The Phantoms (5-6-0-2) return to Covelli this week, this time with some wind in their sails. The Phantoms are on a 4 game point streak, with 3 wins out of 4 and 7 out of 8 points in that stretch. They'll need every bit of momentum they can muster this week, facing a Madison Capitols (9-2-1-0) team that is exceeding all expectations and put a couple of beatings on us a few weeks ago in their barn. The Caps have become a dark horse favorite in the league, surprising everyone with their best start in team history, good for second place in the Eastern Conference and the USHL overall. All this with first year head coach Tommy Upton, a familiar name for Phantoms fans, and after sitting out the last season due to the pandemic. 

I'll be honest, I tried not to underestimate this team after seeing their return to the league this season, but it's the players I didn't really get strong reads on that are doing most of the scoring. A few of the players expected to be the reliable scorers have been more like role players. Others, like third year veteran Jack Horbach, have gone from role player to playmaker with 3g and 11a. This leads the team in points and ties his career season high in just 12 games. Goal scoring has come from a few players that weren't on scouting radars. Jack Musa has had respectable numbers in AAA (AYHL North Jersey Avalanche) and the NAHL (Odessa Jackalopes), but his 8g leads the Caps along with 5a to put him just behind Horbach in points. Jake Dunlap had a few affiliate stretches in the past 2 season in Fargo, along with solid play in the NAHL (Janesville Jets). But his 6g, 1a have been a big boost to the Caps. I could also mention Nick DeSantis (5g, 5a) and Tyler Haskins (4g, 9a) for stellar play, the latter also on the NHL's CSS Players to Watch List.

Hello everyone! And welcome back to By The Numbers. Right off the bat, thank you to everyone who checked out last week's blog. I know it was a little wordy, but I had to make sure everyone was up to speed. This one will take me forever to write due to the fact that my new rescue dog, Calvin, is very clingy and me escaping to my office was a big no-no. He is a beagle mix; and judging by his bark, the only internal organs he possesses are lungs. But I digress…

The questions I most commonly get asked about what I do with this blog is, “What does it all mean?” “Based on these numbers, what do I think will happen this weekend?” and my personal favorite, “How is Team A ranked higher than Team B, when Team A has a better record?”.

What does it all mean? It means this is what has happened so far. A log of games that have already been played. And how the times in those games added up. This is by no means a why question, but how. You can look at a final score and say that’s why that team won, they scored more goals. But how did they win? Did they take an early lead and hold it the entire game? Did they trail most of the game, but scored late? As I’ve said before, this is just a different way of looking at it.

The Phantoms head to Muskegon this weekend!The ups and downs of a season can surprise you sometimes. After a 5 game losing streak against teams we expected to be much more competitive against, the Phantoms (4-6-0-1) managed to break out and earned 4 of 6 points last weekend. After dropping a 3rd straight game to the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders on Friday, they managed to win one against the 'Riders and then put a smackdown on the defending Clark Cup champion Chicago Steel. Let's hope they can keep the momentum swinging their way when they take to the road to play the Muskegon Lumberjacks (1-6-1-2), who are struggling mightily.

The 'Jacks aren't exactly bad on offense, when they get any offense. The second leading returning scorer on the team, Quinn Hutson, is second in scoring on the team in points and the top goal scorer with 6g and 2a. Hutson is an opportunistic scorer and playmaker who had 3g, 8a in 10 games against the Phantoms last season. The third returning scorer from last season is team captain Jack Williams, who could play his 130th USHL game (combined regular season and playoffs) this weekend. Williams only has 1g and 2a on the 21-22 season, something that has to concern the 'Jacks. Joey Larson is a decent sized forward, an '01 with good BCHL and NAHL experience, who has showed he can help on offense with 5g and 2a. Last seasons tender Owen Mehlenbacher was expected to contribute more this season but the '04 only has 1g and 2a this season. Ethan Whitcomb is another '04 who is highly touted but only has 1a in 7 games this season. 

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