The Phantoms are back in town to face–not the #LeftShark but–the Worcester Sharks, in another mid-week tilt. Here’s what you need to know to get ready for tonight’s game:
After two horrific home losses late last week to the Devils and the Bears, the Phantoms achieved a modicum of redemption by clipping the Penguins up in Wilkes Barre Saturday night. The Pens came in riding a winning streak, while the Phantoms were reeling. The Phantoms went down 2-0 in the first period, but behind the leadership of Andrew “Gordo” Gordon and the scoring of Nick “The Cuz” Cousins and young Taylor Leier the Phantoms came back to crush the Pens before a sellout crowd at the Mohegan Sun, 6-2. The Pens sent out the goons near the end of the third period; coach Murray wasn’t happy about it, but he wasn’t going to let guys like Leier and Akeson get pushed around, either. The game ended amid a flurry of fights and penalties. Circle Saturday February 14 on your calendar. It’s the next meeting between those two teams and it’s back at Casey Plaza. Anyone up for a Valentine’s Day trip North? “There’s no love lost…”
Speaking of a trip North: Service Electric had an ad in the analog paper the other day “Rivalry Nights” VIP tickets to see the Phantoms up at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. There are $29 Preferred Seats, and $35 Platinum Seats. They are all center ice, and include some nice perks, but not transportation. There are two dates available, Saturday February 14 and Saturday April 4–but they want 10 days notice, so call today if you’re interested in Valentine’s Day. (570) 970-3507 to order tickets.
The Phantoms remain solidly in third place in the division with Binghamton now having dropped into last place. The Lehigh Valley team stands six points ahead of fourth-place Norfolk and five points behind second place Wilkes Barre-Scranton. Now that we’ve entered the second half of the season, though, it’s time to keep a closer watch on the conference standings, which will ultimately determine the fate of our playoff status. The Phantoms are currently five points out of the playoff picture, in 11th place where the top 8 make it.
After the horrible hockey we saw last Thursday and Friday, many of us thought this was the beginning of the end for our inaugural season in Allentown–as far as playoff relevance. However, the bounce-back performance Saturday night which salvaged last weekend’s “3-in-3” could be the turning point of the season. Could be; we’ll see. But go read this excellent Gary Blockus piece from The Morning Call to get some insight into the mentality and leadership of this team going forward. Click here.
A possible factor in all this is the juggling of the lineups. Sure, Coach Murray shakes things around from time to time, and players have come and gone, but the team played this past “3-in-3” with only 11 forwards. The goofy rotations, different partners, and double shifts for the centers could have been part of the problem. The players, of course, refuse to make excuses, but it sure seems plausible. The adjustment on the trip up 476 was impressive, and help is on the way.
It starts tonight with a home game against Worcester–a team that just happens to be ahead of us in conference standings. RISE UP!
The Phantoms have dropped to fourth in the league in attendance. These mid-week openings are a killer, you know. But every team has them, right? Maybe. Maybe not as many. The Phantoms have 15 mid-week (Tu-Thu) games this season, not counting pre-season. 11 are home, and 4 are away. Shouldn’t that be more balanced? Perhaps the Brooks’ need to petition the AHL for some equality there for next season. Or, perhaps it saves on travel expenses and cuts down on 3-in-3s? More on this to come.
Jesper Pettersson, the young rookie who had been struggling to earn ice time and was pressed into duty as the seventh defender/sometimes forward last weekend, scored his first professional goal and first goal in over two years on Saturday night! We love #8 and are cheering for him to do well. He was asked to play a little forward with the fourth line against Hershey and surrendered a breakaway in that lopsided loss. So, it’s gotta feel good for him. “Congrats, Petey. Keep grinding.”
Petr Staka returns to the Phantoms tonight after a successful Philadelphia debut last weekend. All reports had him playing well and contributing on offense as the Flyers managed a couple nice wins. However, we welcome “Strax” back so that we can get our lines back to normal and generate some decent offense.
Veteran team leader Darroll Powe is close to returning from a concussion. He may not be in the lineup tonight, but I’m hoping by the weekend. Setbacks are always possible during the protocols, though, so we keep our fingers crossed. Last report I heard had him skating “non-contact.”
Another concussion victim, Flyer Scott Laughton, as been fully cleared medically, and just has to work his way back into the lineup. Perhaps this is why the Flyers sent Straka back–along with Raffl getting well from the pneumonia, and Rinaldo working through his suspension. Word out of Philly is that Raffl and Laughton should be available for tomorrow night’s game versus the Islanders.
Nick Cousins’ 17 points in January, led all of the AHL! Keep it up, Cuz! Yesterday he was named AHL Player of the Month for January!
The Phantoms gave up a ton of goals last Thursday and Friday, but I hardly feel like the team played well enough for anyone to criticize goalies Anthony Stolarz and Rob Zepp. Stolarz was pulled from Friday night’s game at home versus Hershey, and Zepp, with is usual “Wearing and Tearing” performance, got the win in Scranton on Saturday. This team needs to generate quality chances at the net on offense, and posses the puck in transition. They also need to stop taking unnecessary penalties. Until then, the goalies are the least of my worries.
Puck Drop: 7:05PM
Doors Open: 6:00PM
Tickets: Good seats are still available. Use PPLCenter.com or call (610) 347-8499.
Parking: Just another reminder that the arena decks–via the 8th Street entrance and the Linden Street entrance–are now for pass-holders only. For those of us regular fans, use the Parking Authority surface lots and parking decks. Find one via AllentownEventParking.com in real time.
- “Skate With The Players” after the game. Bring your skates, and you’ll be allowed on the ice following the game. Players are supposed to join us! You must bring your own skates, and you’ll be allowed to enter the ice following the game via sections 109/110 and 110/111. Folks without skates will not be allowed to enter the ice. Also, the PPL Center cautions that security lines prior to the game may be a bit longer due to the skates being inspected.
- “$2 Beer Night.” Coors Light is just $2 at the Coors Light Bar behind section 108, from opening through the end of the first intermission. Yes, it’s “beer night” on the same night that they’re letting people on the ice. You can’t make this stuff up. Please don’t drink and skate–or drive, of course.
- I’m not sure if they’ll repeat it or not, or reasons that will become clear in a minute, but the last Wednesday game they had “All you can eat snow crabs” at Chickie’s and Pete’s before the game. Sure, there are “all you can eat” crab deals for less than $34 elsewhere in the valley, but I’ll tell you that I got my money’s worth! If they don’t offer it again, perhaps I’m the one to blame…
Broadcast: TV-2 (Service Electric), AHL-Live (Internet pay package), AM-1470, Phantomshockey.com, IHeartRadio App, FM 89.9 (within arena)
What to Watch:
- Watch for the success of the line of Straka-Goumas-Alderson. Reports are, they should reunite for this game. They were playing VERY well together before Straka got called up. It puts a lot of pressure on the other team to have to deal with a line like that after facing the likes of Cousins, Akeson, Gordon and Leier on the top two lines.
- Watch to see if Taylor Leier returns to the top line. He’s been playing well lately, having finally, fully recovered from a shoulder injury that caused him to miss some time. He was the #1 player of the game for the win Saturday in Wilkes Barre.
- Watch to see if Jesper Pettersson gets skates for the game. He’s gotten a nice long look recently, did he do enough?
- Watch to see if Coach Murray goes back to Anthony Stolarz in the goal. Or perhaps he’ll save him for Saturday in Bimmington or let him face down Hershey again, at the Giant Center on Sunday afternoon.
- Watch to see how many people who haven’t skated in forever face plant the ice after the game. Will they at least give a dry scrape? Zamboni? Hmmm, this could be interesting.
- The Sharks play a wide-open style. Watch to make sure the Phantoms can generate some offense in order to avoid falling behind early.
- Watch for blue line support: It seems like every big win we’ve had there have been goals by the defenders: Manning usually, but sometimes Lauridsen or Hagg and now Comrie and Pettersson are getting into the act.
Following tonight’s game, the Phantoms will be in Binghamton, NY on Saturday night facing the Senators. Sunday, they’ll be at the Giant Center in Hershey for a 5:00PM puck drop. They’ll return on Friday, February 13 to face off against the Senators once again. Saturday night’s extracurriculars with the Pens notwithstanding, it’s been the Senators that the Phantoms have “disliked” the most this season in terms of fighting–something else to watch.
See you at the arena,