And we're back with another edition of By The Numbers. That's right, I've picked a name and I am sticking with it. This was another tough weekend for the Phantoms. Only 1 out of a possible 6 points were gained. The Phantoms scored first in all three games and added decent amounts of Lead Time to their totals. But as has been the story this season, the ability to close out games has alluded this year's squad. Don't let the scores fool you though. Both games with Muskegon were one goal games at the end, but literal last second empty net goals by Jack Williams both nights stretched the lead. I guess when you're in a goal drought, potting a couple empty netters at 19:59 of the 3rd period helps boost that confidence a little. But I digress...
In taking a look at the 2nd part of the Phantoms' season chart, a couple gripes from earlier in the season have been rectified. Not only are they scoring first a lot more often, they are not giving up early goals. There has been more of an emphasis on establishing a tone at the beginning of games, and not sitting back and waiting to see what the other team is going to throw at them. Has this translated to more wins? No, but it's a step in the right direction. At this point in the season, it's the small victories. Like the fact that they have now climbed above 20% in Lead Time. After lingering around 10-12% for a good chunk of the season, playing a more aggressive game in the offensive zone has paid off in a lot of ways.
The first thing that stand out in the Muskegon series chart is that the Phantoms were able to play much tighter games with Muskegon this past weekend than the 3 played earlier this season. In the first 3 games, the Phantoms only held a lead for 5:12, and that was the game they won in OT. That was not the case Thursday and Friday. Again, no points were to be had. But since that 10-4 blowout game against Team USA on January 16th, the Phantoms has been in nothing but close competitive games.
Since the calendar flipped to 2021, there has been one simple difference between Chicago and Youngstown. By and large, Youngstown has played much better hockey than at the start of the season, but they can't close games. The ability to hold leads and get wins in games that maybe you shouldn't have won have socially distanced themselves from this team. Chicago, who got off to a start that maybe surpassed what they did last season has seen a significant drop in their Lead Time %, along with a sharp rise in their Trailing Time %. These games have gotten harder. They're not putting teams away early and often. The conference in a lot of ways has caught up with Chicago. But, they are a squad that knows how to win. Whether clean or grind-it-out dirty, they keep winning. The past 3 games against the Steel have been tight, competitive games. And the Phantoms have gotten points out of those games, 4 out of a possible 6. Aside from wins, these are trends you like to see. The Phantoms will not see Chicago again until a 4 games in 7 days set in April. It will be interesting to see where these teams are at as the season winds down.
The Phantoms will welcome Muskegon back to the Covelli Centre this Friday and Saturday. Since the Muskegon Series Chart is already above there is no need to slap it in here again. Fear not though, a make up game with Dubuque has been added for Wednesday. The Phantoms have only played the Fighting Saints three times this season, the last time being on January 9th. In looking at the chart, we have had Dubuque's number so far. They have accounted for 3 of the Phantoms' 6 wins this season. Since that game on the 9th, the Saints rattled off 5 straight wins and started to make a climb in the standings. They have since cooled off and have gone 1-2-2 in their last 5.
Last but not least, the redesigned Eastern Conference Rankings Chart. Simply put, teams in BLUE seen that specific percentage rise since last week, while teams in RED seen that number drop. Dubuque's Time Tied % is in BLACK because it did not change. With the exception of both USA squads splitting the USHL schedule and playing less games each, you won't see a dramatic change from week to week going forward unless a team blows out, or is blown out in a given weekend. But again, Youngstown's numbers have trended in the right direction. Their Trail Time % at one point was in the high 50's, and they were 13 percentage points ahead of Dubuque. They are now only 4.1% away from the U17's and not being last in this category!
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading along!