Its week eight already? Actually for this beleaguered blogger it seems like week 28. With both of these weekends games on the road and against a familiar foe, I'll keep this brief. Last weekend, the Phantoms played a pair of home games against the Lincoln Stars with mixed results. Sure we got 3 out of 4 possible points, we certainly showed a lot of holes in our game and left that last point on the table against a team that we should have taken it. Playing the Bloomington Thunder might be the best medicine for what ails them though.
The Thunder are a team that's back on the slow uphill climb rather than the quick slide down. They haven't won a game in over a month, 10/18 in a shootout with Omaha to be specific. They're in last place in the league for good reason. However, they have put forth much better performances lately. Their best game of late, and possibly of the season, was a 4-3 shootout loss to the NDTP U18 squad that went eight skaters deep into the shootout. They've made some roster moves since their last visit to the Covelli. Tyler Gernhoffer was traded to Ceder Rapids in exchange for Jason Kalinowski, both forwards, and Ethan Spaxman was traded to Waterloo for Jeremy Davies, both defensemen. Defenseman Andrew Roye is off the IR and Tanner Salsberry was sent to the NAHL to make room. Blake Gober is in the lineup after serving a single game suspension for a check from behind. You'll remember him for the incident where he ripped Josh Nenadal's helmet off and made a little bit of head contact with it when he returned it, or smacked him in the head tossing it at him depending on your point of view. That one earned him a three game suspension.
Anyway you slice it they're still bad. We don't need to help them any either. If we want to beat them we will and that is that. We can make them take all kinds of bad penalties, we've proven that. It doesn't matter which goalie is in net, Colin DeAugustine or Chris Birdsall, or if they start David Jacobsen or Logan Halladay. The plan should be simple, don't let them have and stupidly easy chances like tons of breakaways, odd man rushes, 5-on3 powerplays, major powerplays, etc. Keep it simple, shoot the puck lots at their net and get under their skin and make them sit in the box. Being on the road, hit them early and hard. No one wants to get out-hit in front of the home crowd and good, hard checking to start the game can elicit some early retaliatory penalties.
I'm probably not going out on a limb here in saying I expect Ryan Lomberg to continue to be a key factor with his hard work in front of the net. Kyle Connor and Max Letunov will probably be the offensive forces as we all expect. We'll probably split the goaltending duties, unless something extenuating happens tonight. We need to get some momentum rolling because next weekend is a home and home against Muskegon and that's much more critical opponent. I don't know if I'll have a recap for both games or just lump them into one on Monday. How Fasthockey performs and how much free time I can get are the deciding factors. I'm also working on a first quarter of the season report since we hit that mark last weekend, but that might not make it today.