It’s Friday the 13th, and the Phantoms are back in town to face off against the Binghamton Senators in a divisional match-up. Here’s what you need to know to get ready for tonight’s game:
“I’m a mad dog fighting with the wall against my back
You better get a bigger gun I’m not dead yet”
The Phantoms once again salvaged the week last week by winning a divisional game on the road following two losses. It’s not the way to make the playoffs, but it keeps them from falling too far behind.
Last Wednesday at the PPL Center another lackluster performance by our Phantoms led to a 4-3 loss to the Sharks–and it wasn’t that close. Two late goals made the game appear to be competitive, but the last came with about two seconds left, and no real chance to tie.
From there, the Phantoms headed up I-476 to I-81 and into Binghamton, NY. It was a better showing for the guys in orange and black, but ultimately they lost again. This time it was 4-1, but only after TWO empty-netters in the waning minutes. The Phantoms had a power-play near the end and kept the pressure on–to no avail. Jason Akeson had the goal, from Gordo and Leier.
Having lost three in a row, the Phantoms limped into Hershey to face another divisional foe. The Bears were riding high on a win streak, some of it at the expense of the Phantoms and starting goalie Anthony Stolarz. But the Bears were finishing a 3-in-3 on this Sunday late-afternoon, and the Phantoms were able to keep pace on the score sheet behind Jay Rosehill’s two early goals. The Phantoms led by one several times, with Cousins and Akeson adding goals, but it took an overtime-winner from Kevin Goumas to get the two standings points for the good guys, and salvage the week.
Hershey has solidified its spot at the top of the division; however, in the conference standings which count for the playoffs, the Phantoms are six points out of the money, with a slight “game in hand” advantage over several teams. The time for winning is now–we need points and we need them consistently.
The Phantoms have dropped to fourth in average attendance, and hold a very slim lead over Providence in fifth. The mid-week games are killing us in this department. As we established before, the Phantoms have more mid-week home dates than many of our rivals.
The Phantoms remain as the most penalized team in the AHL in terms of total minutes, minutes per game, and game misconducts. Meanwhile, when the Phantoms score 3 or more goals, our record is outstanding. The formula is easy: stop it with the penalties in order to generate some more consistent offense. The execution? Maybe not as easy.
Goalie Rob Zepp joined the “Hurting Kind” after getting rammed Saturday night in Binghamton and injuring his ankle. Anthony Stolarz, scheduled to start anyway on Sunday, received his first call to the NHL following the game, as Mason was injured in Philadelphia. Connor Knapp was called from Reading to be Stolarz’ backup Sunday, but he has since been returned to Reading in exchange for Martin Ouellette. The plan at this point is for Zepp to start tonight–on “Hat(s off to Harper”) night–and if all goes well, switch places with Stolarz in time for tomorrow’s game on pink ice in Scranton and the Flyers’ Sunday tilt with Buffalo as the Phantoms head to the snow ravaged state of Massachusetts.
Jason Akeson has goals in four straight games and points in six. He’s climbing the ranks of the all time goal scorers and point scorers for the Phantoms franchise. I hope he can keep it up!
Our guy Jesper Pettersson has had skates the last two games, with Adam Comrie as the healthy defensive scratch. Comrie was -2 a week ago Wednesday, while Pettersson was -1 both Saturday and Sunday. It will be interesting to see who skates tonight.
Happy Birthday to Taylor Leier, who turns 21 on Sunday. Celebrate responsibly, young man.
Shayne Gostisbehere has rejoined the Phantoms for the purpose of skating with the team. He skated on his own last Sunday, and began practicing with the team Tuesday morning at the Steel Ice Center, wearing a non-contact jersey. “Ghost” was careful to relate to reporters that there is no set time table for his return; however, sources tell me to look for him on the ice with the team on Friday, March 6 at home versus Bridgeport. This is barring any setbacks or changes, though. Flyers’ GM Ron Hextall related as much when he met with the media yesterday: Gostisbehere needs to build strength and should return around March 1 if all goes well–which is about what I had heard previously.
Another injured defenceman, Mark Alt, who has a broken hand, has been skating with a stick of late–but still non-contact. He may return a bit sooner than Gostisbehere.
Blair Jones “lower body” injury is serious, and will have him out long-term. It is not clear what the injury is, and when/if he’ll return.
Darroll Powe‘s “upper body” injury is reportedly a concussion. I’ve heard he had the final testing for concussion protocols the other day. He must have passed because he’s expected to be in the lineup tonight versus the Senators!
With some talent and leadership coming back to the Phantoms, they should have a chance to win some games down the stretch. The hope is that they won’t dig a hole too deep to climb out of. As of now, they’re not dead yet.
Game Time: 7:05PM Puck Drop; 6:00PM Doors–as per usual.
Tickets: Tickets are tight. The recommendation is to purchase tickets ahead of time for this game. Use PPLCenter.com or by phone.
Parking: One final reminder: The arena decks at 8th Street and Linden Street are for pass-holders only. Please use AllentownEventParking.com for Parking Authority facility location and availability.
Broadcast: This game will be seen on TV-2 as per usual. On the radio listen via AM-1470 or, if you’re in the arena, FM-89.9. On the web, via phantomshockey.com or the IHeartRadio app. The game is also available via the AHL video subscription.
It’s Hat Night for all! God Bless the ice team if we get a hat trick tonight!
But seriously, even though white hats get dirty quickly, it’s nice to have a couple around for the summer and at the beach, as black ones get pretty hot. Plus, handy to have a “throw-able” one in the case of a hat trick!
What to Watch:
- Watch for a Phantoms jersey above the main entrance. I’ll be having dinner at the Dime, overlooking the plaza, tonight before the game. I’ll let you know how it goes. The dinner is Mrs. Kram’s Valentine’s present. The game is mine. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
- Watch to see if Jason Akeson can continue his point/scoring streak
- Watch for effort. This team is in danger of falling out of playoff relevance. Let’s see how they respond with that on the line and with some teammates potentially returning from injury soon.
- The Phantoms beat Binghamton January 17th at home, and St John’s January 24th at home, but haven’t won much else at the PPL Center in 2015. Watch for the return of home ice advantage (I hope).
- Watch for Zepp to have a strong game as he readies for another stint with Philadelphia.
- Watch for the leadership of Darroll Powe to add a kick to the offense.
The Phantoms head up to Wilkes Barre tomorrow to play on pink ice, and then on to Springfield, Mass, to face the Falcons–AHL affiliate of the Columbus BlueJackets. It’s a 3-in-3 weekend for the Phantoms. At some point in there, we’re expected to lose Rob Zepp to the Flyers, and see the return of Anthony Stolarz.
No rest for the weary: The Phantoms will turn around for a mid-week game Wednesday night at the PPL Center versus Binghamton again. Then, Providence and Hartford at home next weekend Friday and Saturday respectively. It’s 3-in-4 for the phans next week! After that, there’s another orange T-Shirt night on the horizon.
See you at the arena,