Hello, everyone. January has been a very exciting month.
My team, the Youngstown Phantoms, is getting back on track to make the playoffs after a tough slump in December (one win). We went 4-2-3 in January, getting 11 out of a possible 18 points. This is a huge improvement for the team after coming off two pretty long slumps. Our coaching staff has done a great job maintaining a positive attitude each day. I feel like our practices are always productive and everybody loves coming to the rink. I am really happy with the way the staff has handled our slumps.
Five of our nine January games went into overtime, and all but two were decided by one goal. They were exciting games, and I think the Youngstown fans are starting to take notice. We had our largest crowd of the season last Friday. Eleven of our next thirteen games are at home, so I'm hoping our fans come out and give us a boost. I'm really excited about the home stretch we have this second half of the season!
Our biggest rival this year has been Muskegon. We've played them six times this year and each game has been close and physically tough. I love the competitive attitude our two teams have when we play each other. January brought two other big wins against two teams battling us for a playoff spot. We beat U-18 USNTDP in a shootout and beat Waterloo in overtime. These two games really gave us a boost of confidence and assurance that we can be a playoff team. I'm happy that we're out of the slump and know that if we keep playing this way, great things will happen for us.
On a more personal note, NHL Central Scouting's mid-term rankings came out in the middle of the month. I was excited to be ranked No. 15 among North American skaters. There are so many great players on the list. To be recognized with them as a draft prospect is a real honor. I was even more happy to see there were 49 USHL players (24 forwards, 17 defenseman, and 8 goalies) listed in the rankings, including three other players from Youngstown -- defenseman Chris Bradley, forward J.T. Stenglein, and goalie Matt O'Connor. This is huge for the league and our team, and it really shows that the USHL is a great league for development. I am glad to be ranked, but also know that these rankings don't mean anything if I don't continue to perform on the ice, work hard, and improve. You don't play in the NHL based on the rankings or the draft. You still have to earn it, and I need to keep this in mind. Every day I need to be getting better and working harder.
I'm excited for the upcoming month. I know the Phantoms can take advantage of having so many home games in February and can really make a push to move up in the standings. I'm hoping to finish the season strong and help put my team in the best position possible to go far in playoffs.
Thank you for taking your time to read this! My next blog will be the first Wednesday of March.