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 Phantoms fought the Chicago Steel to a 5-4 OT loss on Saturday.I'm back with a recap. I haven't done one of these in a while so I think I'll just jump in with Saturday's game against Chicago.

After an uneventful first period, and the Phantoms being outshot 6-3, we opened the scoring early in the second. Cole Burtch, just off the bench, stole the puck outside the attack zone and skated in for a shot that was deflected aside by Steel netminder Nick Haas. Burtch took his own rebound behind the net and centered it to Yusaku Ando who deflected it in at 2:04.

The Steel's Adam Robbins tied it a short time later when a clearing attempt failed to move the puck and it settled on Robbins stick in the slot where he snapped a wrister, beating Mattais Sholl at 4:29. The Steel took a brief lead when defenseman Ian Moore decided to skate down from the blueline, launching a backhander from below the left faceoff circle at an odd angle that beat Sholl up high at 7:43

The Phantoms would get the lead back before the middle frame ended. Jack Silich ran over Steel defender Jack Babbage as Silich carried the puck up ice, creating a 2-on-1, with Moore defending. Moore was not able to take away the pass to Riley Duran who tied it at 11:00. Moments later, the Phantoms found themselves on a powerplay and defenseman Mike Brown just threw a puck at the net that handcuffed Haas, giving the Phantoms a lead 3-2 at 12:43. Shots were 12-7 Phantoms in the second and led 3-2 going into the final 20:00 of regulation.

Better defense, better offense, and a Ben Schoen hat trick earn the Phantoms their first win at home this season.Well, two home games in the books, and this time we recorded our first home win of the 20-21 season. These little milestones seem so much larger this year. This game was special in that we saw the return of some familiar names, including Ben Schoen, who's return to the ice was a week or so sooner than we anticipated. The question was if he would make an significant impact so soon after returning to the ice. Yeah, you know the answer to that. 

Facing the same opponent as the night before, the Muskegon Lumberjacks, the Phantoms needed to do two things different from Friday to get back in the win column - play better defense and play better offense. That's simple, right? Everything said, our defense wasn't that bad Friday, save for the amount of shots on net. The Phantoms showed they got that point in the first. The Phantoms held the 'Jacks to just 5 shots on goal, a huge improvement over the night before. However, the Phantoms only mustered 5 shots themselves and the first period ended with the same score as it started, 0s across the board.

The 'Jacks scored first, early in the second. On a powerplay that carried over from the first period, Christophe Tellier hit Dylan Wendt with a pass in the low slot. Wendt deflected the puck in through some traffic in front and trickling through Phantoms netminder Kyle Chauvette at 1:31. The Phantoms would respond late in the frame. Georgi Merkulov lugged the puck up ice deep into the Muskegon zone where he laid a pass back to Jack Malone in the right faceoff circle. Malone one-touch passed the puck to Cole Burtch on the other side of the ice for a  one time shot that the 'Jacks goalie, Christian Stoever, could not stop at 16:52. The 1-1 score held into the intermission with the shots 9-8 in favor of Muskegon in the middle frame.