Time to drop the weeks preview! It's a little late this week since I wanted to see how a few mid-week games around the league went before I posted this. This weeks games are on the road versus a Western Conference opponent so this isn't going to be too in-depth. I'll be honest, I don't know much about our opponent this week, the Tri-City Storm. What I do know is that they are the only team with a better powerplay percentage than the Phantoms.  The Storm are not wasting a lot of opportunities and are converting an astounding 31.71% of their PPs. 26 of their 67 goals have come on the man advantage. The Phantoms are converting 25.64% but have had many more chances, 5.31 per game average to be exact and that is the most in the league. Both teams have a player tied for most PP goals in the USHL. Kiefer Sherwood for the Phantoms and Chris Wilkie both have 7 PP tallies on the season, as does Omaha's Shane Gersich. Needless to say, this weeks storyline is special teams. The Phantoms have the 3rd best PK in the league at 86.87% while the Storm enter the game in the bottom half of the league at 78.43%.

Both teams will be without key players, competing in the World Junior A Challenge. Kyle Connor will be representing the Phantoms for Team USA. The Storm will be missing Bobby Nardella, a key two-way defensman (also representing Team USA)  with a +4 rating and 12 assists (10 on the PP). Wilkie will be their key player but will be without a main playmaker. Their #1 goalie, Alec Dillon, is a beast. The USHL rookie is 2nd in the league in GAA at 2.07 and tied for 2nd in SV% at .926. They're a little thin in relief and just recently swapped out Blake Weyrick with Jared Rutledge in a deal with the Janesville Jets of the NAHL. Rutledge played a handful of games with Green Bay before being sent to Janesville for Kevin Reich who had played for Dubuque... yeah, I'm getting dizzy too.

The Phantoms come in with a 1-2 punch of Max Letunov and Ryan Lomberg. Trey Bradley is also playing his best hockey as a Phantom with 4 goals in the last 5 games. The defense is healthy and no one is suspended. In fact, I don't think we have any serious injuries to note. Chris Birdsall is heating up in net as well, and now has a 2.63 GAA and .910 SV%. However, with two road games in less than 24 hours I think Colin DeAugustine may be called upon. DeAugustine hasn't played since being chased from net on 11/22 in Bloomington. Birdsall has made 5 consecutive starts since then.

Another small note: Lukas Craggs was officially added to the Phantoms protected list, replacing Grant Meyer

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