We're officially sick of talking about Madison (10-3-1-0) but we still have to play them on Friday. The good news for the Phantoms(6-7-0-2) is that we beat them once (and lost once) last weekend, and this week it's only one game against the Caps. We'll also take a little trip across Wisconsin on Saturday to face Green Bay (5-7-0-1) for the first time this season, so I think I'll just focus on the Gamblers this week. They are right behind us in the standings, so this week will be a big test of just where we stand in this campaign.
The Gamblers rarely dazzle opponents with their scoring prowess. Their top scoring forward and leading goal scorer is Jackson Hallum (6g, 6a) a 3rd round Las Vegas Golden Knights pick in 2021. A lot of his success is from his skating ability and raw speed. Defenses have to be aware when he is on the ice, he can be gone in a second. John Mittlestadt is second among forwards in points and team in goals, with 5g and 1a. John is the brother of former Gambler and current Buffalo Sabre, Casey, and Luke, a current Madison Capitols defenseman. John follows his brother in having a pretty complete skill set and great awareness. Rounding out notable scorers is Brody Lamb, a 4th round New York Rangers pick in 2021. Lamb has a rifle shot but, while he chooses to shoot more often than not, is a good passer as well with good vision. You have to know what his options are before committing.
Last season, current Ohio State University blueliner Mason Lohrei lead the team in scoring as well as being a defensive cornerstone for the Gamblers. You would think his spot would be hard to fill, but Damien Carfagna has stepped up and you might not have noticed the difference. Carfagna is better know for his smothering defense but with 2g and 13a, he leads the Gamblers in points and assists. Owen Murray is another solid defenseman, returning for his second USHL season, and has been touted as a possible NHL draft pick next year.
In net, it's Aaron Randazzo in his third USHL season and second as a Gambler. Randazzo, an '01, has always been a functional netminder but has had his ups and downs over his junior career. This season he's looking as good as he has at any point I've seen, in position to make saves and his confidence is up. In 11 appearances he's 4-4-0-1 with a 2.92 GAA and a .913 SV%. To be honest, I don't have much of a scouting report on the backup netminder Ratislav Elias. The '04 was born in Hungary but plays for the Solviakian national team. He's a C-ranked netminder on the NHL's "Players to Watch" scouting list. In 4 appearances he's 1-3-0-0 with a 5.86 GAA and a .804 SV%.
After splitting last weekend for the Phantoms, I'd like to say this week should be a boring preview with not much to add. But after last weekend we might be missing Winter Wallace after multiple misconduct penalties and Coach Brad Patterson was also ejected. As of the time this was written, we seem to have escaped any fallout. Other than that's it's pretty much the same old same old. Adam Ingram is tied for the rookie goal leader, has the lead in both assists and total points. He also has the longest scoring streak in the league with points in 9 straight games, 12 points in that span.
Kyle Chauvette is still playing extraordinary hockey in net. He was hit hard on Friday but still came out with the lead and has a 2.90 GAA and a .906 SV% Owen Bartoszkiewicz got his first nod to play in a couple weeks. He got dinged up pretty bad but once again, you have to look at the quality of play in front of him at the time. On the season he's 1-4-0-1 with a 3.41 GAA and a .884 SV%.
The Phantoms need to get some road points this weekend. We're 4-3-0-0 and 2-4-0-2 away, but one of those "home" losses was in Cranberry for the Fall Classic. With us playing 4 more "home" games on the road, we have to get better away from the Covelli. Against Madison on Friday, you just have to look to the Friday game last week or the Chicago game the week before to figure out how to beat them. Against Green Bay, I think it'll be a mix of playing tight defense and taking advantage of mistakes by the Gamblers. They're a decent defensive minded team and if they lull you into their pace, you might find yourself losing a low scoring game. If you match their defense and can make the most out of what they give you, you can put them on their heels, and then the script flips.
We only have one more game after this on the month, the last home game of the year versus Chicago. It's going to be a rough December and we need to get up a head of steam heading into it and that starts this weekend in Wisconsin.