The Phantoms came into last nights game hungry for a win and so did the Fargo Force. The question was which team was hungrier to get 2 points in the standings. 65 minutes and the first 3 shooters of the shootout weren't enough to answer the question. Fortunately for the Phantoms, they came out of the fourth round of the shootout with the extra point and another notch in the W column.

The Phantoms opened the scoring just :55 into the game when Zach Evancho decided he sick of being held off the scoresheet and buried a one-timer set up by Josh Melnick, who slid a nice pass into the slot where Evancho could hammer if home for his first goal and point of the season. The Phantoms extended the lead at 7:20 when Blake Christensen was hauled down on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. The Phantoms forward strolled in towards the Force's netminder, made a couple obligatory stick moves before ripping it stick side before the Fargo goalie, Cameron Johnson, could get his blocker up.

The Force weren't going to go away quietly however. The remainder of the first the Force manages to control the puck and got a lot of good attack zone time and managed to out shoot Youngstown 13-8, due in part to 4 powerplays for the Force in the 1st period. Phantoms goalie, Colin DeAugustine, at times was peppered in net but stood strong and stopped them all. In the second the Phantoms managed to tilt the ice back in their favor, evening up the shot count to 20 each and notching their 3rd goal when defensman Kyle Mackey hammered home a shot from near the boards at a rough angle. Mackey's goal, his first of his USHL career was setup by affiliate Trey Bradly's, who's shot was stopped by Johnson but took a long rebound over to the boards to Mackey.

Well, I had about 15 minutes on Sunday to write and publish this. The writing part went OK but something somewhere in the saving and publishing to the front page ate the article. Here it is rewritten from scratch. If you missed the score and the official recap, we lost a much closer game, 3-1.

Colin DeAugustine was the starting goalie in Saturday nights tilt. Sean Romeo, who only played a period the night before, was on the scratch list. David Jech, Youngstown State University's freshman goalie and son of YSU's head coach Ron Jech, got a call to fill the bench. Steven Ruggerio got off of the scratch list to replace Fredric Larsson. I don't know if Larsson was injured or scratched for poor play the night before. Also among the missing were Kyle Connor (who's playing in the Jr. A Challenge), team captian Alfred Larsson and Keifer Sherwood on offense. Lukas Klok and Alex Carle were scratched on defense.

The game was a much tighter one than the night before and much more disciplined through the first 2 periods. The first period was scoreless with the biggest highlight being a bout of fisticuffs between Blake Christensen and Stampede captain Ed McGovern. The Stampede finally broke the double shutout a bit over thr 9 minute mark of the second period when RJ Majkozak managed to get a shot through traffic and behind DeAugustine. Howeever, with 3:31 left in the 2nd frame, Josh Nenadal tied it up. The play started with Steven Ruggerio carrying the puck almost end to end in his best Bobby Orr impersonation. Ruggerio's shot ended up taking a funny bounce and Nenadal nabbed his first goal of the season picking up the loose puck firing it while turning. Stampede goaltender David Jacobson was unable to get down on the bad angle shot as it went five-hole. The Phantoms went into the locker room tied at a goal a piece.

The start of the 3rd period was where things went downhill and quickly. The Phantoms were failed to clear the puck early, the puck hitting the linesman and staying in the zone. The Stampede were able to get control and, again, find a seam through players in front of the Phantom net and take a 2-1 lead at 1:16 into the period. The very next shift the Stampede managed even more mayham in front of the Phantoms's goal and the puck rebounded off of a Sioux Falls skate and behind DeAugustine to wrap up the scoring.

The Phantoms weren't without opportunities to get back into it but were never able to capitalize. JJ Piccinich range one off the post on a powerplay and that was about as close as they would come. They had 3 powerplay chances and failed to score, although one was cut short by 0:21 when the Phantoms took a too many men penalty. I was worried about bench minors in the absence of coach Anthony Noreen, who is with Conner at the Jr A Challenge, and we managed to avoid these kinds of mistakes until that point. For their part, the Stampede were without their top 3 scorers and played a very clean defensive game. They managed to box out traffic in front of Jacobson and keep rebounds and 2nd chance shots to a minimum, if not nil. The Phantoms seemed reluctant to just shoot the puck on net from bad angles or try to just get one through the defense. There was not a lot of push from them to generate traffic in front of the Stampede net. Nenadal's lone goal came from just firing it when he had the chance, I was hoping it would set an example but it looked like it didn't.

Despite the score I though we played a pretty even game and overall I thought we did well and just lost to the better team. We outshot the Stampede 30-24. DeAugustine looked sharp in net when he didn't have a mess of Sioux Falls players surrounding him. Our defense played a much more disciplined game, keeping things simple and not losing their cool when it counted. We needed a shoot first attitude and to crash the net and we got neither. This, to me, has been the biggest issue with the offense which until the last couple weeks had been doing well. Also, with Romeo obviously (re)injuring himself, the next couple weeks may be rough for DeAugustine who started the season in the NAHL. We have to get going on offense again. With Connor being out for the next week we really need a guy to step it up and I'm not sure about the status of Alfred Larsson or Keifer Sherwood. I think we need some of the secondary scorers to start to contribute and I'm looking at Conor Lemirande or Zack Evancho as candidates. Ryan Schwalbe also started out the season looking like a guy who could cause havoc in front of the opposing goalie, I'd like to see that again too.

 

In a game where pink was supposed to be the cerebrated color, the Sioux Falls Stampede managed to light the area behind the Phantoms net a depressing red. They tallied 6 goals on 31 shots while the Youngstown squad managed just 1 in 26. The Phantoms, already missing head coach Anthony Noreen and leading scorer Kyle Connor were also without the services of team captain Alfred Larsson. Also on the scratch list were Keifer Sherwood as well as a couple defensman, Lukas Klok and Steven Ruggerio. Their counterparts were also missing key players, namely their top 3 scorers in CJ Franklin, Dennis Kravchenko and Zeb Knutson. The Phantoms, however, looked like a team missing it's leaders.

The Phantoms started the night with Sean Romeo. Romeo never looked right in net and gave up 3 goals on 10 shots and 2 out of his first 3. The first goal came just 3:26 into the game and the second just :21 after. The closed the first out with a 3-0 lead by scoring the 3rd with only :23 left. The Stampede opened the scoring with a 2-on-0 break away and the last of the period looked to change direction a bit on Romeo but we've seen him make these saves before and his movements did not look as quick as usual. I can only speculate that his groin injury has reappeared and he was trying to play through it.

Colin DeAugustine would replace Romeo in the second and he looked sharp most of the game. He made a lot fo tough saves early on but the Phantoms we just not able to generate the kind of offense they needed to take pressure off their goalies. The lone Phantoms goal came on a  power play. Truman Reed got the puck to Luke Stork who made a move to the faceoff circle and ripped it past the Stampede netminder, David Jacobson. This seems to be the bread and butter spot for the Phantoms shooters. Storks 7th of the season brought the score to 4-1. It was lights out for the Phantoms offense from there on.

The Stampede would add a pair of goals after that. The first came on a play that looked like it should have been blown dead. DeAugustine appeared to have the puck covered as the Stampede lived up to their name and stampeded the Phantoms cage. Somehow the puck came out from under the prone netminder and squirted into the net as it was being dislodged from it's moorings. The officals did not seem interested in a replay either. Sioux Falls closed out the nights scoring with a powerplay goal, their second with the man advantage. Connor Valesano ripped a shot past DeAugustine so fast and hard it hit the bar at the back of the net and sprang out so quick it took a second for the refs to call it and the light came on after that.

If there was a bright side to the game it was affiliate forward Anthony Siderio. He and another affiliate forward, Kevin Conley were called up for the weekend and the 16 year old Siderio's skilled skating and good decision making were evident quickly. Conley, a 17 year old, also looked good on the ice. Both should see a lot more ice time tonight if the Phantoms don't get Larsson or Sherwood back.

The real issue was on defense. With a lot of the teams leadership off of the bench, the backside guys seemed to fall apart from the start. Fredric Larsson, in particular, had no composure and took 3 minor penalties throughout the night. The Swedish defensman has taken a lot of penalties so far in the season and took too many tonight. He's only 4 minutes behind Josh Nenadal for the most PIMs on the team and that's counting the 10 minute misconduct he took late last night, and game ejection, for continuing an altercation. Nenadal is an alternate captain, and that's not how you show leadership.

The Phantoms now have to forget about last night and suck it up. The fans need to see something from their team tonight as they play the Stampede again. Maybe they need to have to have Noreen FaceTime in on an iPad between periods to yell at them. We need some guys to step up their game. I'd like to see a lot more defensive game. I'd like to see more guys throw the puck to the net and look for rebounds or a lucky bounce. The Stampede sure got them. and if guys are going to play a chippy game, bring it early not in the 3rd when your down 5 goals. I guess we'll see and I'll let you know tomorrow.