OK, so I've heard a few people talking about a slow start to the season and how this team compared to last years team. Chatter around the Covelli and on social media is mostly optimistic but there are a number of people who seem to want to write us off already, I call this CBFS (Cleveland Browns Fan Syndrome.)  I think we've a few cases of selective amnesia. Things certainly haven't been all roses but a little perspective needs to be restored.

Let's look at how things have started this year. We opened on the road and got spanked by the kids from the Team USA NTDP. We split overtime games on opening weekend with Green Bay, they one the opener and we won the night after. Then we went to Iowa and lost late in a winnable game against Cedar Rapids before getting outmatched by Waterloo the next night. All of the preceding were with backup goalie Jake Moore, whom I'll discuss later. We called up Colin DeAugustine from the NAHL just to give Moore a rest and DeAugustine earned us our first consecutive wins with a shutout at home against Chicago then on the road for a shootout victory in Indiana. Sean Romeo returned for last weeks home games, dropping a 3-1 game to Indiana and then blanking Lincoln in a 1-0, goalie battle for and overtime win. That brings us to 4-5-1, 9 points in the standings.

Last season, this many games into the season, we were 4-6-0, 8 points. Sure we won our first 4 games, but we lost the next 6. Actually we lost the next 7 in a row and 11 out of the 12 after those 4 early wins. Already we're a half game better in the standings this year. Last years early skid really didn't seem to turn the corner until the middle of November around the time of the JT Stenglein/Cam Brown trade. I also remember fans thinking that was it for the season and we were starting to rebuild for this year. I'm guessing people forgot that down the final stretch and into the playoffs. And I don't want to forget that we acquired Josh Nenandal at the end of October. Another difference between last year and this year is that most of our losses have been in closer games, one we could have won. I pretty much consider a 'winnable game' one we're not losing by more than a goal going into the 3rd period. Out of the first 6 losses last season , only 1 was what I call a winnable game.  Of the 5 losses this year, 3 were winnable.

 I've also heard a lot of people talking about special teams failures, especially powerplays. We're 9th in the league in PP% and 10th in PK%. It's way too early in the season to panic here since most teams are still developing their special teams not just us. Another good sign is JJ Piccinich is currently leading the league in PP goals. We're also 3rd in the league in total PP goals. The down side to special teams is we're also leading the league in shorthanded goals against.

We also have a different mix of returning players this season. To start last season we had Austin Cangelosi, JT Stenglein and Sam Anas returning as the top forwards. This our returning core is a lot younger. Alfred Larsson and Josh Nenandal are the older returnees but we have Luke Stork, JJ Piccinich and Kyle Connor returning as well and those three look to be our strongest scorers. We're 3rd in the league in total goals for. Keifer Sherwood and Maxim Letunov are also looking good to start the season. Where we are really behind from last season is that we lack a defensive leader like Eric Sweetman. We brought Alex Smith and Lukas Klok into the fold early to shore things up. Matt Miller, Blake Christensen and Tommy Parran could also be candidates to step up and take the reigns back on the Blueline. Steve Ruggiero, our 1st round pick in the Phase 1 draft, played 1 game and looked fantastic. You would have thought he was a veteran heading to a D1 NCAA team next season.

Now, we have to get to the small elephant in the room, or rather the goal crease. At the start of last season Sean Romeo was the unknown at starter and Patrick Spano was our backup. The two started out splitting the games fairly evenly. Things just didn't pan out with Spano and he was sent to the BCHL. Romeo became the workhorse we hoped he would and Jake Moore came in. The Phantoms staff had nothing but praise for Moore, who finished the season 4-2-0, .840 SV% and 3.79 GAA. This year Moore became the starter with Romeo out injured. Moore played the entire preseason and first 6 games of the season. In the regular season games, Moore posted a 1-4-1 record, .833 SV% and 5.28GAA. To give Moore a rest we called up affiliate goalie Colin DeAugustine from Johnstown of the NAHL. DeAugustine registered 2-0-0, .952 SV% and 1.44 GAA, with 1 shutout and a shootout win. Romeo returned for the last 2 games with a 2-0-0 record, .942 SV% and 1.52 GAA and also registering a shutout.

Hopefully Romeo will stay healthy the rest of the season. Even so, he'll need a few nights off and if he is injured we need the backup to be able to step up. Moore may have had fatigue issues and may have been unduly criticized but it's hard to not look at a 5.28GAA and see an issue. DeAugustine only played 2 games but looked solid and posted solid numbers. A little birdie has whispered in my ear that Colin DeAugustine is in and Jake Moore is out. I have no details on if Moore has been traded, dropped or something else. It's a tough league and we're taking steps to shore up our goaltending earlier this year.

That's about it. Hopefully I'll have a more detailed report on our backup goalie situation later. We have a few grudge matches this weekend and could very well be .500 or above coming back to the Covelli the weekend after. I hope to see y'all there.