I'll skip the Dubuque recap since I didn't see the game and only having one day off of work doesn't leave me a lot of time to write. The Phantoms official site has a professionally written one if you need it. Instead, I'll just focus on the one preseason game I did see. I like watching Team USA so I managed to catch it on Fasthockey. First off, let me say I saw a lot of good things and was happy with most of the Phantoms play. That said, it's the few things that went wrong that are so frustrating. If this were a regular season game I would probably be livid right now.
The first period was well played but neither team generated a lot of chances, only six shots on goal a piece. Of all the new face, I thought Maxim Letunov looked the best. He cause a little havoc and I like that. The second period was well played too but I thought the Phantoms looked a little better than USA and, despite both teams only generating four shots each, they took a 1-0 lead early in the period. Luke Stork fed a nice pass through the slot and right onto the tape of Keifer Sherwoord's stick. Sherwood, who played nine games for the Phantoms as an affiliate without recording a goal, buried it.
Then came the third. Things started out well. Rookie forward Ryan Schwalbe drew an early penalty putting the Phantoms on the power play. Team USA easily had the better chances despite being short handed and Phantoms netminder Jake Moore, the starter for all five preseason games, made a great save on a 2 on 1 opportunity for the NTDP. The Phantoms went back to work at even strength and again, Schwalbe drew another penalty less than five minutes after USA returned a man to the ice. This is when they had their first breakdown. USA killed the penalty and shortly after they returned a man to the ice the Phantoms turned the puck over near USA's blueline. This led to a 2 on 0 breakaway that Sonny Milano slipped past Moore. USA entered the Phantoms zone on an odd man rush. The Phantoms defender in the best position failed to take away the pass, instead playing a sort of halfway between the puck carrier and the other attacker to try to prevent the puck carrier from cutting in towards the net.. The puck carrier, Shane Gersich, took a bad angle shot that found it's way behind Moore. I didn't see who the Phantoms D-man back was but I think it was Matt Miller. The angle it went in and Jake Moore's reaction, or lack of, make me think Moore wasn't confident that there wouldn't be a cross-ice pass and wasn't able to perfectly square up to the shooter. I know it's preseason junior hockey but every defender should know that you always take away the pass and let your goalie handle the shooter. He may have thought he had the passing angle cut off too, but he was way too close and a little flip over the stick would have done it. That was it, add an empty net goal and USA wins it. There were more issues than just the two goals. OK, they lost track of what happened when USA went back to full strength after a successful penalty kill. The other side of the coin is that was their sixth power play of the evening and the sixth one they failed to score on. Going 0 for 6 on the power play isn't a recipe for winning a lot of games.
Despite all this, they looked pretty good. Factor in They're without a top line forward in Nathan Walker, who played that night in a Washington Capitals preseason game. Sean Romeo has been absent for the entire preseason schedule. I have no report of him being injured but they probably wouldn't release that info anyway. Phantoms announcer, Bart Logan, simply referred to him as getting 'some well deserved time off' so it sounds like he'll be in net soon enough. A couple returning Phantoms, forward Mac MacSorley and defenseman Kyle Mackey were also scratched, I assume due to injury. Another positive, the swedish born blueliner Fredrik Larsson (no relation to Alfred) looked strong. He looks a bit lanky but plays physical enough. If he can add a few pounds he'll be a real force.
OK, that's it for preseason. The season opens this weekend in Ann Arbor against the same Team USA on Friday and the U17 squad on Sunday. Never underestimate these kids, either squad. The NAHL Janesville Jets underestimated the U17 and got annihilated. The U18 is returning most of it's squad from last years U17 team. We play both teams four times and we need to be ready for each game and play the full 60 minutes each time. Let's not start skipping ahead to Green Bay and the home opener.