Lehigh Valley Phantoms left wing Taylor Leier (# 23), the fourth round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2012 National Hockey League Draft who scored 20 goals in 70 American Hockey League games last season, is at or near the top of the list of forwards to be recalled should the Broad Street Bullies find themselves in need of a player but is still looking for his first goal of this new 2016/17 AHL campaign despite having gotten 17 shots on target through six contests thus far
Photo: Cheryl Pursell
I’m not quite sure when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms marketing department first introduced the ubiquitous “Rise Up” slogan, but it certainly is a renewable energy recycled from at least last season–if not the inaugural campaign. There is absolutely no question that ice hockey fans here in the Mecca Of Minor League Sports have been “rising up” to meet the challenge of consistently filling the expensive PPL Center at the corner of Seventh & Hamilton Streets, game in and game out, ever since the Philadelphia Flyers’ number one farm club first arrived. But, after finishing near the bottom of the standings for the the entire Eastern Conference two years in a row–and a rather sluggish start which has seen Lehigh Valley win just two of their first six games this term–perhaps the most relevant question anyone in the “professional” media could ask somebody in the Phantoms organization would be something along the lines of, “When do the players rise up in the AHL standings?”
Only six games into this 2016/17, it is somewhat hard to believe that the Hamilton Street Heroes’ next two road games in New England are something rather similar to “must win” contests. But the Hartford Wolf Pack are the very same team that the visiting Lehigh Valley Phantoms just defeated by the decisive scoreline of 5-1 last Friday, and the Providence Bruins currently occupy last place in the Atlantic Division having won only two of their first eight games thus far. Furthermore, yet another pair of back to back losses would surely send head coach Scott Gordon’s squad plummeting into the basement — an outright astonishing concept considering how good this particular Phantoms team had been projected to be by pretty much everybody, professional media or otherwise.
Meanwhile, there had been some speculation that Phantoms defenseman Samuel Morin would face as much as a three-game ban for the hit he put on Hershey Bears winger Travis Boyd in the last minute of the second period, during Lehigh Valley’s 3-2 loss at the Giant Center in central Pennsylvania this past Sunday. However, from what I saw of the video of the incident that was posted on You Tube, there did not appear to be anything malicious or premeditated on the part of the Philadelphia Flyers’ first round pick (# 11 overall) at the 2013 NHL Draft. The much smaller Boyd (5’11” 184 lbs) just so happened to be in the process of beginning to turn and reverse his direction along the boards when the much larger Morin (6’7″ 236 lbs) gave the second-year pro from the University of Minnesota a little shove — it was just one of those things.
Did Morin deserve the two-minute minor for boarding he received? Well, in this day and age where the referees are instructed to be on the lookout for any and all “dangerous” hits from behind, perhaps the hulking Flyers prospect should have been more careful to not put himself in a position where ‘just one of those things’ might actually happen. On the other hand, there is absolutely no question that, generally speaking, the heretofore underachieving Morin certainly needs to assert himself in a much more physical fashion in order to be far more effective as a defender and so it is a very delicate matter in terms of discouraging the youngster from being aggressive out there on the ice.
As far as further disciplinary action is concerned, the fact is that that the American Hockey League released its suspension list on Tuesday, November 1st, and Morin’s name is not on it. It seems to be the right call in this case. Hershey supporters and/or others searching for some fairness will have to be content with the poetic justice that saw Morin’s boarding penalty result in the power play goal that ultimately prove be the game-winning goal in the Bears’ 3-2 triumph.
And so, pending the health of undersized left wing Danick Martel, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms figure to have a full compliment of players to choose from for Wednesday morning’s tilt versus the Wolf Pack in Hartford. Martel, who led the Phantoms with 22 goals last season and has already notched another three goals in his first five AHL games this season, missed the game in Hershey on Sunday after suffering a lower body injury during the first period of last Saturday night’s engagement against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Cole Bardreau, the undrafted forward from Cornell University who totaled 13 goals and 30 points in 54 AHL games for the Lehigh Valley last term but has been unable to secure a regular place in the Phantoms’ line-up, took Martel’s spot skating with center Jordan Weal and right wing Chris Conner.
Assuming that Martel is, in fact, fit for action this week, it should be interesting to see if Gordon and the rest of the Phantoms coaching staff make any changes to any of the line combinations which have been on display recently.
Categories: Phantoms Hockey