Fierce Competition Is Par For Phantoms’ AHL Course

Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Phantoms #36, Erik Gustafsson and Pirates #8, Ethan Werek battle for the puck as the Portland Pirates host the Adirondack Phantoms in AHL hockey action at the CCCC.  (Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013. Phantoms #36, Erik Gustafsson and Pirates #8, Ethan Werek battle for the puck as the Portland Pirates host the Adirondack Phantoms in AHL hockey action at the CCCC. (Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

der Eishockeyzuschauer



Competition is the very essence of sports, itself, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that this natural element is everywhere to be found as far as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are concerned.  Each and every American Hockey League game played at the spectacular PPL Center in downtown Allentown is, of course, a contest to see which team will be able to put the little black disc in the back of their opponent’s net more often than the other.  Each and every player on the two competing teams in each and every AHL game must constantly prove to their respective head coaches in prior practice sessions that they are the ones who should be in uniform that night and not way up high in the press box area sitting out as a healthy scratch.

Even the Lehigh Valley Phantoms franchise, itself, must routinely cope with all the stiff challenges to be found everywhere in terms of competing for the so-called “entertainment dollar” — this to speak nothing of vying for the undivided attention of actual sports fans, themselves.  Kram knows full well that the reason I have not submitted any Phantoms pieces to the blog in a while is because I have been entirely too busy watching all the wonderful, full-length game replays that can be found on YouTube with regards to the Big Ten Conference champion Penn State Nittany Lions’ fabulous 2016 football season. And what a captivating campaign it has been, but I digress.
As far as the global game of ice hockey is concerned, the approaching Christmas holiday season always means that the schedule will be jam packed with exciting events not just here in the Mecca Of Minor League Sports but at all points around the world, as well. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Oskar Lindblom, the 20-year winger from IF Brynas Gavle who totaled two goals and five assists in eight AHL games as a teenager for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the end of last season, has just received his first ever call-up to the senior national team of Sweden that will be participating at the Channel One Cup tournament in Moscow, which begins this Thursday (12/15) before concluding on Sunday. Lindblom, the Flyers’ fifth round selection (# 138 overall) at the 2014 National Hockey League Draft, is currently the second-leading scorer in the crack Swedish elite league this season but will definitely not be returning to the Hamilton Street Heroes again this spring if he is, indeed, a legitimate candidate to be on Tre Kronor’s squad at the annual IIHF World Championship.
Interestingly enough, a teammate of Lindblom’s on this particular Swedish team will be defenseman Erik Gustafsson, the 28-year-old veteran who logged 144 AHL games in parts of four seasons with the Adirondack Phantoms as well as 91 NHL games on four tours of duty with the Philadelphia Flyers before joining Russian club Avangard Omsk in the summer of 2013.
The day after Christmas, the 90th installment of the venerable Spengler Cup tournament will commence in Davos, Switzerland.  This invitational event, which traditionally draws top professional clubs from all over Europe and features a select team of top Canadians plying their trade on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, has also twice played host to the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League, in 1996 and again in 2013.  Kevin Sundher, the 24-year-old center who spent the weekend with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms only to be returned to the Reading Royals yesterday, skated in all three of the Amerks’ games but went pointless for Rochester at the Spengler Cup three winters ago.
Syracuse Crunch center Cory Conacher, the 26-year-old veteran of 142 NHL games against whom the Phantoms just recently competed, was named to the 2015 Spengler Cup All-Star squad after leading Canada to the tournament title last New Year’s Eve.  Conacher, who secured himself a one-way NHL contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization that pays $ 575,000 this season in the summer after spending all of last term with Swiss Nationalliga A side SC Bern, led the Canadian contingent and finished among third among all players at the 2015 Spengler Cup by notching five points (two goals) in four games.  It is possible that former Lehigh Valley Phantoms right wing Andrew Gordon of Swedish club HC Linkoping, who just represented Canada at the 2016 Deutschland Cup hosted by Germany in November, could be chosen to appear on behalf of his country for the second time in as many months.
On this side of the pond, also getting underway the day after Yuletide north of the border in both Montreal and Toronto will be the annual IIHF World Junior Championship.  It is a little early to say for sure exactly which potential Lehigh Valley Phantoms will be turning up at the 41st installment of the planet’s premier competition for players under the age of twenty although David Kase of KLH Chomutov, 19-year-old forward who was the fifth round pick (# 128 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2015 NHL Draft, is virtually certain to be a part of the Czech Republic squad at the annual WJC for the third time in his career.  Carter Hart, the highly touted 18-year-old goaltender whom the Philadelphia Flyers chose in the second round (# 48 overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft this past summer, is widely expected to be named Canada’s number one netminder although that official determination has yet to be made by the junior national team’s coaching staff.
German Rubtsov, the 18-year-old center whom the Philadelphia Flyers grabbed in the first round (# 22 overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft this past summer, has been named to Russia’s massive preliminary squad which lists 34 total players at the moment.  Eleven cuts will have to be made so it remains to be seen if Rubtsov survives what is always fierce competition for a place, as Lehigh Valley Phantoms rookie center Radel Fazleev, who was a silver medalist on the Russian squad that lost the WJC final to Finland in overtime last winter, knows full well.  It should be remembered that Denis Guryanov, the promising 19-year-old right wing who is now skating in the American Hockey League for the Texas Stars, was left at home by the Russians last season despite having been a first round pick (# 15 overall) at the 2015 NHL Draft.
Still clinging to hope that Philadelphia Flyers rookie right wing Travis Konecny, the 18-year-old media darling who has now gone 15 straight NHL games without scoring a goal–despite accumulating almost three and a half full hours of actual ice time during this span–will be loaned to Canada for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship, so I don’t end up having to buy Kram good German beer.  It’s not that I don’t want to have to spend the money, it’s just that I simply don’t care for losing of any kind whatsoever, no matter how trivial. Again, the natural element of competition is, indeed, everywhere to be found.
With respect to the never-ending battle that rages at the box office, there word on the streets in center city Allentown that overall attendance for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center is down this season. The Hamilton Street Heroes have averaged 7,838.54 spectators for their first eleven American Hockey League home games played thus far this term and that is, in fact, slightly off last season’s pace when the Phantoms attracted an average of 7,919.64 fans for their first eleven AHL home games of the 2015/16 campaign.  For the benefit of those who wish to be aware of such details, the first eleven regular season AHL games that Lehigh Valley ever contested at the PPL Center back in 2014 drew an average of 7,895.18 people per opening.
Speaking of Penn State, the school’s ice hockey team is off to what is clearly their best start in the short five-year history of the program.  The Nittany Lions (13 wins, 1 loss, 1 tie) are ranked # 3 in the nation according to the United States Collegiate Hockey Organization and # 4 in the country as per the joint poll put out by the USA Today newspaper and USA Hockey Magazine.  One can easily watch PSU play on Friday and Saturday nights via the Big Ten Network and other outlets so the presence of top class Division I college hockey with obvious state-wide appeal provides the local team here in Allentown still a little bit more competition for hearts, minds and wallets.
For the very first time ever, though, the Penn State will not be appearing at the annual Three Rivers Classic holiday tournament played at the home of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins and so, with the Nittany Lions’ next game not until the January 6th clash with the Ohio State Buckeyes.  Perhaps head coach Guy Gadowsky and the rest of his boys will pay a visit to the PPL Center on Wednesday night in order to watch former PSU netminder Eamon McAdam and rest of those pesky Bridgeport Sound Tigers take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Categories: Phantoms Hockey

3 replies

  1. Good stuff d.E.

    You can file this under “Counting My Beers Before They’re Poured” but I’m not sure where we even find German beer any more. I think the BrewWorks has some bottles, but certainly with the proliferation of “craft” beers there are very few imports to be found anywhere anymore.

    I believe that kid McAdam is still undefeated after Bridgeport went with Stephon Williams in yesterday’s loss to Scranton. I feel like it’s a virtual certainty that we’ll see him Wednesday night.

  2. Note To Kram :

    Sixteen games and counting (with a nice, even 220 minutes of ice time along the way) with respect to superstar-in-training Travis Konecny’s goal-scoring slump now that Philadelphia have defeated Detroit 1-0 in overtime.

    Flyers might find overtime to be a much different animal come Stanley Cup playoff time : no three on three crap and no shootouts, either — must be able to score a real goal five on five.


  1. Epicenter of Hockey: Pennsylvania?!?

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