“Some guys score and some guys don’t. We got a lot that don’t.”
– Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock
The Phantoms had 8 days off for a holiday break, before returning for three games to finish up calendar year 2016. Last week they started on Boxing Day in Allentown versus the hated Hershey Bears. They lost the contest 5-2 and were out-shot 30-25. I felt so strongly about it, I even wrote about it after the game. I was still fired up when I decided to debunk some Phantoms myths a few days later.
Then, the team closed out 2016 by taking a trip up to Rochester for two games in three days. They won the first against the foundering Amerks 4-2 behind two goals from local boy Mark Zengerle. In the closer two days later, they lost in overtime 4-3. They went in the hole 2-0 in the first period before charging back to tie it on goals by Carey and Martel–both assisted by Will O’Neill. A 3-2 deficit was again erased courtesy of Chris Conner about mid-way through the third. A cross-checking penalty against Jordan Weal six seconds into overtime (really?!?) lead to an overtime advantage for the Amerks and the resultant win. It was 3 of 4 points in the mini-series, but only 3 of 6 on the week.
After another 6 days off to usher in 2017, the Phantoms were in Hartford last night to face off against the last place
Whalers Wolfpack. The Wolfpack were coming off several losses in a row but managed a 2-1 win over the Hamilton Street Heroes. Jordan Weal got an early goal, but despite out-shooting the ‘Pack 32-23 they couldn’t solve Magnus Hellberg, who got the top star for his efforts in goal.
On any given night, you can run into a hot goalie. No shame in that. It’s just disappointing when it happens against a last-place team. This is too long between Hockey Nights–let’s get fired up for the Devils tonight:
Meanwhile in Wilkes-Barre, the Penguins lost three players in two days (two call-ups and a “mutual departure”) but still managed a 5-1 beat-down of the Hershey Bears. The old dog Sistito with the Gordie Howe Hattie. Ultra-hot Providence lost to Springfield, so here’s what it looks like this morning:
Last week, D Will O’Neill was suspended for one game in Rochester (the one we won), after taking a poke at a Hershey Bear who deserved it following that Boxing Day debacle at the PPL Center.
The Fly-guys are getting healthy, and that means reinforcements for the Phantoms. To some degree–the rich get richer, as I have been pretty happy with the roster despite some recent promotions.
The Phantoms get healthy, too: D Mark Alt returned to action last night in Hartford after missing the entire regular season thus far with a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery which occurred in the pre-season. At many points last year I felt that Alt was our best blue-liner, so this is a significant turn of events. He played last night, but expect Mark to rest tonight and play again tomorrow as he shakes off the rust. Reports out of Hartford suggest he had a decent game–he wasn’t on the ice for either of the goals scored against.
The Flyers return LW Taylor Leier and G Anthony Stolarz, both of whom achieved some measure of success and comfort on the big stage and will be well-equipt when they inevitably return there. For now, they’re ours and we look forward to them helping us win hockey games.
As you no doubt heard this week, D TJ Brennan, F Jordan Weal and F Taylor Leier will represent the Phantoms as they host the AHL All Star Game later this month. Leier was a surprise to some, but when I was asked through back channels (don’t worry, I don’t have a vote) whom I thought might make it other than Brennan and Weal (locks) I mentioned Leier (along with Carey) as dark horses. I knew neither of the goalies had quite enough juice to beat out the top couple in the division.
With the addition of Leier, Stolie and Alt, the Phantoms return Swavely, Lamarche and Ouellette to Reading. They should receive a bolus of ice-time there, and assist the Royals as they continue to battle in the standings.
Expect another move shortly, as D Mark Streit is close to returning from LTIR and the Flyers will need some cap room to get him activated. Lyubimov has been mentioned as a possible loaner.
Lines and Pairings from practice this week:
23 Leier – 49 Laughton – 13 McDonald
18 Martel – 40 Weal – 16 Aube-Kubel
10 Carey – 21 Miele – 22 Conner
14 Knight – 19 Fazleev – 7 Zengerle (9 Bardreau)
43 Brennan – 4 Hagg (44 Willcox)
3 Morin – 6 Sanheim
8 O’Neill – 2 Alt
Last Night In Hartford:
23 – 49 – 13
18 – 40 – 16
10 – 21 – 22
7 – 19 – 9
43 – 4
3 – 6
8 – 2
(Knight and Willcox sit)
The Royals are home for two this weekend with Adirondack. They won four in a row headed into last night’s opener where they lost by a decisive 4-2 getting out-shot 40-23.
Recent wins have allowed Reading to rise to third in their division. The addition of players from the Phantoms should help them. They have had some injuries, including goalie Dex and our old friend Goulbourne. T-Gillz returned last night to a -1, and Ouellette was the victim in goal. Swavely had a tally for the Royals.
The Albany Devils are in town for the first time this season–indeed it’s their only visit to 7th and Hamilton this campaign. The Devils are a hot team, knocking on the door of the Syracuse Crunch for first-place in the North. They swept Toronto, Hartford and Bridgeport last weekend, and beat St Johns Wednesday at home but then lost to Utica last night, also at home.
Look for our old friend Petr Straka wearing #33 for the New Jersey affiliate. But other than that, this is my LEAST favorite AHL team–for a variety of reasons. I may have to go all “sweaty t-shirt guy” tonight.
Puck Drop: 7:05PM
Doors: 5:30PM (Saturday Early Open)
Tickets: Tickets were in high-demand earlier this week for this game. It should be ‘SRO’ by the time you read this, and if not you should call or wait in order to score GA tickets. Even on the secondary market, things are a little tight and prices are a little high for this one. I certainly advise that you have tickets in hand before heading downtown.
Parking: Event-night parking has been going smoothly, as far as I’ve been able to determine. There still may be spots where it’s cash only, so have $6 ready.
A note, though, about an enhancement to the “Park Free” program: On Non-Event Week-Nights and Sundays you can enter the Spiral Deck or the Community Deck (6th/Walnut) after 5PM or all day on Sunday and park free with no need for validation. This is a welcome improvement if going up town for a Fan Club meeting or just to go to the restaurants, as many merchants and restaurants weren’t familiar with the previous program (HERE) and were even insulted to be asked–at least their employees were. It was a good program, but I was never, ever able to take advantage of it and it became a reason I avoid downtown on non-event nights–exactly what downtown merchants don’t want. With recent business closures downtown, they still have some work to do, here–not that there’s not parking available, just getting folks to understand what the choices are and what the policies are–and not gauging them at the meters or lots or decks.
Media Kit: devils-1717
Promotion: Girl Scout Night. Will they let them sell cookies this year? I mean, before the game is over? Seriously, it’s one game and they’re going to sell out–why not just let folks pig out on cookies during the game? I know it will likely take away from concessions, but it shouldn’t be that much and who cares if the Girl Scouts get to make a little money for their organization. It’s not like it’s the Penguins Fan Club selling cookies. Sheesh. I suppose there could be a liability issue. But, otherwise…
Broadcast: As a weekend game we head to AM-790 for the call, or FM-89.9 within the arena for the live call. On TV it’s Service Electric 2 as per usual, but also simulcast (game-only) on FMZ-69 where available as part of their Saturday Night package. This is also the night everything is free on AHL-Live so check that out too if you want.
Pre-Game: FMZ-69 and AHL-Live will go off without pre-game, but TV-2 will have pre-game live from Chickie’s as per usual at 6:30PM with all the latest news about tonight’s game. Listen to the radio on your way downtown starting at 6:20PM for additional pre-game information.
Kram3 and I passed on pre-game festivities last time out. He went for the Philly Pretzel rivets, but they were much colder than we’re used to.
I’ve got a busy day today, so I’m looking forward to finding some good wings and some cold beverage prior to the game.
What To Watch
- Watch to see who gets the start in net. Stolie went last night, so I’d assume Lyon tonight.
- Watch to see if Leier can get a couple goals tonight, and…
- …with his presence on the top line, will that open things up for Laughton a bit? He’s been quiet lately, but reportedly had some nice chances last night getting robbed by Hellberg.
- Will the Phantoms get quality chances? Or, quantity? Both? Can they convert?
- Watch for Knight and Willcox to return to the lineup tonight. I think Knight is an unsung contributor on this team. Not that I was predicting a loss last night, but..
- How will this version of the Phantoms cope with all that “Left Wing Lock” nonsense? In the past, our teams have looked terrible moving the puck and getting chances against this goofy New Jersey scheme. And the games were horrible to watch. I predict this team, with additional skilled offensive players and puck-movers on defense will be able to capitalize on quality chances. But we’ll see if I’m right about that.
- The concourses should be jammed with Girl Scouts and their cohorts. Will it be less of an “amateur hour” compared with Boxing Day?
- Watch for subtle changes to our arena as they prepare for the All Star Game later this month.
We’re back at it tomorrow afternoon, as Utica makes one of their two appearances of the season in Allentown–another North division foe. It’s Star Wars Night for a 5:05 puck drop–our first home Sunday (and one of only two, not counting the All Star Festivities) of the season as well.
Next weekend we’ve got a home/home with Hershey, Sunday off, and a matinee on MLK Day in Springfield.
See you at the arena,
Cover photo by Cheryl Pursell