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Hello Phantoms fans, hockey fans, and number geeks! I took last week off due to the postponement of the Youngstown-Green Bay series. As of now, it’s all but certain that these games will not be made up. Add that to the two games with Dubuque that will not be made up, and barring any future cancelations, the Phantoms will end up with a 49 game season. When it’s all said and done, especially with the way the season started, this is nothing to sneeze at.

And thanks to the insanely high tree pollen count this past week, I would know a thing or two about sneezing.

While I have this pulpit, let’s talk about the phenomenon known as the “Dad Sneeze”. This has been a running internet joke for about a year now, that when a man reaches a certain age, his sneezes become louder and more forceful. There is a reason for this. Anyone that is reading this around my age (37) or older, ever try to suppress a sneeze and pull a back muscle or feel like you bruised a rib? Exactly. So I, and many others, let them fly the way God intended. I can take a nap and need a trip to the chiropractor afterwards. (Shoutout to Dr. Joseph Scott)

As you can see, I really don’t want to talk about this last weekend with Chicago, and have chosen the act of sneezing to delay the inevitable. And I feel I have ridden that horse as far as it can go, so let’s get into the numbers. We’ll start with the Phantoms last 10 games.

Phantoms Season Chart, Last 10 Games

So, yeah. Not pretty. In this stretch, the Phantoms have gone 2-7-1-0 5pts. They did not hold a lead at all last weekend, and only managed to be tied for 10 total minutes in 3 games. As Justin pointed out, Chicago scored at least one goal in all 9 periods played, while the Phantoms managed just 2 goals all weekend, both scored by Jack Silich. Back in February, I had stated that Youngstown had been playing close games with Chicago, and it would be interesting to see where these teams would be as the season winds down. Well, here we are. Chicago is still the best team in the league by a good margin. Youngstown has regressed even further, and this past weekend, a slow trickle quickly turned into a flood all three games. With that being said, let’s look at the Season Series Chart with Chicago as they come to the Covelli Centre for the final time this weekend.

Chicago Series Chart After 11 Games

The first thing that may jump out at you with this chart is that the Phantoms have only held a lead in 4 of the 11 games against Chicago, amounting to 9.5% of the total time played. The only chart that looks worse than this is the Green Bay chart, where the Phantoms only lead for 25 total minutes in 7 games, which worked out to 6%. Factor in that Chicago is close to locking up home ice advantage not only for the East, but the entire league. In summary, they will not be taking their foot off the gas this weekend. And who are they battling for that #1 seed? That’s right, our other opponent for 2 games this weekend, the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

Muskegon Series Chart After 10 Games

As I have pointed out before, Muskegon has had the most even numbers this season. They don’t blow away opponents, they don’t get blown out. They play tight games, but they win. Despite their record with the ‘Jacks this season, the Phantoms have been within striking distance towards the ends of these games. But again, Muskegon is competing with Chicago for the top spot. The have 5 games remaining to Chicago’s 4, including a 2 game season finale with the Steel. They trail by 6 points, so the potential is there. I expect Muskegon to be laser focused this weekend, but playing the role of spoiler would be an excellent way to wind down the season for Youngstown. So that’s what the Phantoms have to look forward to this weekend. Let’s finish this off with the Eastern Conference Rankings.

Eastern Conference Rankings Chart as of 4/11/21

If Team USA is able to lock up the #4 seed, it could very well be a quick 1st Round for them. As has been the case the past couple seasons, their final ranking has been off the strength of the U18s. Once the playoffs begin, it will be the U17s representing the NTDP. And quite frankly, their numbers aren’t that much better than the Phantoms. At this point, the rankings beyond the No Score category are hardly changing at all. Once the season is over, I will be continuing this blog to cover the playoff matchups. I may even run the numbers for the Western Conference pairings for the first time. But until then, stay thirsty my friends. (Yes, I suck at sign offs. If you have a better idea on how to end this, I’ll use it.)