A pair of Phantom's losses were the only downside to the return of the USHL Fall Classic.
The Fall Classic Returns! - A pair of Phantom's losses were the only downside to the return of the USHL Fall Classic.
The Fall Classic Returns! - A pair of Phantom's losses were the only downside to the return of the USHL Fall Classic.
First off, it was great to be back in Cranberry, PA for the USHL Fall Classic. Great hockey, great atmosphere, and great (but a little expensive) food. No, seriously, try The Training Table Cafe's chicken alfredo. If you've ever been curious to see how NHL and NCAA scouts work, this is the time and place. After not being held last year, presumably because the Pittsburgh Penguins didn't want to risk infecting their practice arena, the USHL and all parties involved put on a great event. 

Now onto the bad part of it. The Phantoms left the event sitting right where they left off last season in the standings - sole possession of the cellar. A pair of regulation losses left us with 0 points on the week to start the season. There isn't much to talk about, so I chose to break with the usual single game format of my reviews for a combined recap.

First up was Thursday's opener against the Lincoln Stars. Both teams looked a little tentative to start the game. Neither team had much going, save for some trips to the penalty box. (Lincoln with 2 trips and the Phantoms with 3)  Shots were 12-8 in favor of Lincoln but neither team scored. This wasn't unexpected for a pair of teams playing their first games of the season who haven't seen each other in well over a year.

The second period was another story, one that started well for the Phantoms. Just 0:48 into the middle frame, the Phantoms scored their first goal of the season. Newcomer defenseman Cole Teleki took a pass just inside the Stars blueline and moved around Lincoln's Yu Sato, drawing the forward and a couple other Stars defenders, opening up Ryan Alexander for a clean pass and one-timer just inside the right faceoff circle that beat the Stars' netminder Kaidan Mbereko.

The Stars answered quickly. With Kenta Isogai off for a slashing penalty, the Stars' Sato launched a big shot from the point. First year Phantoms goalie Owen Bartoszkewicz made the save, but the rebound went straight to Lincoln's Michael Mastrodominico who buried the shot at 3:07. Lincoln added to the lead when Phantoms forward Shane Lechance put a back hand pass up ice to clear the defensive zone that instead fluttered to the stick of the Stars' Henry Nelson, who wristed a shot from the high slot before Bartosczkewicz could get set at 8:57. 

The Phantoms answered a few minutes later. A long lead pass from Carter Rose sprung Adam Ingram who beat Mbereko clean to the stick side at 12:04. That would close out the second period scoring. Shots on goal were 13-9 in favor of Lincoln but the score was still deadlocked going into the final period, 2-2.

Honestly, ask anyone and they'll tell you the Phantoms outplayed the Stars in the third. Lincoln's Aiden Thompson would chop a backhander that Bartosczkewicz stopped but Sato was right there to rifle in the rebound at 13:08. The Phantoms put up a valiant effort, outshooting the Stars 11-5 in the final frame but the 3-2 score would hold to the buzzer. Shot totals were 30-28 Lincoln.

It was a good game, we just got a little outplayed. But the Phantoms played well, especially in the later stages of the game. It's a tough loss but one you can accept. Now on to Friday. You would think the Phantoms would build off a tough game like that and come in ready to play Waterloo, who didn't look very good the day before. You would think that and you would be wrong.

The Phantoms got absolutely nothing going in this game. It was clear early that they had no real game plan and looked almost confused. Kyle Chauvette held on as long as he could. Waterloo outshot the Phantoms 17-5 in the opening period, Chauvette kept it scoreless. The second was nearly as bad, 15-7, but Chauvette was unable to hold it off the full 20:00. Cole Teleki banked a long pass from behind the net off the boards that was picked off by Jacob Jeanette who walked in and ripped one far side, glove hand on Chauvette to take the lead at 18:31.

Being outshot 32-12 and only down a goal, you would think the Phantoms would try to reset and make something of the third. You would be wrong... again. Or at least I was wrong. Early in the third, the Black Hawks controlled the puck in the Phantoms zone, the Phantoms chasing but unable to do much defensively. John Waldron threw a pass through the slot that hit something and took a Hawks bounce behind Chauvette at 1:04 of the period.

The Phantoms still had nearly 19 minutes but only managed 3 shots on net to the Hawks 10 in the frame, final shots on goal were 42-15 and the score 2-0. This was a giant leap backwards. Any offseason gains that you thought the Phantoms had made watching the first game disappeared quickly with the second game. This one was embarrassing. 

And that was the Fall Classic for the Phantoms. With a pair of games against the NTDP U17s looming, Week 2 looks like it might be more pivotal than a second week should be. Anyway, I stuck around most of the rest of the weekend, saw some hockey and ate some good food. Really, try the chicken alfredo. I think I'll end on that and a couple highlights.

Cole Teleki to Ryan Alexander for the one-timer!

 


Adam Ingram buries the breakaway!