- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Game Recap
- Hits: 1323
For most of the evening, the Phantoms looked to be a much improved team who had shaken off the previous weekends poor performance. The defense only allowed 25 shots in over 63 minutes on backup goalie Jake Moore, who's turned into the starter in the absence of Sean Romeo. The offense looked hungry too. It seemed opening night was shaping up well and, all things considered, it was still the best game of the season for the Youngstown team. It still wasn't good enough to earn two points in the standings as a couple of costly mistakes kept the Green Bay Gamblers in it during regulation.
The Phantoms started well, JJ Pichinich scored early on a power play. Less than four minutes into the tilt and with a Gambler in the box, Josh Melnick fed the puck to the second year forward and Pichinich elevated the shot, hitting the bottom of the crossbar and in. I had just sat down in my seat after some issues with the box office and was scrambling to find my rally towel. Later in the period however, the Phantoms got into a little trouble shorthanded by two and the Gamblers were able to tie it up.
The second period gave us the first costly error. Defenseman Alex Carle made a weak outlet pass right inside his own blue line and Green Bay's Ryan Lough fed Drew Best on a 2-on-1 to take the lead. Youngstown's Luke Stork tied it up early in the third with the Phantoms second power play of the evening. Later in the frame the Phantoms went up a goal on an incredible move by rookie Maxim Letunov. The young native of Moscow Russia took a to the left of the Green Bay goal. He made a little hesitation move as if he was going to take the puck to the net or shoot on his forehand but instead dodged behind the net and wrapped it around and inside the unguarded post.
This wasn't do svidaniya for the Gamblers though. With less than two minutes in the game, veteran forward Kevin Irwin (no relation) was pressuring Youngstown's Tyler Spezia just in front of Moore's cage. The official report intimated that Irwin forced a turnover and beat Moore. This wasn't how I saw it and the replay seemed to show Spezia putting the puck behind his own goalie. I'm not sure if this was a miss-communication or if Spezia just lost track of where he was but this tied it up and sent us to OT. Then in the extra period, a little bit of a bad bounce put the puck on the stick of Green Bay veteran Nick Shcmaltz. Moore went for a poke check, probably his only bad play of the game, as Shcmaltz put the puck up and over to win the game.
There was so much positive last night it just seems such a shame a couple little errors put us on the losing side. We did get a point in the standings. The offense looked strong and the defense certainly held together better. The biggest improvement was the play of Jake Moore. There were a few scrambling moments where it looked like he was going to give up a goal but somehow managed to make a save or at least make the shooter miss. Last nights backup was Bobby Palzer who played last season with the Philadelphia Revolution in the EJHL. It's another quick turnaround game today, I'll be really interested to see how Moore handles himself today.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: Opinion and Editorial
- Hits: 2139
It's opening weekend at the Covelli and I'm sure we're all ready for some hockey, especially those that couldn't make the trip to Ann Arbor last weekend. It's a new season and there are a lot of new faces. There has also been a little drama to start the season. I suppose by now I don't have to go into details, Nathan Walker is now a member of the AHL Hershey Bears after an exceptional camp with the Washington Capitals. Trust me fans, we all have the same mixed feelings. But if anyone has paid the price to get to the big dance, it's Stormy and we all hope this is the big step he so deserves.
To be honest, other than the Nathan Walker deal became finalized I hid a little from the news. I'm still on a weird work schedule so I've been a little behind on things to begin with. I've been more concerned with the status of Sean Romeo and, unfortunately, I have no news in the regard. Unless they mentioned something on BTG, which I missed, I don't know what his status is for this weekend. To me his absence is way more of an issue that the loss of Walker. I won't blame Jake Moore for everything but, again, .800 or below and 8.00GAA can't be acceptable. But make no mistake, the defense must also cut down on the shots. Moore faced better than 35 shots both nights and even a good goalie is going to wear down at that pace. I can't site any player or players or narrow it to any specific area that they played bad, they just need to pull it together a little tighter. This should come with time as out D-men are lacking a lot of experience. The question is how much time do we have? A bad start to the season could haunt us come the final stretch of the season. Veteran goal tending could buy us some time with that. This will be a testament to Noreen's coaching and system.
The good news is our offense looks good even without Walker. We have a lot of returning forwards. Kyle Connor and Luke Stork played great. Newly christened captain, Alfred Larsson looked a little bigger and stronger as did JJ Pichinich. A few of the newcomers really stood out too. Tyler Spezia and Maxim Letunov showed a lot of potential and Ryan Schwalbe played a solid game and looks like he could really add some offensive support in the dirty areas.
Green Bay, whom we play both games against this weekend, went 1-0-1 to start the season with a 5-1 beating of the Chicago Steel and a 5-4 shootout loss to the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The Gamblers and the Phantoms have traded turns knocking each other out of the playoffs the last two seasons with Youngstown downing them last year as payback for the year before. This should be an interesting challenge for the home opener.
- Written by Justin Irwin
- Category: News
- Hits: 1112
Well, it is now official. If you hadn't heard the rumors or were just in denial here it is in a nutshell. Due to his European import status, Walker was unable to be signed by the NHL Washington Capitals. The NHL CBA only considers Canadian major junior hockey with regards to tryouts and assignments so he is AHL eligible. Today's press release confirmed it.
I'm dure Phantoms fans will greet the news with mixed feelings. Here is my take on it. The purpose of the USHL and all junior hockey is to develop players for higher leagues. The USHL likes to send players through the NCAA but that's not usually how it happens for European players. The fact that Walker was considered by an NHL team and then signed by their affiliate is a testament to both Walker's skills and the success of the Phantoms organization. Nathan also retains 2014 NHL draft eligibility. Should he play well on the Bears squad then I'm sure he'll get more exposure than on a USHL roster, no matter how dominate he is in the league. Plus, he'll get paid a decent salary.
Notice I say should. There is a hitch to this. Being eligible for the AHL also means they can send him down to the ECHL. By no means am I saying that the ECHL isn't a respectable route for player development but you also lose a lot of the incentive over playing another year of juniors. The ECHL is a much rougher road. The travel and scheduling is a lot more grueling than the USHL and if he's buried on a third line he may not be quite as visible to scouts as he would on a top USHL line. Couple in the fact that he won't be making quite the money he would with an AHL team. At least in juniors he should get some, if not most, of his room and board provided. Last time I heard statistics, ECHL players made an average of a bit under $600 a week. Though at this point I'm certainly optimistic, to say the least, that he'll do quite well in the AHL and the Bears just got very lucky.
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