The Phantoms hit the road this week for three games in Chicago.Ready to Roll! - The Phantoms hit the road this week for three games in Chicago.
OK, we have a weekend of home games under our belts, some players returning from injury/illness, and a lot of positives heading in this weekend. The Phantoms (2-3-0-0) look to keep moving forward this week against Chicago (6-2-0-0), but once again the Steel look like one of the top teams in the league with 8 players on the NHL's first scouting list. We also get an extra game this trip, the first makeup of one of the previously postponed games, so we'll have 3 games in 3 days. At least they are all in the same city.

On offense, the Steel lost a few big names that we won't miss. Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, Sam Colangalo, and Mathieu De. St. Phalle are among names we got sick of hearing called the last couple seasons that we won't hear this season. The bad news is they still have a lot of firepower. The top returning point scorer from last season - and this season's second overall scorer in the league - is Sean Farrell (6g, 10a), a 4th round pick of the Montreal Canadians in the 2020 NHL draft. Farrell has played a lot in the USHL, more than 120 total games dating back to the 17-18 season with the NTDP. He's a smart player with his head up always looking to make a play, and this season he seems to be finishing the play more.

Leading the team and the league in scoring is Matt Coronato (8g, 10a). Coronato, now in his second season, is a NHL CSS B-ranked skater who has tremendous speed and uses it to drive the play up ice. He is a big catalyst for the Steel. In terms of pure goal scoring, I think the leagues 3rd overall scorer Mackie Samoskevich (3g, 10a) will be a top contender. Samoskevich is a crafty '02 with a CSS A-ranking, amazing hands, vision, and a wicked shot. I think he'll live up to his CSS rating eventually, let's not be the ones to help him.

The Phantoms are ready to play their first home game since last season cancellation.Hockey Returns to the Covelli! - The Phantoms are ready to play their first home game since last season cancellation.
It almost seems too good to be true, like a dream even. The last game the Phantoms played at the Covelli will have been 272 days from this Friday's scheduled home opener. That's almost 39 weeks ago. Goals by Josh DeLuca, Jayson Dobay, and Trevor Kuntar sealed a 3-1 win over Cedar Rapids. It's a little hard to fathom, with over a month left in the regular season, that would be the last time we saw those players in Phantoms uniforms. Heck, for that matter it will be the last time we saw the RoughRiders until at least next season.

Now we're in the "new normal" which isn't anything close to being normal. In the first month of the current season, the Phantoms (1-2-0-0) have played 3 games and seen 7 games postponed, including the last 4 straight, for reasons related to the pandemic. Since this has been published, it's getting close enough to game day that it looks like we might actually play this week and at home with some fans. We will kick things off against our rivals, the Muskegon Lumberjacks (2-2-0-0) in what might be one of many games against them. I had written a bit about the 'Jacks for last week. The good news for me is their games were postponed as well so all my data is still up to date.

The 'Jacks have a good amount of returning players from last season but might not have had a lot of scoring. That is until the OHL let teams loan players to the USHL. This allowed their leading scorer from last season, Danil Gushchin to return to the 'Jacks for at least part of this season. In the abridged 19-20 season, Gushchin put up 22g, 25a in 42 games. So far this year he's put up 5g, 4a in 4 games. The crafty forward will be a major force as long as he's in the USHL this season. Cameron Berg is another returner expected to score. More of a power forward than Gushchin, Berg has put up the same numbers, 5g and 4a.

The Saints postponed the Friday game leaving the Phantoms a day off in Green Bay.Another Week, Another Postponement! - The Saints postponed the Friday game leaving the Phantoms a day off in Green Bay.
So, it's week 2 and I'm scrambling to find stuff to say already. Welcome to the new normal! So this week the Phantoms (1-0-0-0) are were set to play in Green Bay (1-0-0-0) on Thursday, head to Dubuque (0-2-0-0) Friday for a rematch of last weekend and then loop back to Green Bay on Saturday. Well, the Dubuque game is off, so the team has a nice layover in the Land of Cheese. That's half our games that have been postponed so far, but that's probably better than some.

The Gamblers are a very solid looking team on paper this season. They have a bevy of returning players including Jesse Tucker, their top returning scorer, who enters his third season putting up 18g and 25a last season. Adding to the Gamblers offensive front is Ryan Kirwin, who came over from Madison in the dispersal draft. Kirwin scored 25g 16a last season with the Capitols, but 6 of those goals, as well as one assist were against the Phantoms in 6 games played. Also keep an eye on Jackson Kunz. The '02 forward has a handful of affiliate games prior to this season and he scored a pair against Muskegon in the Gamblers only game so far.

On defense, it's the same as the forwards with the Gamblers returning a nice compliment of blueliners. Mason Lorhei is a good two-way guy, good at protecting his own end and can set up the play to boot. Lorhei had 8g, 29a in 48 games last season. Xan Gurney is a well traveled defenseman, having played in Chicago and Fargo prior to Dubuque. He's as tough as the come and he'll be a guy Dubuque is looking at for toughness as well as keeping their net free of pucks. Damian Carfagna is a newcomer, an '03, who is on the NHL CSS initial players to watch list so we'll... um, watch him.