Jaden Grant got things going early. After an earlier powerplay was cut short due to the Phantoms taking their own penalty, the Phantoms second attempt at the man advantage was successful when Adam Ingram found Grant in the slot. Grant had just enough space between defenders to backhand the puck behind Caps netminder Marino Ramirez 4:52. The Phantoms added another powerplay goal late in the period, Grant assisting this time with a nice pass from the left halfboards to the slot where Morgan Winters deflected the pass in behind Ramirez for his first USHL goal at 17:32. Shots were 12-9 Phantoms who had a 2-0 lead.
Any thoughts that the Caps were going to just roll over and go down without a fight were extinguished quickly into the second frame. An early powerplay for them lead to Nick DeSantis snapping a shot through traffic, beating Kyle Chauvette who was well screened on the play at 0:48. A bit after the 5:00 mark, the Caps thought they had tied it. A loose puck near the crease lead to a mad scramble of players, Tyler Catalano laying on the goal line across the goal mouth, Chauvette somewhere in a pile of players, and the Caps trying to shove the whole mess into the goal cage. The puck somehow went across the line, the goal light went on, and the Caps celebrated but the ref immediately waived it off. The best guess is the puck had been deemed covered by a Phantom player and the ref was in the process of blowing the whistle.
The floodgates were open. At 11:40, Chris Hedden got his first as a Phantoms, with a pair of Phantoms fighting a Caps defenseman at the top of Ramirez's crease. The Caps returned fire, a beautiful cycling sequence had Casey Severo, behind the net, find Kyle Kukkonen in the slot between the Phantoms defenders for a one-timer at 14:01. The Phantoms answered shortly after with Ingram springing Kyle Bettens on a breakaway, a nifty snap shot glove side, for his first of the night at 15:20. The Caps finished the exchange in the second period, with the Phantoms trying to play prevent defense late. Jack Hobach snapped a shot off of Chauvette that bounced to Quinn Finley in the slot, who rifled the puck high over Chauvette with 0:48 left in the middle frame. The Caps outshot the Phantoms 15-8 in the second and the Phantoms held a 4-3 lead going into the third.
You had to know there would be some drama in the third. With Winter Wallace in the box on a slashing call, Quinn Finley tallied his second at 12:58 with a shot from the blueline straight up the middle. Tyler Haskins was parked in front of Chauvette uncontested, and Chauvette barely managed to wave a glove at the puck. The game was tied, but Chris Hedden stretched the Caps defense with a nice pass through the neutral zone to Bettens, who shrugged off defenseman Blake Dangos and snapping a shot past a visibly disappointed Ramirez, breaking the tie 0:31 after the Caps knotted it up. Bettens completed the hat trick with an empty net goal. Shots were 10-8 Phantoms in the third and 32-30 Caps overall, the final score 6-4.
Well, it was a win in a grudge match. I thought the first period we looked great, really catching the Caps off guard after the way we played last time these teams met. Starts like that will end in wins more often than not. In the second we might have softened a little and the Caps fought back, but we managed to bend but not break. A couple timely answers to Caps goals, particularly the Bettens game winner, were the keys to our success. With the Caps back at the Covelli tonight, we'll need to tighten up even more since I expect we'll see strong response from them.
A small Friday night crowd was not unexpected, but we should be doing better. We're 4-1 at the Covelli now. We'll see a lot more for tonight's game, cheap seats and beer! I had a few issues with getting video but I did get a good shot of the the Jaden Grant goal, and a better shot of his celly. Here it is.
Jaden Grant fires the crowd up with a PP goal!