Wow! After all these years, I’m writing my first HockeyPhan.com blog. Actually, this is my first blog...ever. I’m surprised I hadn’t done this earlier and more often. I tend to be better with the written word, as opposed to tripping over my tongue, which you all seem to enjoy me doing week after week on the podcast. At least here, if I screw up, I have plenty of time to fix it and no one will ever know I made a miscake.

What I will be doing here will be a weekly thing. (Don’t hold me to that) So future posts will be much shorter than this one. This first post will be the Marvel Origin Story. And thus goes...

Among a small but merry group of Covelli friends, I have the nickname “Stat-Man”. This is because of the last few years of fielding requests from Justin for “off the beaten path” stats that are not found in the USHL Universe. And to date, I have fulfilled every request. Back in December, a request was made to me by someone who we’ll just refer to as Bob. We had talked about how it seemed like the Phantoms almost never had a lead in a game. And he asked me if there was any way to find out how many minutes so far this season the Phantoms had actually led. I imagine that NextGen stats keeps track of that for the NHL, but it is definitely not a stat kept in the USHL.

So, I sat down and went through all 7 or so games the Phantoms had played up to that point, going box score by box score, adding up the total time the Phantoms held a lead. And it was bad, like, baaaaaad. That idea evolved into how much time they trailed and were tied and what percentage of the season were those times. I continued tracking these numbers into spreadsheets, adding games from the next couple of weeks as they were played.

The Phantoms hit the road this week for three games in Chicago.Ready to Roll! - The Phantoms hit the road this week for three games in Chicago.
OK, we have a weekend of home games under our belts, some players returning from injury/illness, and a lot of positives heading in this weekend. The Phantoms (2-3-0-0) look to keep moving forward this week against Chicago (6-2-0-0), but once again the Steel look like one of the top teams in the league with 8 players on the NHL's first scouting list. We also get an extra game this trip, the first makeup of one of the previously postponed games, so we'll have 3 games in 3 days. At least they are all in the same city.

On offense, the Steel lost a few big names that we won't miss. Gunnarwolfe Fontaine, Sam Colangalo, and Mathieu De. St. Phalle are among names we got sick of hearing called the last couple seasons that we won't hear this season. The bad news is they still have a lot of firepower. The top returning point scorer from last season - and this season's second overall scorer in the league - is Sean Farrell (6g, 10a), a 4th round pick of the Montreal Canadians in the 2020 NHL draft. Farrell has played a lot in the USHL, more than 120 total games dating back to the 17-18 season with the NTDP. He's a smart player with his head up always looking to make a play, and this season he seems to be finishing the play more.

Leading the team and the league in scoring is Matt Coronato (8g, 10a). Coronato, now in his second season, is a NHL CSS B-ranked skater who has tremendous speed and uses it to drive the play up ice. He is a big catalyst for the Steel. In terms of pure goal scoring, I think the leagues 3rd overall scorer Mackie Samoskevich (3g, 10a) will be a top contender. Samoskevich is a crafty '02 with a CSS A-ranking, amazing hands, vision, and a wicked shot. I think he'll live up to his CSS rating eventually, let's not be the ones to help him.

The Phantoms are ready to play their first home game since last season cancellation.Hockey Returns to the Covelli! - The Phantoms are ready to play their first home game since last season cancellation.
It almost seems too good to be true, like a dream even. The last game the Phantoms played at the Covelli will have been 272 days from this Friday's scheduled home opener. That's almost 39 weeks ago. Goals by Josh DeLuca, Jayson Dobay, and Trevor Kuntar sealed a 3-1 win over Cedar Rapids. It's a little hard to fathom, with over a month left in the regular season, that would be the last time we saw those players in Phantoms uniforms. Heck, for that matter it will be the last time we saw the RoughRiders until at least next season.

Now we're in the "new normal" which isn't anything close to being normal. In the first month of the current season, the Phantoms (1-2-0-0) have played 3 games and seen 7 games postponed, including the last 4 straight, for reasons related to the pandemic. Since this has been published, it's getting close enough to game day that it looks like we might actually play this week and at home with some fans. We will kick things off against our rivals, the Muskegon Lumberjacks (2-2-0-0) in what might be one of many games against them. I had written a bit about the 'Jacks for last week. The good news for me is their games were postponed as well so all my data is still up to date.

The 'Jacks have a good amount of returning players from last season but might not have had a lot of scoring. That is until the OHL let teams loan players to the USHL. This allowed their leading scorer from last season, Danil Gushchin to return to the 'Jacks for at least part of this season. In the abridged 19-20 season, Gushchin put up 22g, 25a in 42 games. So far this year he's put up 5g, 4a in 4 games. The crafty forward will be a major force as long as he's in the USHL this season. Cameron Berg is another returner expected to score. More of a power forward than Gushchin, Berg has put up the same numbers, 5g and 4a.