Owen Bartoszkewicz deflects a shot to the side, stopping 17-20 in a 3-2 loss to Cedar Rapids.Bartoszkewicz turns one aside! - Owen Bartoszkewicz deflects a shot to the side, stopping 17-20 in a 3-2 loss to Cedar Rapids.

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.

Home Opener! The Phantoms show off their new white uniforms and celebrate an 81 drumming of the USA NTDP U17s to open the home 21-22 season.Home Opener! The Phantoms show off their new white uniforms and celebrate an 81 drumming of the USA NTDP U17s to open the home 21-22 season.
Home openers are always better when you win. Nothing beats a solid victory in front of the home crowd to kick off the season proper. There is that, then there is clobbering the NTDP U17 squad 8-1 after a 7-4 victory in their barn the night before. I said it all week and I'll say it here, I will give no apologies for bragging about destroying a U17 team. Anyone who knows the Phantoms and USHL knows they've done it to us. For the backstory, Friday night the game was close through most of it, tied at the halfway point until 3 unanswered goals put us over the top.

 Whereas Friday nights start was a quick one, the Phantoms taking the lead 20 seconds in and the score hitting 2-1 in under a minute, Saturday nights game seemed a little more of a first meeting with a "feeling out" period. USA had a few moments where they took the play to us but for the most part we dictated the play with speed and physicality, just how you want to play the U17s.  The Phantoms found themselves shorthanded after a brief 4-on-4 but the speed of Bayard Hall carrying the puck opened up some room room for Ryan Alexander who ripped a shot from the slot, beating netminder Michael Chambre at 14:01.

A few minutes later, Cole Burtch ended up on a 2-on-1 with Justin Varner, carrying the puck up the left side boards. Burtch looked off the defender and netminder, his eyes squarely looking towards Varner for a pass, and ripped a shot from the faceoff dot far side, glove hand to make it 2-0 at 16:41. Again, he never once looked at the net before unloading the shot. The Phantoms took the 2-0 lead into the intermission with shots also in our favor 15-9.

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.