In most hockey leagues the so-called puck luck starts before any games are played. I'm talking about the schedule of course. Junior hockey and the USHL are no exception. Long bus trips, back-to-back-(to-back) games; it all is part of the season. Everyone has to deal with it and that's sometimes what defines a team is how they deal with it. Other times, it's just bad timing. Playing the third game in as many nights on the road after losing a few top players can hurt you in more ways than just the standings if the team can't pull through. You also have to look at who your playing. Are you playing a lot of games against the defending champs who have most of their core players returning from last season or do you have more than your share against a group that's rebuilding with new, younger, players? So with the season opener looking, let's take a look at how the Phantoms upcoming season stacks up.

 

Let's focus first on the where and when and February, I'm looking at you. The Phantoms play a home game against Muskegon on the 7th, head to Indy on the 8th and will race the Ice back from Indy to play them again on the 9th. The it's back to Michigan to play the Lumberjacks again and then from Muskegon they head to Des Moines to play the Bucs. Then the next weekend, they head to Green Bay for a pair and complete another back-to-back-to-back against Chicago. Oh, they open and close the month with games against last years Clark Cup winners, the Dubuque Fighting Saints. A total of 10 games, more than any other month in the shortest month and 7 are road games.

Now lets see who we get to match up against. Against Eastern Conference rivals, we have 9 games against both Indiana and Muskegon. Anyone ever hear the old hockey saying 'familiarity breeds contempt!'  We also get 6 games against Chicago. If you look at last year we went a 21-5-0 against that trio. That's 42 out of our 74 total points in last years standings. Now that all turns around if one those teams flips that domination around on us. That's the difference between making the playoffs or ending the season in early April. And then we get at least 4 games against the rest of the East and 2 games with all of the Western Conference teams except Omaha. Sorry, if you wanted to see the lancers at the Covelli this year you'll have to hope they make the Clark Cup round. Obviously, we all expect the Phantoms to make it to the finals. I wish we played each team at least once.

There's not too much you can do about these things,the schedule is the realm of the Hockey Gods. It can kill you or it can make you stronger. That long bus ride home after a three game weekend can either a team building celebration or a momentum breaking trip down the standings. It's all how you handle it. Coach Noreen now has a couple years under his belt and a good staff under him. If he can keep the Phantoms focused down those rocky stretches of the schedule, I think we'll see some great hockey and a good playoff run.

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