Lehigh Valley Phantoms left wing Tyrell “One-Punch” Goulbourne highlights a very limited number of forwards on the official American Hockey League roster of the Hamilton Street Heroes who happen to weight two hundred pounds or more and still figures to be somebody whom wise opponents will not want to tangle with too often this season … (photo courtesy “Our Sports Central” website)
“I had a role on the team that I did not like at all – I want to help the team and do more than just shoot the puck from center ice blindly into the (offensive) third,” former Lehigh Valley Phantoms winger Marcel Noebels explained in an interview with the local press after refusing a demotion to the ECHL’s Reading Royals and signing brand new contract with highly successful German first division side Eisbaeren Berlin in October of 2014.
Noebels’ criticism of the Philadelphia Flyers’ traditional penchant to play the ‘time-honored’ North American style of “dump and chase” hockey should certainly have come as no surprise to anyone. After all, European players returning home after skating on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean have been complaining about the strategies and tactics employed by NHL clubs and their minor league affiliates for several decades now. Of course, it is a fundamental philosophical difference in terms of playing style which has always been to blame for such grumblings.
However, given that this 2016/17 Lehigh Valley Phantoms squad will be relying heavily on a smaller, more skillful type of forward as compared to in years past as well as the fact that head coach Scott Gordon’s club has already demonstrated a noticeable desire to abandon dump and chase tactics in favor of passing or skating the puck into the offensive zone, it would be interesting to hear what Noebels would say about the kind of ice hockey being played by the Hamilton Street Heroes at the PPL Center in Allentown as of late.
There is little question that the very composition of the Phantoms’ team, itself, virtually demands that Lehigh Valley adopt a style based far more on technical skill as compared to brute strength. The tactic of shooting the puck into the offensive zone along the boards and then racing in “deep” to retrieve the little black disc oftentimes requires players who are well prepared to win physical confrontations. But the bottom line is that, this season, the Heroes really only have a small handful of forwards who actually tip the scales at two hundred pounds or more.
Indeed, a clear majority of the Phantoms players who comprised Lehigh Valley’s top three lines for the AHL season opener this past Saturdaynight — Danick Martel (166), Andy Miele (170), Jordan Weal (171), Taylor Leier (177), Chris Conner (181), Mark Zengerle (185) — all check in weighing less than one hundred and eighty-five pounds. A quick review, however, shows that 66 out of the 104 defenseman (63.5%) listed on the rosters of all the Eastern Conference teams at the official website of the American Hockey League today (October 18th) actually weigh two hundred pounds or more. So, in other words, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms simply are not very well suited to play the classic dump and chase style.
Therefore, the loyal spectators patronizing the PPL Center this season can expect the local team to continue to play the exciting brand of possession-oriented ice hockey that Hamilton Street Heroes have attempted to play in their first three games of this new season, exhibitions included. Astute observers will continue to watch out for combination play through the neutral zone featuring quick, one-touch passing from the Phantoms. Also important will be the ability of Lehigh Valley’s defensemen to both rush the puck as well as join in budding attacks to help create always dangerous “odd-man” (i.e., four on three, three on two, etc) situations.
Win or lose, it does figure to be a brave new offensive world this time around.
Categories: Phantoms Hockey