Three weeks are in the books for the Phantoms. Week four is upon us an looking back at last year, week four was the week that Colin DeAugustine made his debut as a Phantom. This year things are much different as DeAugustine isn't just a call-up affiliate or a backup, he's a bona fide starter. The backup and affiliate are both on the early NHL CSS too. No one is on the IR list, suspended, etc., or at least that we know of. That takes us to this weekends pair of games in Dubuque against another divisional rival in the Fighting Saints (2-2-0).

So let's measure up the Saints. Defensively they have one returning defenseman with real USHL experience, Blake Hillman. However, to bolster their blueline they've brought in William Lagesson. The Swedish born Lagesson brings with him several years and a wealth of experience in the Swedish junior leagues as well as international competitions, putting up impressive numbers wherever he plays. He's a big, physical defensman who can hold down his own end and chip in occasionally on the offensive side of things. He was also a fourth round (#91 overall) pick of the Detroit Redwings in the 2014 NHL Draft. Offensively, there are a couple familiar names for the Saints and one you need to keep an eye on is Seamus Malone. Malone lead the team in points last year and is a constant threat. Another returning forward to look out for is Brett Boeing. Boeing if off to a hot start and currently has 5 goals and 2 assists in four games. In net for the Saints, this years story has been Jacob Nehama. Nehama got somce decent action last season with the Lincoln Stars backing up Michael Bitzer. This year he's on the the Dubuque roster and seems to have taken the starting position from last years Saints starter, Kevin Reich. Nehama has put up outstanding numbers so far, winning both his starts and posting a 1.78GAA and .933 S%. The German born Reich put up passable numbers last season though I can say I was fairly unimpressed with what I saw during the two games he played last season in Youngstown. He's credited with both Dubuque losses this season and is wallowing with a 6.03 GAA and a .833 S%. Suffice it to say, who's in net for the Saints will play a huge role in the Phantoms strategy and outcome. If Nehama is in goal you'll see a much more defensive game on both sides, the Phantoms not wanting to trade chances against a guy putting up those kind of numbers. If Reich starts, I think the Phantoms will be more inclined to take the extra chances.  There are rumors that Gavin Nieto (Janesville Jets NAHL) will be taking over the backup duties from Reich, which will also fee up an import spot with Evan Smith coming off the 25 day IR list.

 

For the Phantoms, I don't see any reason not to split goaltending duties. A back-to-back night against the same team might give us a little more measure to who's the better goalie. I don't see any reason to change the game plan for either of the Phantoms netminders. Defensively, last week we saw Ty Farmer inserted in the lineup for the first time with Carson Vance sitting out the Bloomington game. I don't see this changing this week. Offensively, Kyle Connor has registered a point in all five games this season (2g, 4a) and Max Letunov is showing the scoring that made him a second round pick for the St. Louis Blues with 4 goals on the season. Josh Melnick has been playing some inspired hockey too with a pair of goals and assists. He's been a real catalyst for the team and I sure hope he keeps up the pace. Possibly we'll see Lukas Craggs pop into the lineup, it might be a long shot I'd like to see him get some ice time.

And one other note for the week. It's still early but our special teams have really given us a boost so far. We're second in the league in both powerplay percentage (26.09% tied with Waterloo) and penalty kill (90%).