HOCKEY NIGHT IN ALLENTOWN: “Where We’re Going”

“A good player plays where the puck is.  A great player plays where the puck is going to be.”

–Wayne Gretzky

 

Photo: Nina Weiss

Photo (c) Nina Weiss

Looking Back

Wednesday night at the PPL Center, the Phantoms dismantled a young and talented IceCaps team by a 5-1 tally.  It was the first glimpse of what we originally expected from our own talented–and much more veteran–bunch.  Coach Gordon likes to play defense by controlling the puck, out-shooting the opponent, and forcing them to play the game in their own zone.  In many ways, that was what was happening Wednesday night.  The Phantoms out-shot the IceCaps quite easily, and were able to control play, break out of their zone, and transition well through the neutral zone.  Our Hamilton Street Heroes were able to stay out of the box and capitalize on the power play as well.  All  in all it was a great night of hockey and just what we needed at this point in the season.  I’m not sure if it’s where we are now, or if it’s just where we need to be–but it looked good.

Team Report

The win on Wednesday put us up to 2-1 on this 4-game home set, going back to Saturday, and 2-2 in the last week.  Overall, the team is 3-4 and sixth in the division.

The special teams units are middling in the rankings, which are still subject to some “small sample” anomalies.  We’ll take a closer peek at those in the coming weeks.

Player Report

Jason LaBarbera was returned to the Phantoms from Philly, with the activation of G Michal Neuvirth yesterday.

The other news out of Philly is that F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will be out a couple weeks with a “lower body.”  If F Sean Couturier can return, then no move will be made.  But the latest reports are, he’s not practicing yet, so the Flyers may “borrow” one of our forwards–given the time frame, I’d guess one of the younger guys who could then return without passing through waivers.  Perhaps Nick Cousins or Petr Straka–but of course I’m only speculating.

Danick Martel and D Robert Hagg are back on the ice for practices.  It’s thought that Martel may be the closest to returning.

Points

Cousins 8

Leier 7

Conner 6

Goals

Straka 4

Cousins 3

Leier 3

Penalties

Morin 10 PIM

Straka 7 PIM

3 players with 6 PIM

Lines

(from Wednesday–Rosie was the “veteran scratch.”  Hagg, Martel, Bardreau, McDonald and Parks remain injured.)

23 Leier – 37 Brent – 16 Palushaj

24 Straka – 25 Cousins – 22 Conner

12 Goulbourne – 17 Goumas -10 Rankin

29 Mathers – 27 Padakin – 19 Alderson

14 Gostisbehere – 47 MacDonald

5 Drewiske -26 Lashoff

10 Morin -2 Alt

Thoughts:  I like the third line with Goumas centering Goulbourne and Rankin.  I think it’s more of a true third line rather than just have two “fourth lines” because all three of those guys can score.  Ghost with the veteran MacDonald seemed to work well, too.  I liked that he was feeling free to create; a lot of the plays started with Ghost handling the puck to set things up.  The veteran pairing of Whiskey and Lasher is a nice back up to the Ghost/AMac pairing and Alt can keep Morin in line in the third group.  It looks good to me.

I was thrilled to hear that Stoli would be starting the game.  Thanks to the new Phan Wi-Phi I’m able to keep up with last minute things in the arena these days.  Ouellette had been practicing with the first group all week leading up to Wednesday’s game, so I was under the impression that he might get the nod.  However, I guess with Barbie coming back–and he’ll need a start to stay sharp–they wanted to make sure Stoli wouldn’t miss two in a row.  Again, I think at this juncture Stoli has earned the right to be the primary starter on this team, regardless of who else is around.  Plus, he’s going to need that playing time to continue working on his game.

Photo: Kram

Photo: Kram

Reading Report

Just as the Phantoms were cruising to a 5-1 win Wednesday night, the Royals were laying an 8-3 smackdown on Elmira at the same time.  The Royals are now alone in second place in their division, and are home again on Saturday–a day off for the Phantoms, if you’re in the mood for some additional hockey this weekend.

Or, go see the Royals for a better price on Friday, November 20:  Phan Nation is heading down 222 to support the Purple, and tickets are $13 and $17 with minimal fees.  CLICK THIS LINK to purchase.  Or, GO HERE for more information.

Conner with a chance. photo: Kram

Conner with a chance. photo: Kram

...and he loses it. photo: kram

…and he loses it. photo: kram

GAME DAY!

It’s Friday, so we wear ORANGE!

Opponent:  The St. John’s IceCaps are back for more!  It’s a rematch of Wednesday’s game–hey, Newfoundland is a hike–and the IceCaps are sure to be ready for us!  Let’s take it to another level, Phan Nation!

For the hard-core hockey fans, here’s a detailed preview of the IceCaps team and players, by our own der Eishockeyzuschauer.

They’re young and talented–but the experience and skill of our veterans was too much for the first-place ‘Caps to handle Wednesday night.  Will this be more of the same?

Here’s more from d.E.:

On the heels of a decisive 5-1 defeat on Wednesday night, one can expect to see a different St. John’s IceCaps team, at least in terms of effort and focus, in the final match of a two-game set with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center in downtown Allentown on Fridaynight.

Nikita Scherbak, the 19-year-old Russian winger who was the 1st round pick (# 26 overall) of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2014 NHL Draft two summers ago, was a healthy scratch against Lehigh Valley on Wednesday; Scherbak had a goal and two assists in his first eight AHL games this season but is also sporting an unsightly – 5 defensive rating, the worst such number on the entire St. John’s team at present. Scherbak’s replacement in the IceCaps line-up did not fare all that well in the loss to the Phantoms, however.
.
Mark MacMillan, the 23-year-old rookie from the University of North Dakota who was the 4th round pick (# 113 overall) of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2010 NHL Draft, registered a – 2 while centering the IceCaps’ fourth line against Lehigh Valley on Wednesday; MacMillan, to review, was only just recalled from the ECHL’s Brampton Beast earlier this week.
.
Meanwhile, the St. John’s IceCaps have used the same six defensemen in all nine of their games to start this new 2015/16 season.
One should not be surprised to see St. John’s go with rookie Zach Fucale, the 2nd round pick (# 36 overall) of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2013 NHL Draft and the starting goaltender for Canada at annual IIHF World Junior Championship in both 2014 and 2015, in goal against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night. The 20-year-old rookie has won all three of his starts for the IceCaps thus far (2.67 avg, .926) and had a 40-save performance versus the Binghamton Senators just a few games ago. It has been written that Fucale’s strengths are his athleticism and mental toughness but that his rebound control and glove hand could use a little bit of work.   

Puck Drop:  7:05PM

Doors:  6:00 PM –Wha?!?  Oh, well. Perhaps the 5:30PM doors didn’t work out as well as I thought–or maybe someone forgot to change the time in the email.

Tickets:  Decent seats are still available as of Thursday afternoon, but could go fast.  I recommend purchasing tickets before heading downtown tonight.

Parking:  My own little parking adventure on Wednesday was resolved painlessly.  For tonight, pre-purchase parking is still available in the arena deck as of this writing but will probably sell out.  Pre-purchase Parking Authority parking in the Spiral and Trans Center decks needs to be done a day ahead, I think.  No matter, parking has been pretty smooth so far this season, by most accounts.

Broadcast:  While Sunday’s game in Hershey will be on 790-WAEB due  to the Steelers game on 1470, tonight’s should be on as per normal.  I may break out the 89.9FM for tonight, as well, to listen in the arena.  TV on Service Electric–tonight’s excellent sponsor.

Promotion:  It’s cap night 2015!  Gorgeous black-on-black caps for the first 8,500 fans tonight.  Our old friend Ryan stopped by our table in Chickie’s Wednesday night to let us preview in person.  Really looking forward to getting a couple of these tonight–with Cousins’ two goals Wednesday, I was afraid I was going to have to lose one of mine!

phantoms caps 2015

Pregame:  While radio starts pre-game at 6:20PM and TV at 6:30PM (live from Chickie’s and Pete’s) the Horn and Bell staff is trying to get to all of the downtown eating establishments and gauge their appropriateness for hockey night pre-game meal.

Wednesday we ducked out of the rain at Chickie’s–the Crabby Ale is a nice beverage to have before a hockey game.  Our table-mates had some difficulty with their pizza, but the manager kindly took it back and made them a new one.  Even with the lower attendance Wednesday, it still got crowded in their prior to the doors opening–just other folks trying to get out of the rain, methinks.

Tonight?  Unknown, as my game companion is still TBA.  I’ll tell you that Hook and the Dime are both on my list, but a re-visit to Bell Hall or grain is certainly possible.  Junior loves his Chickie’s, though….can’t get enough crab fries and mini-lobster tails!

What To Watch

  • Watch to see if the IceCaps have any answer for the copious shooting the Phantoms poured on them Wednesday
  • Watch to see better buzz from the IceCaps, and how will the Hamilton Street Heroes deal with it?
  • Watch to see if Barbie gets the start in goal.  And, if he can get in the win column.
  • Watch to see who gets the “veteran scratch”–as much as I like my guy Petty, the veteran defense suits me.  Sorry Rosie, that means you’d get the scratch if it were up to me.  A call-up might impact this, as we’d need Rosie if we lose a forward.
  • Watch to see if this game reaches sell-out status.
  • When we score, help the PA announcer by yelling “GOAL” after he yells “Phantoms….”  Also, yell the last name of the goal scorer, too, for good measure, at the appropriate time.  This is much more fun than complaining about the goal-whistle or what song they’re playing.  (I’m usually too busy celebrating to even notice that a whistle is blowing or that there’s a song playing–but that’s me.)
  • Do we bring bells this game?  I think we might bring bells…
  • Do you think those plastic cups really hold 24 oz of beer?  I feel a science experiment coming on…
  • What’s with the 6PM doors now?  It’s a Friday night.  Let us in.  Someone help me find out..
  • Will the IceCaps start their other goalie?  How will he fare if the Phantoms pour on the shots again?

Looking Ahead

The Phantoms wrap up four in a row at home tonight, and get a rare Saturday off tomorrow.  They’ll head to Hershey Sunday afternoon for the first of the season with the brown team.  Next weekend is another 3/3 with Friday and Sunday at home sandwiching a trip to the ‘cuse in between.  Friday is Hershey’s first appearance at the PPL Center this season, and Sunday is the return of Stortini.

 

See you at the arena,

@Kram209



Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey

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1 reply

  1. Impressions of Lehigh Valley vs St. John’s IceCaps, Round Two

    # 1 … It really was a rather well played hockey game played by both teams, even if the Phantoms did come out on the short end on the scoreboard. Lehigh Valley probably did deserve something from the game (i.e., at least a point for getting into overtime) after coming back from 2-0 down. It was, however, a well taken goal from towering St. John’s center Michael McCarron (6’6″ 230 lbs), the 1st round pick of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2014 NHL Draft who has now netted five goals in his first in his first ten games as a rookie professional player. Truth be told, it really isn’t all that hard for a pro hockey player to whack the puck out of midair on the forehand and propel it towards goal with pace. On the other hand, being able to generate an effective swinging motion on the backhand is a much different animal entirely. So it must be said that McCarron, who, ironically enough, had been chosen as the “Pest Of The Game” (sponsored by Ehrlich’s bug service) prior to the start of the contest, made a very nice play to get his game-winner … A little class out from Phantoms goaltender Anthony Stolarz, who made it a point to stop and shake McCarron’s hand on his way to the locker room after the game.

    # 2 … Once again, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms — easily the AHL’s most penalized team last season — played with good discipline and did well to limit the St. John’s IceCaps to just two power play chances. The importance of staying out of the box just can’t be stressed enough. Therefore, it is important to commend the Phantoms when they do a good job.

    # 3 … Phantoms defenseman Matt Lashoff, the one-time 1st round pick of the Boston Bruins who brings a good amount of professional experience to the table, gave a great display of the kind of discipline that Lehigh Valley need in the second period. After getting hammered into the boards behind his own net hard, the 29-year-old who skated for three different teams last season (Russian club Metallurg Novokuznetsk as well as AHL clubs Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Portland Pirates) resisted the natural urge to retaliate. A lot of players would have been inclined to do something about that heavy hit and probably would have been penalized … Personally, I like the Veteran defense pairing of Lashoff and Davis Drewiske a lot.

    # 4 … Speaking of discipline, or lack thereof, inexperienced St. John’s IceCaps defenseman Dalton Thrower, the 2nd round pick of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2012 NHL Draft who spent all of last season in the ECHL (37 ga, 3 go, 6 pts, 107 pen, – 17 def for the Brampton Beast), made an overly aggressive play that wound up costing his team the game-tying goal. The 22-year-old skated well past the red line to ram Nick Cousins right in front of the Phantoms’ bench and, in doing so, left his defense partner all alone to face a 2-on-1 situation instead of a routine 2-on-2. Terrible decision by Dietz, especially in the third period with his team ahead by only one goal, and it is certain the IceCaps coaching staff spoke to him about that … It is worth noting that Thrower’s defense partner on this particular play was Josiah Didier, the 23-year-old out of Denver University who was the 4th round pick (# 97 overall) of the Montreal Canadiens at the 2011 NHL Draft and just so happened to be making his AHL season debut after being called up from the ECHL’s Brampton Beast.

    # 5 … Speaking of the game-tying goal on the 2-on-1 situation in the third period, diminutive rookie Danick Martel showed a tremendous amount of patience with the puck to lure both the St. John’s defenseman and goaltender before setting up Chris Conner’s second goal of the game. Enough good things about the creativity and play-making ability of the Phantoms’ little French-Canadian forward just can be said. One should bear in mind that Martel skated against the IceCaps’ touted rookie goaltender Zach Fucale in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for four seasons before signing with Lehigh Valley last spring.

    # 6 … After missing out on a few quality opportunities against St. John’s on Wednesday night, veteran Phantoms winger Chris Conner (8 ga, 4 go, 8 pts, 4 pen, + 6 def) certainly redeemed himself with a couple of goals against the IceCaps on Friday night. Sometimes Conner can be outmuscled off the puck by bigger players with relative ease but, on the whole, the former NHLer is a quality addition to this year’s Lehigh Valley team. It should be interesting to see how Conner fares in the next two games against the Hershey Bears, his club last season.

    # 7 … I thought the Phantoms third line of Danick Martel – Kevin Goumas – Evan Rankin looked to be the most troublesome for the IceCaps through the first two periods of the game. Goumas had three shots on goal while Rankin, who left the contest less than a minute into the final frame after getting hit in the face with a puck, got two efforts on target. It is significant to point out that the Goumas line went against either the first or second line of St. John’s virtually every shift. Neither Goumas nor Rankin were on the ice for any of the three goals scored by the IceCaps.

    # 8 … I really don’t think the referee had one of the better games of his career on Friday night but that IS the way the puck bounces sometimes so that’s that.

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