Mathers Sets Tone, Sparks Much-Needed Victory

der Eishockeyzuschauer filed the following report following the Phantoms’ 5-1 victory Wednesday night:

Photo: Kram --Taken from the Miller Lite Loft

Photo: Kram –Taken from the Miller Lite Loft

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On this particular occasion, der Eishockeyzuschauer got a little unexpected help in forming his usual “impressions” of the action at the PPL Center–from three very cool and very much ‘down-to-Earth’ members of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms ice hockey club — Brandon Alderson, Kevin Goumas and Derek Mathers.
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Much of it, of course, “off the record.”  But, you know, before we begin in earnest with the hockey stuff, I just want to say something:  Ever since they first arrived in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms front office has spent an awful lot of time and energy yacking on about how great of a “partner in the community” they are.  And, one of these days, I promise to figure out exactly what the (edited) that actually means in plain English.
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Until such time, however, I will be content with the knowledge that at least three of the Phantoms players are, in real life, quite simply nothing more than ordinary, everyday regular guys who merely put their pants on one leg at a time like just like you and I do.
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Alright, then, moving onto important hockey matters :
Initial Impressions Of Lehigh Valley Phantoms vs St. John’s IceCaps
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# 1 … Our Hamilton Street Heroes have been in desperate need of such a convincing 5-1 victory over somebody, anybody since even before this new 2015/16 AHL season began. True story. The fact that the Phantoms, who have struggled to attain results thus far, it must be said, went out and decisively defeated an apparently strong team, who just so happen to be leading their division at the moment, is extremely encouraging … (Alderson acknowledged that several of the Phantoms players know several of the IceCaps players well and admitted that Phantoms players, themselves, also think that St. John’s do have a quality hockey team this season).
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# 2 … From the outset, visiting St. John’s seemed to have a difficult time maintaining possession to the point where even connecting on the simplest of passes proved itself to be rather difficult. Perhaps the IceCaps were feeling the pressure of playing in the city that just so happens to be the planet’s Mecca Of Minor League Sports. On the other hand, for their part, the Phantoms forechecked with both energy and effectiveness … (English translation – on several occasions, St. John’s turned the puck over simply because the Phantoms were relentlessly hustling and harassing the IceCaps in their own zone).
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# 3 … The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, easily the American Hockey League’s most penalized team last season, did well to limit the St. John’s IceCaps to just three opportunities with the man advantage. More discipline is just something the Philadelphia Flyers’ AHL farm club have to have if they are going to make the Calder Cup playoffs this season for the first time in seven years. Thing is, it’s entirely doable. Now, make no mistake, this does not mean that der Eishockeyzuschauer thinks the Phantoms should never play the body to the maximum limit allowed by the rules or drop the gloves when the situation calls for it. It’s just that skating shorthanded all the time is a lot like volunteering to play with only ten people in soccer — why on Earth would you want to do that if you didn’t really have to?
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# 4 … Aside from staying out of the penalty box, another thing that d.E. has been on the Phantoms’ case about recently is hitting the target on a consistent basis. So then, it certainly must be stated that Lehigh Valley did very well to “finish” on Wednesday night, albeit after a bit of a rough start in that regard. Shayne Gostisbehere appeared to be particularly focused about getting the puck on net and, fittingly, was rewarded with his first career goal in the AHL via a long blast from the blue line. For all you youngsters out there in blog land, Kevin Goumas put on a clinical display after getting a great pass in the slot — the second-year pro from the University of New Hampshire picked his head up and took note of the goaltender’s position before firing home his accurate wrist shot. Nick Cousins also found the back of the net with a rising shot after walking around a sliding St. John’s defenseman — It’s called ‘taking your chances well’ and it is something that the Phantoms certainly accomplished with aplomb on Wednesday night.
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# 5 … In retrospect, it really was Phantoms policeman Derek Mathers who provided Lehigh Valley with the critical spark it needed to (finally) get its engine running on all cylinders. Almost immediately after hitting the ice on his very first shift of the game, the 226-pound native of Strathroy, Ontario, engaged St. John’s winger Connor Crisp (220 lbs) and decked the IceCaps rookie in relatively short order with a devastating punch to the face. Up to the point, St. John’s had already started coughing the puck up in their own zone but the Phantoms had been unable to capitalize on a few glorious opportunities in the slot. And so it was as if Mathers was sending a message to the entire IceCaps team. Something along the lines of, “Hey, we might blow a few more chances along the way, too. And, hey, you guys might even get the first goal of the game, as well. But, hey, there is absolutely no way you boys here are leaving this building with two points tonight.” … (For his part, Mathers was understandably quite proud of his pugilistic achievement but it was also very interesting to take note the fact that the that the third-year pro was also rather humble about the whole affair. The Phantoms winger was quick to point out that the unvarnished truth is:  Anything can happen out there and that, if he and Crisp dropped the gloves again the very next game, it could very be that he is the one who gets his head handed to him. This respect for a fellow professional player, and a rookie at that, was an exceptionally commendable attitude, I thought to myself.)
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I’ll probably leave a few more impressions in the comments section of this article, but first a few more words about this impromptu meeting with Alderson, Goumas and Mathers:
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It certainly was a fabulous experience to have the chance to chit chat with the three Lehigh Valley Phantoms about a variety of different topics, not all of which were hockey-related. It could prove useful someday to know that Goumas was a finance major at the University of New Hampshire. Next time Kram and I win big playing the Pennsylvania lottery, now we will know whom to call upon for sound fiscal investment strategy!
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Alderson and I had a deep philosophical conversation on the subject of physical play creating space for offensive maneuver. Former Phantoms player Marcel Noebels, now with Rob Zepp’s old club, Eisbaeren Berlin, and the state of the German national ice hockey team were two other intersting topics of conversation, if only to me. I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that the Canadian not only knows more than a thing or two about international soccer, but can effortlessly rattle off the names of players from German powerhouse Bayern Munich, as well — if I run into Alderson again, I will have to ask his opinion of Major League Soccer and the Philadelphia Union’s new farm team here in the Lehigh Valley, Bethlehem Steel FC.
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Mathers, meanwhile, made it a point to ask me what I did for a living and that spoke to the quality of both his character and sincerity, again, if only in my opinion; a very approachable and personable individual, one can’t help but want this guy to succeed at whatever he does wherever he goes.
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Yup. All three of them. Good partners in the community, for sure — that will always be the overriding impression I got left with from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms versus St. John’s IceCaps game.


Categories: Phantoms Hockey

2 replies

  1. Note To Kram :

    That’s a great picture!

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