Phantoms Head For Hershey Still Seeking Answers

Lehigh Valley Phantoms netminder Anthony Stolarz (# 41) surrenders a shorthanded goal to Hartford Wolf Pack winger Marek Hrivik (# 15), the Slovakian import with the contract that pays $ 175,000 for AHL service this term, during the American Hockey League game at the XL Center on Friday evening. It was the second time in four regular season games this term that the Hamilton Street Heroes conceded while operating on the power play. Nevertheless, "Stollie The Goalie" stopped 32 shots otherwise in what was easily his most impressive performance of the new campaign ... (photo courtesy Hartford Wolf Pack)

Lehigh Valley Phantoms netminder Anthony Stolarz (# 41) surrenders a shorthanded goal to Hartford Wolf Pack winger Marek Hrivik (# 15), the Slovakian import with the contract that pays $ 175,000 for AHL service this term, during the American Hockey League game at the XL Center on Friday evening.  It was the second time in four regular season games this term that the Hamilton Street Heroes conceded while operating on the power play. Nevertheless, “Stolie The Goalie” stopped 32 shots otherwise in what was easily his most impressive performance of the new campaign … (photo courtesy Hartford Wolf Pack)

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der Eishockeyzuschauer, ALLENTOWN, PA

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Already under water in terms of overall wins versus overall losses, despite the luxury of having been able to contest its first three games of this brand new 2016/17 American Hockey League campaign on home ice at the PPL Center, this weekend the Lehigh Valley Phantoms headed north to Connecticut for a pair of return engagements in southern New England.  With the question of which team, the one that many AHL observers projected to be among the very strongest in the entire 14-team Eastern Conference, or the one that will continue to dig a hole from which it will most likely not climb out of, would get on the bus having dominated in the minds of many during the week.  A convincing 5-1 triumph over the Hartford Wolf Pack on Friday night offered favorable evidence on behalf of the former.  However, after bravely rallying from a pair of two-goal deficits to haul themselves back to level terms with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers by the end of the second period on Saturday night, the Hamilton Street Heroes ultimately gave the puck away one too many times in a lackluster third period and lost 5-4.

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And so it seems that this particular question with respect to exactly what kind of team calls the PPL Center in downtown Allentown home this season, looms even larger than before as head coach Scott Gordon’s club now head for central Pennsylvania and a late Sunday afternoon engagement with the intra-state arch-rival Hershey Bears. Furthermore, five games into this new AHL season, there is absolutely no doubt that this year’s edition of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have some serious defensive issues that desperately need to be sorted out.  The Philadelphia Flyers’ top farm club have now surrendered five goals on three different occasions already; this ineptitude is simply unacceptable.
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It will be noted here, though, that what was always projected to be a rather high powered Lehigh Valley Phantoms offense has now managed to score at least four goals during regulation time in four of its first five AHL regular season games to begin this brand new campaign.  Now, the simple fact is that the Hamilton Street Heroes only scored more than three goals during regulation time in just 26 of 76 games played last season so the higher rate of production is, indeed, major news here in the Mecca Of Minor League Sports.  And, to continue on the subject of unfamiliar developments in progress this term, it appears as if the Phantoms’ great transformation from simplistic dump and chase ice hockey to a much more technical game based on passing and puck possession is paying great dividends — at least in terms of scoring goals, that is.
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If only Lehigh Valley could find a way to consistently keep the little black disc out of the back of their own net, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate might actually be able to qualify for the annual Calder Cup playoffs for the first time in eight long years.  Alas, it remains uncertain if the Phantoms have been able to identify the team’s optimum defense pairings as of yet.  It was well known going into this season that neither of the Heroes’ two incoming AHL All-Star caliber offensive blueliners, T.J. Brennan and Will O’Neill, were necessarily considered to be anywhere near the greatest defenders who ever played the game–but the coaching staff have not necessarily been able to match each player with a reliable, “stay at home” type partner to skate with, either.
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The fact that the experienced, stay at home type defenseman Mark Alt, the 24-year-old from the University of Minnesota now entering in his fourth full season as a professional player, still remains absent from the Phantoms’ line-up with an injury suffered during training camp, has not helped matters one bit.
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On the subject of goaltending, how many more starts are the Lehigh Valley Phantoms prepared to give fairly highly touted rookie free agent signing Alex Lyon before seeking alternatives?  The 23-year-old netminder from Yale University has had a very rocky start to his professional career, allowing five goals in each of his first two American Hockey League games while posting an unimpressive .855 save percentage in the process.  Lyon’s numbers would be even worse, too, had not the Hartford Wolf Pack slammed three pucks of the goal cages at the PPL Center last weekend.
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Waiting in wings down in the ECHL with the Reading Royals, of course, is Martin Ouellette.  The undrafted 24-year-old from the University of Maine is now in his third full season as a pro.  After a shaky rookie season at the American Hockey League level, Ouellette was able to put up impressive numbers (2.36 avg, .933 svpct) in nine AHL starts for Lehigh Valley last term.  By all accounts, the unheralded native of Quebec is in good form for the Royals once again.


Categories: Phantoms Hockey

1 reply

  1. I get the whole “offensive minded defender” stuff and all. But, at some point, they’re still defenders and need to be responsible in their own zone. Several times in this young season I’ve heard the phrase “poor decisions” when reading quotes. This stuff is correctable, and Brennan (and O’Neill) are veterans and won’t necessarily have games like last night too often.

    As far as the goal is concerned, yeah, color me worried as well. I’ve heard the whispers on Stolie (“He might not be good”) but right now he’s probably our best option. Remember last season Stolarz was certainly the better option to the broken down LaBarbera–and he might need to be again as Lyon gets up to speed.

    With 5pts in 5 games we’re not in a hole yet, but it’s coming if we can’t string together some regulation wins. There will be 10 points available before we return home–so far, 2 of 4.

    Martel with a knee hit last night, but was reported to be walking OK after the game. Leier left for a short time as well, but returned. Hopefully good health, and might want to get a look at Lamarche and Straka at some point.

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