Well, it's been a few weeks since I've posted one of these. With the games being on the road and me on night shift and unable to get the games on Fasthockey, I haven't had much to say and in these cases I'd rather say nothing at all. So, I apologize for the absence and let's get caught up.

After the last home game, a win against Muskegon, we played the 'Jacks the next night. It was an even affair and looked to be going into overtime. The 'Jacks got a last rush up the ice and with 0:15, Matt Mendleson wristed one by Colin DeAugustine for the win. I did catch this one on FH, DeAugustine should have had that one and at least one point slipped by. Next week we fought back from being behind twice to force OT against a tough Lincoln Stars team with goalie Michel Bitzer, who we barely manage to beat in a 1-0 OT at home earlier in the season. This time it ended in a shootout and a 4-3 Lincoln win but a well earned point on the road that night. The following evening we got our first ever win in Sioux City with a 4-1 win over the Musketeers. Then we played a Wednesday night game in Indiana. We had a 2 goal lead in the 3rd but let it slip and lost 4-3 in OT. There is no glass half-full on this point. Indy is leading us by quite a bit in the standings and this is a division foe we need to get 2 points against and leave them empty handed on the night.

Earlier in the week we added Alex Rauter, a trade from the Omaha Lancers in exchange for a draft pick. The forward has decent size and sounds like he has a good skill set but just hasn't managed to get ice time in the formidable Lancers offense. He'll get a good chance to show us what he can do since Josh Melnick will be out for at least this weekend and team captain Alfred Larsson now on the IR. Tommy Parran, an emerging leader on defense, will be sidelined and Sean Romeo still won't be seeing any action between the pipes. Swapping Jake Moore for Colin DeAugustine may have been a good move but how long until we wear him down as well. It doesn't look like the Phantoms are willing to start Ryan Bednard who is only 16 years old. With Parran out and DeAugustine getting ridden the long haul here we need to step up the team defense. I'd also like to see either Lukas Klok, who was highly touted, or Alex Smith, who has a lot of USHL experience, to step up and take charge.

Our first opponent this weekend is Chicago. We beat the Steel in a shutout earlier in what was DeAugustine's USHL debut. The Steel are an improved team, having made a few roster moves and playing better overall, but still the only team in the East lower in the standings than the Phantoms. Let's keep widening that gap. It's also the Teddy Bear toss game, so bring something stuffed to throw. Next is Team USA U18. The NTDP teams don't seem as bulletproof as at the start of the season but we're still 0-3 and we're still trailing them by a lot in the Eastern standings. An odd, confusing, addition to the U18 squad is goal tender Collin Olson. The 19 year old netminder was playing for Ohio State University until early November when he left to come back to the USHL; he had played two seasons with the NTDP. Cedar Rapids had his rights and traded his to Sioux City. However, he is not eligible to play for any USHL team until the current semester at OSU is over - except the NTDP. Don't ask me I don't understand it myself. The leagues bylaws are like voodoo, old and unwritten dark rituals and incantations to be performed in the middle of the night for nefarious deeds.

It will be the simple things that make or break us this weekend like clearing the zone cleanly and getting pucks in deep. We have to watch turnovers in the grey areas around the bluelines and for Pete's sake, we need to finish teams off in the 3rd when we have them down. It's getting later and later in the season. We're starting to look better, we're at least playing like a .500 team but we have to try to get back to at least .500 here soon. Guys need to step up as leaders. In addition to Klok or Smith on defense, I'd like to see a big weekend out of Josh Nenadal. With Larsson gone for a while, he's been promoted to interim team captain. And as always, I'd like to see a loud Covelli crowd giving our guys some motivation and making it as uncomfortable as possible for the other team. Please drive safely though, it may be nasty out there this weekend.