Everything you need to know to get you ready for the hockey game tonight at the PPL Center in Allentown. It’s the Bridgeport Sound Tigers versus YOUR Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“If you go down to the [arena] today
You’re sure of a big surprise.”
–Anne Murray “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”
The Phantoms got a much-needed win versus the last-place Norfolk Admirals last weekend thanks to Blair Jones’ “Gordie Howe” Hat Trick (goal, assist, fight). In fact, Jones had two goals in the 4-3 Phantoms victory. Taylor Leier had a goal, continuing his scoring streak and team lead, and Brandon Manning had a couple assists, continuing his points streak.
Last night, the Phantoms got their collective butts kicked by a roster-depleted Baby Penguins team. For two periods, they couldn’t control the puck, couldn’t fore-check, couldn’t clear the zone, and descended into sloppy play in front of returning goalie Rob Zepp. He was pulled, but the problems went much deeper. Brett Hextall managed a goal in the 5-1 drubbing in Wilkes Barre.
We’ve reached the (“No Quarter”) quarter-turn with the games last weekend. At this point, I don’t feel it’s prudent to start handing out grades on individual players or units–the sample size is relatively small and I’m armed only with the powers of observation during home games and very little hockey experience. There are a couple things of note, however:
- Home record: 6-2-2, Road record: 3-7-0-0; 9-9-2 is good for 20 points and fourth place. We have a .500 hockey team right now; they play better at home. Hopefully, the talent we have will help us climb the ranks as we go forward.
- Taylor Leier is tied for 7th in the league in Power Play goals
- Brandon Manning is tied for 12th in the league in Power Play Assists
- Jay Rosehill is 10th in the league in penalty minutes
- Phantoms are 12th (out of 30) in Power Play percentage
- Phantoms are 25th (out of 30) in Penalty Kill
- In the entire Eastern Conference, the Phantoms are second only to Syracuse in Penalty Minutes per game
Martin Ouellette (G) was sent back to Reading on Thursday, portending the return of starting goalie Rob Zepp who should be ready to “Bring it on Home” this weekend, after suffering a lower body (probably an “Achillies (Last Stand)” wouldn’t you think?) injury a week ago Wednesday during warmups.
Coach Terry Murray reportedly called out Robert Hagg following one of last weekend’s games. He questioned his mental approach and intensity on the ice. It’s an interesting tactic for the veteran coach to take with a player who’s among the youngest on the team at only 19 years old. I’m not sure I have any particular comment here, other than that it’s something to watch, he’s young, and maybe a lot coming at him living in the US full time now and with the injuries to Gostisbehere and Alt leaving things a bit in flux on the blue line.
The Sound Tigers arrive having lost in Hershey last night 3-6, also in the midst of a “Three-in-three.” We’ll play in Bridgeport Connecticut tomorrow afternoon to close out the weekend. The Sound Tigers are in fourth place in the Northeast Division, playing about .500 hockey over the past ten games. They are the affiliate of the New York Islanders. Perhaps it’s a good chance for the Phantoms to shake off last night’s debacle.
Game Time: 7:05PM, Gates 6:00PM.
Bonus Hockey: Doors Open at 1PM for a 2PM tilt between Lehigh and Lafayette Ice Hockey Teams! Your ticket to the Phantoms game will be needed to get in, but there is no additional charge. Enter through the Air Products gate!
Broadcast: TV2/69FMZ/AM1470/Arena: 89.9FM
Broadcast Note: Tomorrow’s game in Bridgeport will be broadcast on 790-WAEB. 3PM gametime.
Tickets: Plenty of tickets remain as of Friday afternoon, but they are going fast. NEW! The web site has been updated to allow you to choose your seats! Check it out! It worked fine for tonight’s game, but didn’t work for the any of the other events or concerts I attempted. Still, it’s a start.
Promotions: Tonight’s game is chock full of promotions! First, there will be a Teddy Bear Toss! What the heck is that? Well, at the first Phantoms goal, everyone will toss a new or gently used bear or stuffed animal on the ice as a donation to Valley Youth House. If you like, you can purchase a suitable item at the Phantoms store, I’m sure. See below for YouTube versions of other teams’ experience. If you’re sitting behind the net or not within throwing distance, adjust accordingly.
Second, it’s Ledgend’s Night with Bill Barber. The two-time Stanley Cup Champion, Hockey Hall of Famer, and first coach of the Phantoms will be on hand to sign autographs behind section 112 from 6:00PM until 6:45PM. Each fan will receive a collector’s poster!
Finally, the Lucky Dog promotion continues: If your hot dog carton contains the “lucky dog” sticker, present it at Fan Services for a prize!
What To Watch For:
- Watch for the Phantoms to continue to cut down on HITS. HITS is Holding, Interference, Tripping, and Slashing. Sloppy penalties have been a problem, although it seems to be a bit better of late. As the long hockey weekend wears on, we’ll see if they can continue to resist such play. In last night’s game, some of the penalties felt like they were frustration-based with the way the game was going, more than sloppy, as I listened to the radio broadcast and followed on Twitter.
- Watch to see if the Phantoms can respond to what happened last night at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Look for them to start fast in the game. Have your bear ready!
- Watch to see how Zepp/Stolarz looks in the goal. The alternate will almost certainly start tomorrow in Connecticut.
- Watch to see who is paired with Hagg, and how he responds to the public challenge from his coach.
- Watch to see if the Power Play units can continue to be successful. Taylor Leier has been deadly of late, and much of the credit goes to Zach Stortini. The big dude has been parking himself in front of the goalie to open up corner chances on the man-advantage. It’s a good plan which has been working lately.
- Watch to see Jason Akeson get more involved. Just like Blair Jones, having come from the Flyers without a ton of playing time, the fresh legs are good but the rhythm can be off a bit. I look for Akeson to get a couple of goals this weekend.
The Phantoms will complete the “three-in-three” tomorrow with a rematch in Bridgeport, CT. The 3PM matinee should test the mettle of both teams–tune in and listen if you’re not busy watching football. Friday, the Phantoms will be in Binghamton, NY (just 2hrs 15mins up I-81 from Allentown) before returning to face the Penguins again on Saturday December 13. The Phantoms will wear “Philadelphia Eagles”-like jerseys for that game, which will be auctioned off following the game. It will be interesting to hear how the first arena jersey auction goes–and what the prices are. Following next Saturday’s game, the Phantoms will head back down-the-shore to face the Albany Devils on the Boardwalk once again.
Teddy Bear Toss:
Advanced Strategy: If you’re sitting down front, you may want to be ready to “re-throw” a bunch of them. Or, just get up and go get a beer. There’s going to be some extra clean-up time involved, take the opportunity to use the rest room, gets some refreshments, and the like. If someone gets good video of ours tonight, please send it along and I’ll post it. Golly I hope we score, otherwise I guess just throw them on the ice at the conclusion of the game.
See you at the area (eventually),