Well, after a week off and two weeks on the road the Phantoms returned to the Covelli for only their second home game of the season. The first game, way back on October 2nd, was a 8-1 pounding of the NTDP in front of a jubilant crowd. Last night felt like the polar opposite. Coming off of a long stretch away from home, a 4 game losing streak, and a controversial trade, the Phantoms first game back was markedly less energetic and a much smaller crowd and the performance on the ice matched.
The first 40:00 saw the teams exchange goals, not a lot of action. The Phantoms seemed to come out with some energy and ready to play for about the first 5:00 of the opening frame but that quickly faded and the RoughRiders took over most of the rest of the frame. At 7:11 of the first, the 'Riders Adam Flammang ripped a shot off the rush from the top of the right side faceoff circle to the top far corner, beating Owen Bartoszkewicz stick side for a 1-0 riders lead. Shots were 7-4 'Riders.
The Phantoms tied it late in the second. Justin Varner notched his second of the season, tracking down a loose puck and whipping a shot from the left faceoff circle that trickled through 'Riders netminder Connor Hasley at 14:56. Shots were even at 6 a side in the second.
The third started with the 'Riders controlling play. The Phantoms were not able to shut down a routine drive up ice. the 'Riders Adam Moore was left mostly uncovered on the rush through the slot, and after some not so fancy passing from the wingers, put a shot over Bartoszkewicz from the top of the crease at 7:05. It's hard to tell from my angle at the Covelli or from the broadcast replay, but I believe Carter Rose should have picked him up much earlier. Not long after, with Justin Varner in the box for hooking, the 'Riders pushed the lead to 2 goals when Grant Ahcan one-timed a shot from the left side beating Bartoszkewicz at 8:29.
The Phantoms got one back at 13:04. With former Phantoms Yusaku Ando in the box for elbowing, defenseman Trey Taylor unloaded a hard shot from the point through traffic that Hasley flinched at but never got a piece of as the Phantoms drew to within a goal. That sparked a pretty furious effort from the Phantoms but they were unable to get the equalizing goal and the final score was 3-2. The Phantoms outshot the RoughRiders 10-7 in the third and shots were even at 20 a side for the game.
It's not that Cedar Rapids is a good team, we just played worse. There were moments, especially down the final stretch, but the Phantoms have not played a full 60:00 game since the 2nd against the U17s. As a whole, it seems like the team is just not on the same page. A few players here or there are clicking but a lot of times it seems like five skaters doing their own thing. Passing seems an issue, when we are struggling we just do not seem to be able to complete more than one or two passes in a row or take a pass cleanly on the tape.
I will give a lot of credit to the 'Riders for blocking shots. It seemed like when the Phantoms do execute well and had good scoring chances, the 'Riders always had a guy going down or getting a stick out to block the shot. The Phantoms will need to find some way to open lanes up more or get shots off quicker to get more pucks on net. .
Last night was a small crowd, we expect Fridays like these early on in the season but last night was pretty dead. Tonight is the trick-or-treat game plus cheap beer, I expect a better crowd. Hopefully, we'll see a better performance on the ice along with that. Anyway, here's the highlight.
Trey Taylor blasts one from the point!