Force 19-5 in the final period and with 1:05 left in the game Tommy Parran entered the zone with the puck and made a cross ice dump to the right of the Fargo net. The puck bounced out to JJ Piccinich, who was on the ice as the extra attacker with the Phantoms netminder, Colin DeAugustine, pulled for the extra attacker. Piccinich shot the puck off the hop from the boards and Maxim Letunov deflected the shot passed Jensen to bring the score to within a goal. But despite multiple good scoring opportunities, the Phantoms were unable to get the tying goal past Jensen, who was undeniably the reason the Force held on to win.
DeAugustine played well. I couldn't find much fault of his with the early goals, he had too much traffic in front of him. If the Phantoms had played the first 20 minutes like they did the second 40 minutes they would have easily defeated any team in the league. I don't want to make excuses about missing key players since we had almost the same lineup as the night before. The only difference was Steve Ruggerio replacing Alex Smith who was suspended for 1 game, I assume for a checking from behind penalty the night before. I don't think that made any difference. The Phantoms may have been able to score more had they generated more traffic in front of Jensen. We eventually outshot them 49-23 overall and 39-9 after the first period. A lot of those shots, especially through the first 2 periods were straight on with Jensen able to see them all the way. This has been an issue over the beginning of the season and I hope the success the Phantoms had later in the game serves as a lesson that getting guys in the dirty areas is a recipe for cooking up goals.
If anything, it was an entertaining game and an entertaining weekend. Both teams played hard and showed a good brand of hockey, win or lose. If you can't appreciate that then I feel sorry for you. I hope we can see some more of that the upcoming weekend against Muskegon.
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