“Snow Dog is victorious. The land of the Overworld is saved again.”
-Rush, By-Tor and the Snow Dog
Tonight is the third game of our four in a row at home. As we break the season into digestible chunks and apply the “law of arbitrary starting points” we arrive here having won the first two games of this home stand, and ride a 5-1 wave in their last six games–all wins were in regulation.
The key to the recent surge is certainly the defense. Yes, the goaltenders deserve credit as well, but the duo of Stolarz and Lyon have both benefited from the strong play in front. The Phantoms have allowed 0, 2, and 1 goal in the last three wins after surrendering a 7-goal outburst in Providence on March 5.
Playoff “Magic Number” for the Phantoms is 25. The number decreases by 2 with each win and with each loss by the 5th place team–in this case Hershey. Post-regulation wins and losses may impact the magic number differently based on opponent. When the number reaches zero, we have clinched a spot in the Calder Cup Tournament for the first time in eight seasons.
- Reading quotes from the coaching staff after the recent wins and improved defensive performance suggest that the improvement wasn’t from any change in the coaching, but rather players listening to coaches and minding the details in their games. That’s what I’m getting from it, anyway–something to watch going forward.
- With 218 goals this season, the Phantoms lead all 30 AHL clubs in goals scored this year. What’s more, Lehigh Valley continues to lead the AHL averaging 3.63 goals per game.
- The Phantoms’ special teams have been on fire in recent weeks. Lehigh Valley’s power play has connected in eight of its last 10 games overall producing an impressive 12 man-advantage markers during that stretch (12-for-48, 25.0 percent) while the team’s penalty kill has allowed just three power play goals during that same time frame. Over the last 10 games, Lehigh Valley’s penalty kill is 32-for-35 (91.4 percent).
- The Phantoms are 20-7-2 at home this season and have outscored their opposition 118-85 in games played at PPL Center. Phantoms fans have produced standing room-only sellouts in six of the team’s last seven home games and 14 capacity crowds overall this season.
- Will O’Neill left Saturday’s game with an apparent hand/wrist injury which is still officially “unknown ailment.” He and F Boyd Gordon appear to be injury scratches tonight as they’re not skating.
- Blueliners Maxim Lamarche (#20) and blog-favorite Jesper Pettersson (#38) were called up as reinforcements.
- F Danick Martel returned to play on the fourth line Saturday and didn’t appear to be himself. Hopefully just working his way back in and more like normal tonight.
- Other injured were at practice this morning and skating “non-contact:” Hagg (lower body), Swavely (hand/wrist, cast removed), and Leier (“lingering issue”). Certainly don’t expect to see them tonight–or even this weekend probably, but it’s good to see them out on the ice.
Defenseman T.J. Brennan enters the week leading all Phantoms and tied for the AHL lead among blueliners in total scoring with 50 points (18 goals, 32 assists). The four-time All-Star also leads all AHL defenders in goals (18) and shots on goal (183) and is tied for the league lead among defensemen in power play conversions (10).
Forward Scott Laughton enters the week riding a six-game scoring streak after the third-year center has tallied seven points (3 goals, 4 assists) across his last six outings. Laughton is currently eighth among all active Phantoms in total scoring with 32 points (15 goals, 17 assists).
Forward Cole Bardreau is currently in the midst of a five-game assist streak in which he’s notched five assists across his last handful of games. A second-year forward, he’s tallied 22 points (8 goals, 14 assists) in 56 total games this season.
Robbing Reading of Lamarche and Pettersson certainly doesn’t help them, but they remain in first place in the ECHL North as of this afternoon.
They’ll be in Norfolk for two this weekend, and will return to the Santander a week from tonight.
The Syracuse Crunch arrived the other night in downtown Allentown in order to avoid the storm. One assumes the officials were in town as well, and tonight’s game was always going to be played at the state-of-the-art PPL Center in revitalized downtown Allentown.
The Crunch are in first place in the North and represent a formidable opponent despite this: They’ve maintained their position in the standings in spite of multiple roster moves from their parent in Tampa and the fact that they’ve actually lost more than half of their games, 30-20-6-5. Perhaps some of this is due to the weakness of the North division, as well as the goofy 2/1 point system in AHL hockey.
Puck Drop: 7:05PM
Tickets: Many good seats still remain for this game, on the primary and secondary markets.
Parking: Things may be a bit hairy downtown due to the recent storm. Residents are being asked to move out of the decks and onto their street/lot spaces as they become available during the day today. Given the low planned attendance at tonight’s game, I think parking should be fine. I’d advise use of the decks over lots tonight, and the use of mostly main streets on your arrival and egress from downtown. Wear sensible shoes given the sidewalks and streets are sometimes a bit sloppy. And, leave a little extra time as travel might be a bit slow at times.
Broadcast: Or, stay home and watch on TV-2 Service Electric, or listen on AM-1470 or the Phantoms365 App.
Media Kit: syracuse
Promotion: None, but the team will be sporting these green get-ups tonight (and Friday) to get ready for St. Patty’s Day.
PreGame: TV and Radio as usual.
Saturday had planned on having a nice burger at the Bell Hall bar prior to the game, but when Mrs. Kram decided to tag along for a second night in a row (“We won last night, you know.”) then we opted for burgers at The Hamilton. Good food and service there as per usual. I’ll get my Bell Hall fix tonight as long as the snow doesn’t prevent me from crossing Hamilton Street in that neighborhood.
What To Watch
- Expect Lyon in net tonight. Credit goes to the entire team for putting the effort into the defense, but he’s still been sharp.
- Watch to see if Martel moves to a higher line position or if he remains on the fourth line. Expect Pettersson and McCarthy to be the scratches tonight.
- If there’s a “Size 52” line–smallest jerseys–watch to see if they get pushed around.
- Watch to see if the team effort on defense continues. It makes for a slightly more chaotic game to watch, but the opposition just not getting quality looks at the net. Utica the other night had a high shot total, but many of them were not good chances, and when they were Lyon was right on them seeing the puck very well.
- Watch to see how the green jerseys look out on the ice. They’ll wear them again Friday versus Scranton, then they’ll be live-auctioned after the game, they tell me. Because of a game the next night, it’s not known if that live auction will include the players coming out. I remember being scolded about an AHL rule regarding this, last season.
We burn the “game in hand” on Wilkes Barre with tonight’s tilt as they will be idle. Then, a home-and-home with the Penguins starting Friday at the PPL Center, the last of our four in a row at home. The game Saturday in Wilkes Barre has only upper-level seats available at this time. Continued good play could have us in first place by the end of the weekend, but let’s not count points before they’re earned. I’m just keeping my eyes on that magic number, and on the quality of play, at this juncture.
The team is off on Sunday, as the black turf will go down for the SteelHawks home opener. C’mon out; it’s cheap. The team will head to St John’s for two mid-week match-ups Tuesday and Wednesday next week–the Wednesday tilt viewable en mass at Chickie’s and Pete’s with the Phan Club crew (open to all!)
See you at the arena,
PS: Here’s the Sam Morin fight sequence from Saturday, through the lens of our very own Cheryl Pursell: