Phantoms : Mathers Move Confirms Philosophical Change
Now that punishing right wing Derek Mathers (# 29) is no longer on the AHL roster of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, it remains to be seen who would restore order if the intra-state arch-rival Hershey Bears decide to get out of hand at some point during the long season ….. (photo courtesy Kyle Mace / Chocolate Hockey)
Wednesday brought verification from the American Hockey League’s official website that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have sent intimidating winger Derek Mathers out on loan to the ECHL’s Allen Americans for an unspecified period of time. The muscular 23-year-old native of Strathroy, Ontario, was originally selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the seventh round of the 2011 National Hockey League Draft and is embarking on his fourth full season as a professional under contract to the organization. However, as Kram has already noted elsewhere, this transaction suggests that, in addition to the Phantoms, Mathers has been deemed surplus to the Reading Royals’ requirements, as well.
Speaking from first-hand experience, this author can assure readers that Mathers, who appeared in a combined 43 AHL games (zero goals, two assists, 159 penalty minutes) over parts of two seasons with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, is an absolutely fabulous guy to spend some time with at the local Bell Hall restaurant in downtown Allentown. But the Enforcer Era, which began around the same time that the legendary Broad Street Bullies bashed enough skulls to win two consecutive Stanley Cup titles during the mid-1970s, is winding down in North American professional hockey. This is perhaps most evident these days in the American Hockey League, where two fights in the same contest now brings an automatic game misconduct penalty as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins scrapper Patrick McGrath rediscovered during his club’s AHL opener last weekend.
Mathers (6’3″ 226 lbs) saw his initial three-year entry level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers organization expire this summer but was, nevertheless, still signed to a brand new AHL agreement by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in late July. A popular figure with many of the loyal patronage at the PPL Center, the Canadian import appeared in one of the two AHL exhibitions played in Allentown this fall but, not surprisingly, was a healthy scratch for the Phantoms’ 2016/17 regular season opener against the Springfield Falcons last Saturday night. As far as some veteran observers are concerned, it is an downright wonder that Mathers was brought back to begin with.
As was discussed in a previous blog piece earlier this week, it is a brave new offensive world
for the Hamilton Street Heroes this season. For the most part, the Phantoms will be featuring a smaller yet more skillful forward while Lehigh Valley, as a team, will be attempting to play a more technical game focusing on skating, passing and puck possession. In other words, there never really was going to be a spot in head coach Scott Gordon’s line-up for the type of player who is as one-dimensional as the smart bomb on skates Mathers is anyway.
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