- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 515
Well, after a full 60 game season the Phantoms aren't done. Despite a tense final run, requiring a little help at the end, the Phantoms season is still alive as we move into round 1 of the USHL's Clark Cup playoffs. Last year we finished strong but missed it by a few games. This year was almost the opposite, a weak run at the end could have doomed us. But that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger and we'll have to be stronger to beat the Eastern Conference leaders, the Chicago Steel.
Let's face it, offense isn't what got the Phantoms to this point. I'm going to have give the Steel the edge there. They started the season returning their leading scorer for the previous season, Jake Jaremko, who finished in 2nd on the team with 17g and 29a. Starting alongside him was Reggie Lutz, a '96 who moved up from an impressive showing in the NAHL last season to lead the Steel in scoring with 24g and 23a. Another new addition to the Steel was Jack Badini, a big '98 born forward who played the past couple season with the Lincoln Stars. He scored 6g, 9a total in two season there, he scored 28g and 14a this season in Chicago. During the season the Steel added Brandon McManus (18g, 20a) from Omaha and Jason O'Niell (20g, 16a) from Sioux Falls. The Phantoms counter with a group of forwards that includes a little grit.
The Phantoms leading returning forward this season was Alex Esposito, 7th in overall points for the 15-16 season. This season he finished 3rd in overall scoring with 18g and 16a as well as second in penalty minutes with 144. The Phantoms got a huge break bringing in a Czech import, Nicolas Werbik, a '97 who spent last season in the QMJHL and lead the Phantoms in scoring with 18g and 21a. Another surprising turn of events was the Phantoms acquiring Austin Pooley from Fargo in the off-season. Pooley was much better known as a grinder and a defensive forward, touted as a skilled PK player, and he delivered on that and also lead the team in goals with 21g as well as 11a. Coale Norris is another player moving up from the NAHL this season. The '97 also elevated his game and brings a good balance of speed, size and a pretty good shot to add 15g and 15a. The Phantoms offense took a hit mid-season when Brett Murray left for Penn State around the Christmas break. He was eventually replaced by Pierce Crawford, acquired by trade from Omaha near the trade deadline. Crawford brought even more grit and scoring ability making him 2nd on the team in points with 18g, 19a and first in PIMS with 146.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 374
We're in! The Phantoms needed just a point in the standings against the NTDP U17s to break the tie in the standings with the Green Bay gamblers. What we got was a dominant win and Ivan Kulbakov's team record tying 5th shutout. Even more important, the Phantoms looked more like a team preparing for a playoff run.
The Phantoms came out with a purpose and it showed, aggressive and physical on both defense and offense. This didn't translate into a huge amount of shots on goal but the Phantoms were clearly carrying the play and showing some impressive puck possession. Even penalties wouldn't stop them, and the first goal was scored on an early penalty kill. NTDP defenseman Ty Emberson would miss an outlet pass from his own zone, instead putting the puck on the stick of Jake Gingell. Gingell would hurry a pass to Austin Pooley who hurried the puck into the attack zone, drawing the lone USA defender, defenseman K'Andre Miller, to him in the left faceoff circle. This was a huge mistake by Miller, always play the pass. Maybe he didn't see Alex Esposito joining the rush but Pooley did and Pooley hit him in the slot between the hash marks. Esposito went forehand to back hand, which dropped the NTDP netminder, Anthony Yamnitsky to the ice, allowing Esposito to go back to the forehand for the second Phantoms shorthanded goal in as many nights at 6:21. USA would push back a little, shots would be 7-5 but the Phantoms lead 1-0 after 1.
The second period would be pretty much the same thing. The Phantoms would carry a slight edge in shots but neither team was shooting the lights out. The Phantoms seemed content to just possess the puck and not allow the NTDP to get a lot of good chances, preferring to make them play deep in the USA end. The Phantoms would add to their lead late in the frame when a shot from the point bounced to the stick of Pierce Crawford at the side of the crease. His attempt was unsuccessful but USA's Jake Wise tried to play the puck and tapped it behind his own goaltender with only :53 left in the second. Shots were 9-5 in favor of the Phantoms.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 332
The Phantoms playoff hopes are still alive. With the Phantoms needing 3 of the 4 possible points this weekend, last nights win put us just an overtime away from the playoffs. Faceing the NTDP U17 squad, who are having some issues of their own at the moment, seems like it should be an easy task but it never is. When you add in the pressure of having to get points and how inconsistently we have played down the stretch, you never really know what will happen. The good news is the Phantoms rose to the challenge and picked up a big win at home.
Things started scary enough. Early in the first period, Jake Gingell sent a clearing attempt from behind the Phantoms net to the blueline where only a pair of NTDP forwards waited for it. Josh Maniscalco was the one who corralled it and sent a wrist shot in on net that Phantoms netminder Ivan Kulbakov failed to get a glove on and the NTDP took a 1-0 lead just 2:34 into the game on their first shot. The Phantoms would get their chance to even it up when Jack DeBohr took a double minor penalty for high sticking. Shortly after that the NTDP would mess up a line change badly, jumping three men on for two off. The result was a full 2:00 of a two-man advantage powerplay. Austin Pooley would be the recipient of a rebound from a Dominic Dockery shot from the right faceoff circle and Pooley would backhand the puck around a sprawled NTDP netminder, Anthony Yamnitsk who was recently called in from the BCHL. The tie would hold into the intermission, shots on goal were 11-9 in favor of the Phantoms.
The Phantoms would take the lead on another Pooley special teams goal, this time short handed. The play would start with a Steve Ruggerio hit on Jake Pivonka crossing the blueline into the Phantoms zone. This propelled the puck back into the neutral zone. Pooley had a step on two USA defenders and the closest NTDP skater lost his stick trying to reach around Pooley for the puck. Pooley would skate to the right faceoff circle and shoot, beating Yamnitsky over his glove on the short side with very little room to sneak the puck in at 8:34 of the second. The Phantoms would add another a little over 2:00 later. Pierce Crawford would pick off a clearing attempt and make a nice pass to Ruggiero who sneaked in from his defensive position to the right facoff circle. Ruggiero quickly slid the puck over to the left faceoff circle for Alex Esposito to slam home for a 2 goal lead at 10:49. The Phantoms outshooting the NTDP 7-6.