We’ve reached that time of year. The USHL Playoffs are upon us. Aaaaaaaand, the Phantoms aren’t a part of them. Now, we’ve known this for a while. But, if you can’t make the playoffs, what is the next best way to finish out the season? That’s right! Play the spoiler!

Dubuque, after an 0-10 start to the season, was able to squeak past the NTDP for the 4th and final spot in the East. Going into the final weekend, most everyone outside of Iowa had Team USA penciled in. The Saints had a 3-in-3 with a game against Muskegon and two with Green Bay. And Team USA? 3 games against the lowly Youngstown Phantoms. Dubuque won 2 of 3, and so did the Phantoms. Some people out there with opinions stated that the Phantoms screwed USA in more ways than one. With the possible points percentage that was used to rank teams that didn’t play a full 54 game schedule, Dubuque and Green Bay actually benefited from playing less games, both of which due to being unable to reschedule postponed games with the Phantoms. That’s fair, except I would like to present Exhibit B to this argument. The U18’s were 1-3-0-1 (3 pts) in their final 5 USHL games. The U17s were 1-7-1-0 (3 pts) in their final 9 USHL games. This is from March 23rd to the end of the season. That is a combined 2-10-1-1. A potential 28 points, they got 6. But yeah, blame the Phantoms.

Now that the soapbox is back under the chair, in this playoff preview we’re going to take a look at all four 1st Round Matchups. That’s right, for the first time this season, there are numbers from the Western Conference! I’ve beat around the bush enough, so let’s jump right in. I want to point out that these charts will be from the viewpoint of the higher seeded team.

Series Chart #1 Chicago vs #4 Dubuque

Hello Phantoms fans, hockey fans, and number geeks! I took last week off due to the postponement of the Youngstown-Green Bay series. As of now, it’s all but certain that these games will not be made up. Add that to the two games with Dubuque that will not be made up, and barring any future cancelations, the Phantoms will end up with a 49 game season. When it’s all said and done, especially with the way the season started, this is nothing to sneeze at.

And thanks to the insanely high tree pollen count this past week, I would know a thing or two about sneezing.

While I have this pulpit, let’s talk about the phenomenon known as the “Dad Sneeze”. This has been a running internet joke for about a year now, that when a man reaches a certain age, his sneezes become louder and more forceful. There is a reason for this. Anyone that is reading this around my age (37) or older, ever try to suppress a sneeze and pull a back muscle or feel like you bruised a rib? Exactly. So I, and many others, let them fly the way God intended. I can take a nap and need a trip to the chiropractor afterwards. (Shoutout to Dr. Joseph Scott)

As you can see, I really don’t want to talk about this last weekend with Chicago, and have chosen the act of sneezing to delay the inevitable. And I feel I have ridden that horse as far as it can go, so let’s get into the numbers. We’ll start with the Phantoms last 10 games.

Phantoms Season Chart, Last 10 Games

Fluke /flo͞ok/ noun 1. an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck.

A fluke. That’s what Muskegon coach Mike Hamilton called Friday’s loss to Youngstown, a fluke. I am well aware that this is a down season for the Phantoms. Thankfully, it’s not the worst in recent memory. Doing a little research, I found that the 2016-17 Cedar Rapids RoughRiders finished the season with a .233 win percentage. The 2010-2011 Chicago Steel finished with a .217 win%. The Phantoms currently sit with a .300 win%. So, not the worst. But back to the Jacks.

Long term success is by no means guaranteed in this league. A 75% player turnover from season to season. And if you hit a multi-season stretch with incredible results, someone is going to come along and offer that Coach/GM/Team President 3-4 times the money they are currently making to be great for their franchise. The Jacks have been good, if not great, the past handful of seasons. History says that their downtime is coming due. And when they have that season where nothing goes right, and they manage to win a game against a revamped and rising Youngstown Phantom team, best believe I will be shouting that f-word to anyone within earshot. I know we’re not exactly the league darlings, but this “kick ‘em when they’re down” mentality the Eastern Conference has for us this season is a little pathetic. So without any further ado, let’s take a look at where the season series with Muskegon stands after last weekend.

Muskegon Opponent Chart After 10 Games