Phantoms Three-In-Three Trek Makes History

Martin Ouellette (# 33), the third-year professional from the University of Maine who gave a good overall account of himself during his nine AHL appearances (2.36 avg, .933 svpct) for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last term, could be looking at an immediate recall from the ECHL's Reading Royals just in time for yet another visit to the PPL Center by the dreaded intra-state, arch-rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this coming Wednesday night ... (photo courtesy "WBS Weekly" website)

Martin Ouellette (# 33), the third-year professional from the University of Maine who gave a good overall account of himself during his nine AHL appearances (2.36 avg, .933 svpct) for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last term, could be looking at an immediate recall from the ECHL’s Reading Royals just in time for yet another visit to the PPL Center by the dreaded intra-state, arch-rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this coming Wednesday night … (photo courtesy “WBS Weekly” website)

der Eishockeyzuschauer

ALLENTOWN, Pa

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Playoffs, the final frontier. These are the noteworthy endeavors of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.  Their continuing mission : to explore strange new American Hockey League territory, to bravely seek out Calder Cup opposition as well as history-making triumphs, to boldly go where the Hamilton Street Heroes have never gone before …

Less than twenty-four hours after thoroughly dismantling a rather talented Toronto Marlies club by the eyeopening 7-2 scoreline at the PPL Center on Saturday night, the suddenly irrepressible Phantoms under head coach Scott Gordon completed the most successful “three-in-three” weekend possible by dispatching the intra-state arch-rival Hershey Bears 3-1 at the Giant Center in central Pennsylvania.  It was their third victory in as many calendar days. What’s more, this latest win for Gordon’s Guys in the ongoing Whiteboard War marks a record-setting achievement for, up until now, the Hamilton Street Heroes had never been able to rattle off six consecutive victories.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is the kind of stuff that a genuine “surge” truly consists of.
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(Yes, the Phantoms actually put together a pair of five-game winning streaks last season but those accomplishments were largely eclipsed by a solitary if extremely ugly eight-game losing skid)
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[Editor’s note:  The Phantoms did all kinds of great things before they became our team.  d.E. is speaking about what they’ve achieved–or not–since arriving on Hamilton Street in Allentown.]
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In the meantime, the Philadelphia Flyers organization made a trade over the weekend that directly affects the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.  Apparently unwanted winger Petr Straka, the 24-year-old veteran from the Czech Republic who scored 42 goals in 192 AHL games for the Phantoms coming into this season, but did not get a sweater for Lehigh Valley even once this fall, has been shipped to the New Jersey Devils organization in exchange for a conditional seventh round pick at either the 2017 or 2018 National Hockey League Drafts.  Straka, who did rack up a couple of assists in three NHL games for the Flyers during the 2014/15 campaign, is expected to be assigned to the AHL farm club in Albany immediately — looking ahead to the very near future, it should be interesting to see what transpires when the Baby Devils visit the PPL Center at the beginning of January.
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Quite simply put, Straka’s cut rate departure merely confirms what this very blog has been writing since before pre-season training camp even started and that is that particular Lehigh Valley Phantoms team really is armed to the tooth in terms of offensive firepower.  Furthermore, this year’s edition of the Hamilton Street Heroes has a higher caliber of minor league veteran player on board and more of them to boot–end of story.  Inconsistent point production and a tendency to be ineffective in the defensive zone have always been Straka’s two biggest deficiencies but the bottom line is that this Phantoms 2016/17 version just is not compatible with that type of player  (i.e., inconsistent offensively and ineffective defensively).
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As far as observations from Saturday night’s AHL tilt in center city Allentown are concerned, the very first thing that I happened to notice during the pre-game skate was the presence of none other than Scott Laughton–the very same player who was supposed to only make two appearances for the Phantoms the previous weekend before being permanently restored to the Philadelphia Flyers’ NHL roster.  Of course, by this time, the 22-year-old center / right wing who was the 20th overall player chosen at the 2012 NHL Draft had already made his third appearance of this new season for Lehigh Valley the night before versus the Utica Comets in upstate New York, and so it only reinforced my view that many writers in the so-called professional media are clearly out of touch with reality on a number of different levels.  Laughton, it shall be noted, collected three assists versus the Toronto Marlies on Saturday evening and certainly appeared to be in much better “game shape” than he had seemed to be only seven days earlier, when the Springfield Thunderbirds last paid a visit to the PPL Center.
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In fact, Laughton has now accumulated a goal and six points in his five AHL games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this term but the lingering question of whose place would he take on the Philadelphia Flyers’ NHL roster remains unanswered.
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As far as how the Hamilton Street Heroes managed to trounce the Toronto Marlies so thoroughly goes, I think that the home team’s secrets to success were the ability to operate at a higher level in terms of technical skills (i.e., skating, stickhandling, passing, shooting) as well as the ability to take advantage of quality chances at a much higher rate.  I thought the visitors had the better of play for the first ten minutes, if not more, but for all their possession in the Phantoms’ zone, the Marlies had an incredibly hard time putting pucks on net.  In some cases, Toronto were probably guilty of “overpassing” the little black disc but in others, the inability to hit the target was entirely at fault.
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By the end of the second period, as it was, the Marlies were actually out-shooting Lehigh Valley 18-17 but still found themselves trailing by the score of 3-1, because the Phantoms had done that much better to cash in on their opportunities.  When the final horn sounded, the Heroes counted seven goals registered by six different players representing all four of the team’s forward line combinations.  Such is the optimal “balanced attack” that is sought and will be necessary in order to truly obtain Calder Cup glory.
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On the subject of what the Phantoms forwards were doing when they did not have the puck, I noticed that Lehigh Valley did fairly well to diligently back-check when possession was lost, while still maintaining an eye towards countering at the slightest chance.
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Naturally, the biggest news in the wake of Saturday night’s lopsided victory was the injury to Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth and its byproduct, the expected recall of Lehigh Valley Phantoms netminder Anthony Stolarz.  The silver lining to this supposed dark cloud is that Alex Lyon (4 ga, 2.99 avg, .909 svpct), the 23-year-old rookie from Yale University who conceded five goals in each of his first two AHL games for the Phantoms this fall, has suddenly rediscovered the form that made him a highly sought after free agent coming out of college to begin with.  Besides, the way this Lehigh Valley team has been constructed to score goals at such an unprecedented pace, does it really matter who is standing between the pipes?
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Cover photo by Jack Mitroka


Categories: Phantoms Hockey

6 replies

  1. Note To Kram :

    the word “Trek”, as in Three-In-Three Trek, was in the title for a very specific reason : i.e., the opening paragraph for the story sort of relied on that very word being in the title just a wee bit

    should be a five-minute major penalty assessed to the editor for slashing — be advised I have already filed a formal protest with the American Hockey League front office

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