So last week was pretty interesting, right? Between ice equipment failing and the power going out at the Covelli Centre, we might be glad this weekend is a road trip. What could possibly go wrong on a trip to Wisconsin, especially with a huge winter storm coming through? Well, if the bus can get out of Ohio, then the Phantoms (15-13-2-3) will be taking on the team directly above them in the standings, depending on how you sort them, the Madison Capitols (18-17-2-0).
The Caps have had their ups and downs, but have generally done better than expected this season. In the three-way tie for the top scorer on the team, Kyle Kukkonen (13g, 19a) was a little underwhelming earlier in the season. The Anaheim Ducks prospect has been hot as of late with points in 5 of his last 6 games. Also vying for the top scorer spot is Nick DeSantis (12g, 20a). He was not in the top 5 scorers last time I previewed the Caps, so he's got a hot hand as well. However, DeSantis also has a team worst +\- at -17. Reid Pabich is a player who doesn't get a lot of mention, but he's an excellent forechecker with good hands and is now third in scoring for forwards with 9g, 18a.
On defense, Luke Mittlestadt is the third player tied for the top scorer with 12g and 20. Mittlestatd is a very skilled puck moving defenseman, capable of starting a rush quickly from his own end or eluding a neutral zone trap. He also can finish the play, so you cannot give him much room to work with. On the offensive side of the blueline, Ben Dexheimer has put up 4g and 25a but he seems to have issues in his own end, with a +/- of -15 on the season.
Simon Latkoczy is getting his time as the top netminder. In his third season, the Slovakian netminder has finally been elevated from the backup position and has appeared in 24 games and is the netminder of record in all of those games with a 15-8-1-0 record. Latkoczy has 3.40 GAA, a .890 SV&, as well as a shutout and that was against us early in the season. The backup position has been shuffled a few times and most recently they have brought in Mason Kucenski from Omaha. Kucenski has appeared in 10 games overall, 8 in Omaha and 2 in Madison, with the Madison appearances being a third period relief effort followed by his first Caps start. Overall he's got a 3.21 GAA and a .873 SV%. In his brief time so far in Madison, he's stopped 27 of 30, has a 2.25 GAA and a .900 SV%, winning the only full game he played.
The Phantoms start the week with not a lot of real news to talk about. And early trade sent Michael Rubin to Des Moines for future considerations. The '03 defenseman had 1a in 18 games and had not played in about a month. New netminder Jacob Fowler got his first taste of the USHL last weekend. Fowler came in to relive Kyle Chauvette to start the third period in last Saturday's game and got the nod to start in Sundays. He's now 1-0-0-0 in 2GP, with a 2.30 GAA and a .906 SV%. Kyle Chauvette (22gp, 11-7-1-2) has has a couple bad weeks, slipping a little in his numbers. He's still the top netminder in the Eastern Conference with a 2.92 GAA and a .903 SV%.
Trey Taylor picked up only the second hat trick for a Phantoms defenseman. Chris Bradley in the 11-12 season over a decade ago was the only other. Taylor is third in team scoring with 7g and 17a, but I'd like to focus on one other stat. Taylor has played in 31 games and has been a top 4 defenseman pretty much all season, meaning he matches up with the opponents top scorers most nights. Taylor has 2 minor penalties, 4 minutes in the box total all season! Both penalties came in late October games against Cedar Rapids, over 3 months.
The Phantoms give up the least amount of goals in the East and conversely score the second least. Madison is middle of the East in scoring but it's a very close margin between them and the top scoring teams. However, they give up the most goals in the East. I think a big key here, and to any Phantoms road game, will be to slow down their offense and let this be a low scoring, defensive game. Jacob Fowler played well, some early plays probably due to nerves aside, but Kyle Chauvette will need to have a bounce back game this weekend. If Fowler does get to play, then defense becomes even more important early on.
The Phantoms will be on the road for another week after this, another trip to Wisconsin to play the other team there. Hopefully we can get some proper repairs done at Covelli this time. Well, I can dream can't I?