Team faces Ice Diggers on road
The team just met last weekend at the Ice Zone.
BOARDMAN -- Even though the Mahoning Valley Phantoms defeated the Alpena (Mich.) Ice Diggers in their first six meetings this season, this weekend's games on Alpena's home ice promise to be a challenge.
Today's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. and Sunday's matinee will start at 3 p.m.
Last weekend, the Phantoms swept Alpena at the Ice Zone by scores of 4-0 and 4-2.
In his six wins against the Ice Diggers, Phantoms goaltender Ryan Zapolski has a 1.81 goals against average, a .950 save percentage and one shutout to his credit. Dustin Cloutier leads all scorers with nine points on three goals and six assists.
The Phantoms held Alpena's top scoring line of Todd Rudasill, Drew Pierson and Nolan Craner to a goal and assist in the six games. Against the rest of the league, the trio averages over five points a game.
The Phantoms also have contained the Ice Diggers top-ranked power-play unit. Alpena (24-10-2), which scores at a rate of 22.6 percent with the one-man advantage, is just 4 for 36 against the Phantoms for 11.1 percent.
"We've worked hard at getting the match-ups we want on the ice," Phantoms coach Bob Mainhardt said. "If you look at the games thus far, our blue-collar players like Brent Dexter are getting the job done."
Dexter has scored two game-winning goals against Alpena and is second on the team next to Cloutier in scoring with seven points against the Ice Diggers.
Lineup two short
Injuries will force the Phantoms to field a roster of 18 players this weekend, two fewer than the maximum allowed. Mainhardt says that playing with a shorter bench has its pros and cons on the ice.
"Because our forward and defensive combinations will vary, our opponents will not know which line they will play against," Mainhardt said.
"At the same time, it will be tougher for us as the road team."
By rule, after a stoppage in play, the road team has five seconds to substitute any players before the home team is given five seconds to do the same, giving the home team a tactical advantage in matching lines.
Defenseman Trent Bonnett is likely out for two weeks after breaking his jaw against the U.S. National Team on Dec. 20.
Defenseman Doug Leaverton, who broke his hand in a first-period fight last Friday against the Ice Diggers, is expected to miss another 5-7 weeks.
Left wing Mike Fillinger suffered a slight muscle tear in his left shoulder against Team Sweden on Jan. 3 and could return in two weeks.
Defenseman Bill Stemzynski continues to heal after breaking his left collarbone against Marquette in November.
Stemzynski could be cleared to practice sometime in February.
Following their trip to Alpena, the Phantoms will stop in Ann Arbor to play the U.S. National Team on Monday at 3 p.m.
All three games will be webcast on www.mvpphantoms.com.