OK, here is a rush preview. We have a rare Monday night game against Chicago and I have an optometrist appointment later today. Then this weekend we play a Friday and Sunday game against the bottom-most team in the west, the Lincoln Stars. I don't have a lot to say about the latter and last night we saw all we needed to see of the former.
Chicago handed us our second home loss of the season last night 5-2. The Steel played a good team game and got outstanding goaltending from Cale Morris. The Phantoms were depleted on defense and DeAugustine was chased on 4 goals in 10 shots. Truth be told, however, I blamed the lack of attendance, 602, as the biggest problem the team faced. Two questions linger after the loss. Can the Phantoms quickly forget last nights loss and focus on tonight? Will we have 6 defensman dressed and on the bench? I like the odds of Chris Birdsall getting the nod in net after replacing DeAugustine last night. I don't know how Chicago handles back-to-back road games in net but if Morris feels up to it I'd reckon he'll get the nod again for Chicago after last nights excellent performance.
Onto the weekend we go! Lincoln is a struggling team, no doubt about it. At 3-6-1 they have the 2nd lowest points in the standings with only the USA NTDP posting lower. That said, I'm sure they're hungry for a few road wins. Things aren't all bad for the squad, a bright spot being stellar play from forward Michel Gillespie. The rookie forward has 7 goals ( and 1 assist) so far on the season. Also contributing offensively is Blake Christensen, who played some games as a Phantoms last year, and Ludvig Hoff. Both Christensen and Hoff have 3 goals and 6 assists on the year. However, their defense is lacking veteran strength with only Connor Frantti having more than a few USHL games prior to the start of the season and he is just coming off a 2 game suspension. There are rumors, likely true, that thery have acquired Ethan Spaxman from Bloomington to add to the blueline.
The Stars starting goalie, Cam Hackett (2-3-1), has posted a decent save percentage since coming to Lincoln in the off-season. Last year he backed up for the Green Bay Gamblers but found a starting job in Lincoln and has posted a 0.902 SV%. His goals against average is 4.02, which indicates the Stars defense doesn't insulate him well. His backup Peyton Jones, has put up a 0.879 SV% and 3.29 GAA. Considering their record, I think it's pretty obvious that to beat these guys you just fire lots of rubber onto the net and they're likely to let you do so. I think in all three games this week we need our best players to stand out. Kyle Connor and Max Letunov need to put up some numbers, especially in tonight's rematch against Chicago. Hopefully, we'll get some relief on defense too. Collin DeAugustine will have to shake off last nights loss at some point, probably on Friday against Lincoln.
And, not to harp, but we need a better crowd at the Covelli.