July is winding down, and the 2021-22 USHL season is fast approaching. As of this writing, there are 58 days until the Phantoms’ first regular season game against the Lincoln Stars at the Fall Classic in Cranberry, PA. The news came on June 1st that the USHL schedule had been released, about 1½ to 2 months earlier than it typically is released in a non-Covid year. We have done a couple of D&C Podcast episodes since then but did not cover the schedule. Why? Quite simply, we forgot. Again, it was a much earlier release than we are used to. <
So, in this edition of By The Numbers, I will break down the Phantoms’ 2021-22 campaign. There are two items I want to point out that will come up during this article. First, the Phantoms will play two games in Cranberry, PA as part of the Fall Classic (Sept. 23 & 24), one against Lincoln where they are designated the ‘Away’ team, and one against Waterloo where they are designated the ‘Home’ team. Second, on Dec. 3 & 4 the Phantoms will take part in the Inaugural American Cup in Rochester, NY. This will be two games against the Green Bay Gamblers, with the teams swapping ‘Home’ and ‘Away’ designations.
So, to kick this off, I will first provide the link where you can view the complete Phantoms schedule for the upcoming season:
Now for the fun stuff. This first chart breaks down the season schedule by team.
Once again, with exception to the Fall Classic, this schedule is again featuring only Eastern Conference opponents. Also, as with the Gametime % Charts from last season, the Team USA U17s and the U18s are separated. Thus the frequency of opponent award goes to Muskegon (10 games), followed by the returning Madison Capitols (9 games), Green Bay & Chicago (8 games), the also returning Cedar Rapids and Team USA U17s (7 games), Dubuque (6 games) and the U18’s (5 games).
As someone much smarter than me pointed out (Thanks Matt!), maybe the worst part of this entire schedule is playing 4 out of 5 games against the U18s in Plymouth. Historically, the Phantoms have fared much better against the senior squad at the Covelli Centre. Again, there is a lot to love about this schedule as compared to past years, so those 4 games very well could be the worst of it.
Another item I wanted to point out from this chart is something I found goofy more than anything, and that is the scheduling of Dubuque and Muskegon. 6 games will be played against the Fighting Saints, the first three in Youngstown and the last three in Dubuque. Only being 6 games, this doesn’t seem all that odd until you look at Muskegon. In a 10 game series, the first 5 are played in Michigan and the last five are at Covelli. It’s nothing crazy, but it made me laugh.
Month by Month Breakdown
Another hallmark of bad scheduling the past few seasons is lopsided months where the bulk of games is either home or away, leading to times where we may not see the Phantoms at Covelli for weeks at a time. This upcoming season is actually fairly even. The breakdown is such:
September - 1 Home - 1 Away *both at the Fall Classic*
October - 3 H - 5 A
November - 4 H - 4 A
December - 4 H - 4 A *2 games, 1H - 1A American Cup*
January - 5 H - 4 A
February - 3 H - 6 A
March - 5 H - 4 A
April - 6 H - 3 A
Let’s Go Streaking
Like I brought up in the last section, month-long road trips will not be a thing this season. I went through the entire schedule, looking at the length of road trips and homestands. I looked at everything above 3 games, since those can be played in one weekend. As it stands the Phantoms will have two 5 game homestands: Nov. 26 & 27, Dec. 10-12 (This homestand is broken up by the 2 games in Rochester, NY.) & March 4 & 5, March 11-13.
As far as being away from Youngstown, the Phantoms will have four 4-game road trips scattered throughout the season, all taking place on consecutive weekends. Again, this means that we won’t have scenarios where we have to go weeks on end without home games.
Home Sweet Home
Speaking of 3 game weekends, in the entirety of this schedule there are only four 3-in-3 weekends: Dec. 10-12, Jan. 28-30, Mar. 11-3, and April 1-3. We’ve seen worse in past seasons, but this has one extra layer to it. All four of these weekends take place at the Covelli Centre. Barring postponements, which hopefully won’t be a thing this season, there will be no road trips this season where a 3-in-3 will be played. This is huge. Four long weekends where the team gets to sleep in their own (billet) beds and not on a bus or in a hotel. Finally, the scheduling gods have smiled down upon us!
Odds & Ends
To wrap up this article, I wanted to point out the oddball weekends. The Phantoms will have 2 weekends where they play a Home-and-Home series, both against Team USA. And there will be 3 split weekends where they play two separate teams in a weekend on the road.
All games are on either Friday-Saturday-Sunday, with the exceptions of two Thursday games and a Wednesday game. The Thursday games are the season opener in Cranberry (Sept. 23rd) and a game in Plymouth on Dec. 30th. The Wednesday game is Feb. 23rd at Covelli. There is no “School Day Game” listed but given the lingering effects of the pandemic, this makes sense.
By The Numbers will be back this season. I most likely will not be keeping numbers for the Western Conference, since the scheduling has teams playing in their own conference for a second straight season. Since the point of this blog is to compare the Phantoms to their seasonal opponents, I will stick to just the East again this season. Also, the blog will not start back up until about a month into the season, as the numbers will be all over the place the first few weekends.
So until then, thanks for reading along!