After an "eventful" week, the Phantoms go back on the road.After an exciting (if not exhausting for some) weekend return to the Covelli Centre, everyone was looking forward to a nice boring week before heading to Chicago for a pair of games. Owen Bartoszkiewicz got the first shutout at Covelli in years, almost guaranteeing USHL weekly honors. After showing he was progressing in his short USHL career, it would be nice to focus on getting Kyle Chauvette healthy while feeling more confident about letting Bartoszkiewicz get more time in net in preparation for next season, when he could be a starter. I'm sure that getting players back in the lineup so we could reunite lines that have worked well all season was on the agenda.

The Phantoms (12-11-2-3) can wish in one hand I guess. The first bit of news came in the form of a trade with Fargo. With the addition of Tomas Machu from Czechia, the Phantoms had 1 more import player than is allowed, and were juggling their affiliate list to accommodate. The result was sending Ryan Alexander (10g, 7a) to the Force in exchange for Charlie Lurie (7g, 11a) and a swap of Phase 2 draft picks, in favor of the Phantoms. Next came the announcement from the USHL that the first game of the weekend was off, with the typical form message that usually means it's due to Covid. Saturday's game is still on as of publication. Needless to say, no one knows which team (if not both) initiated this and how the remaining game will be affected if played. Then came Twitter rumors about Owen Bartoszkiewicz heading to the NCAA to join the Minnesota Golden Gophers, who's top netminder just signed in the NHL. Yeesh, how is a guy supposed to write up anything through all this.

So this week we might play a game against the Chicago Steel (20-5-6-0). These teams have met twice so far this season in separate weeks, splitting the games with each winning on the road. Both were weeks I had other obligations and missed the preview. Fortunately for me, they don't need a lot of introduction. And with the fact that at least one game has been cancelled for a possible outbreak, who knows who will be playing. In the last last two weeks, at least, the Steel have listed players as "protocol" or "illness", so we know they have not been unaffected though this.

Happy New Year, welcome to the 2022 part of the 21-22 season. The Phantoms (10-11-2-3) finished last year with points in their last 3 games, 2 OT wins and an OT loss, and are looking to start the season improving upon that. The first step in that will be beating a team we've locked horns with a few times already, the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (12-12-1-0). This will be the first games at the Covelli Centre since November 26th and I'm sure we're all missing live action. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, I'll explain that later.

The 'Riders are the lowest scoring team in the East. They're lead by Adam Flammang with 12g and 10a. Flammang has decent size and a wicked shot and scores a lot of his goals on the rush. Second on the team is one time Phantoms forward Coal Burtch (9g, 9a). Phantoms fans know well that Burtch can shoot the puck. We also saw Burtch leave on a streatcher last the last time these teams met, a late October game at the Covelli. The injury was not major and he played the next week. Curious enough, he was a healthy scratch the last game the 'Riders played in favor of an 8th defenseman. Since I mentioned both of these guys in the Week 4 Preview, let me mention Zaccharya Wisdom. Wisdom was a rookie ('04) player I saw a lot of potential in at the Fall Classic. He hadn't put up anything on the scoresheet yet last time these teams played. Since then he's posted 3g, 7a. He earned an early C ranking on the NHL CSS Players to Watch List and is an exceptionally smooth skater with soft hands, and given he's finally getting on the board I think he's someone you don't want to take your eyes off of when he's on the ice.

Happy Holidays folks, it's... what week is it, again? Things have gotten busy, and with me missing the last preview before a week off, I'm playing catch up on a lot of things, including hockey. The good news is the Phantoms (9-11-1-3) have managed to end a 6 game losing skid with a solid win over the NTDP U18s in Plymouth. The better news is our next stop is back in USA Hockey Arena to play the U17s (1-10-0-0) on Thursday. After that is a New Years Eve game in Muskegon (13-10-1-2) to round out 2021. 

The NTDP U17s. I'll be honest I have not seen enough of them to really say much, they aren't really an impressive group yet. This will eventually change. In the Week 2 Preview I had mentioned Gabe Perreault as a potential top scorer for the team and he's been that with 3g and 8a. Will Smith and Oliver Moore are both just behind him with 3g, 6a each. Will Vote leads the team with 4 goals. Again, I don't have much in the way of scouting reports on anyone in particular, all of them seem to have a well rounded set of skills.

I'd almost skip mentioning the defense but I did that last time. Only one defenseman is on the good side of the +/- column and that is Kai Janviriya who is a +1. The rest range from -4 to Zeev Buium at a (as far as I know) league worst -17 in 11 games played. I did like Aram Minnetian's defensive play and skating ability in the two games earlier in the season despite the Phantoms lopsided victories in those games.

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