“The top three worst things I’ve seen in hockey? The invention of the trap. The invention of the morning skate. And the invention of the extremely ugly uniform.”
It wasn’t ideal. First-place, but roster-depleted Syracuse, in town a day early because of the snow and forced to play with 10 forwards, forced overtime and grabbed the two-point ring at the PPL Center on Wednesday. And it was only 10 forwards because former Phantom Adam Comrie was pressed into duty as a wing–so really 9.
For the first time this season, the Hamilton Street Heroes lost a game after leading at the second intermission. And even though Syracuse is in first, they’ve lost more games than they’ve won–good enough for 6th place were they in the Atlantic. The official team feed, of course, lauded the team for grabbing that all-important standings point. Another media source (not me) pointed out that they left an all-important standings point on the table by blowing two 3rd-period leads and surrendering the overtime winner.
It’s both, of course. Half full and half empty. And it was good to read the quotes afterwards, from the likes of young Russian forward Radel Fazleev, who had a big goal in the game, and forward Danick Martel, returning from injury. Both were looking inwards towards themselves and the team to explain what happened in the third period. No excuses, no spin.
For Syracuse’ part, they didn’t do anything special. I noticed that they move the puck very quickly. Nothing fancy, just get the next pass to the next guy in a big hurry. Sometimes the precision wasn’t there, but in a couple instances it created back-door opportunities when the Phantoms and their goalie couldn’t match the quickness. The other thing they tried over and over was to float the puck into the high slot and crank a shot from center. That was less successful as the Phantoms were able to control the traffic in front and Lyon was seeing the puck pretty well from there and controlling the rebounds.
It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t great. It was one point here and one point there, which can be put aside with a good showing in the back-to-back with the Penguins starting tonight at 7th and Hamilton. There was plenty of finger-pointing and laughing from the Pens fans online following Wednesday’s overtime loss. But, perhaps they’re feeling the heat a bit with the Phantoms creeping ever closer in the standings. Plenty of head-to-head left.
No laughing. It’s time to go to work.
- The two most-injured players are F Boyd Gordon (knee) and D Will O’Neill (arm). I’m not expecting either to return before the end of the season. Playoffs, possibly.
- The rest of the walking wounded have been sighted back on the ice: F Steve Swavely (wrist; cast off), D Robert Hagg (leg), and F Taylor Leier (lingering issue). Swavely and Hagg are skating no-contact, but reports out of the morning skate today suggest Leier was a full participant. Still, if the “issue” is indeed a concussion or symptoms thereof, he’ll need to pass the protocols and that means we still won’t likely see him this weekend.
- D Maxim Lamarche and D Jesper Pettersson are up from Reading to replace O’Neill and Hagg. Lamarche played Wednesday while Pettersson was scratched. I thought Lamarche did well paired with Sanheim. In one instance I saw him give up his body to break up a 2-on-1 late in the first period. It was good work to make sure they didn’t get one of those last-minute goals–no shot and no pass from the puck-handler.
- F Jordan Weal returned to the ice for Philadelphia the other day. This is only significant because he had been nicked up a little and we need him healthy to return for the playoffs should we be so fortunate to make the tournament this season.
- G Steve Mason left last night’s Flyers game, but was said to be suffering from cramps and no call-up is anticipated. The Fly guys have Carolina at home on Sunday. If there is a problem, you’d think Stolie tonight for Phantoms, Lyon tomorrow at Casey Plaza and then Stolie up to back up Neuvirth.
- F Chris Conner was seen going down hard late in Wednesday’s game. No update (of course). F Chris McCarthy was the healthy scratch should we need a replacement.
Bardreau – Laughton – McDonald
Carey – Knight – Zengerle
Martel – Miele – Conner (the “size 52” line)
Goulbourne – Fazleev – Aube-Kubel
Brennan – Willcox
Alt – Morin
Sanheim – Lamarche
In come the Pens. They recalled two D-men from ECHL Wheeling yesterday, one arriving on a PTO. They also received forwards Sundquist and Archibald back from Pittsburgh yesterday. They have two college signings joining the team on ATO but I’m not sure either will be available yet this weekend. Defenseman Pouliot was called up to Pittsburgh just this morning.
F Pat McGrath is serving a three-game suspension this weekend. Sestito is still suspended and/or with Pittsburgh I think. So, don’t listen to any chirps from up on Mt. Pious should Morin or T-Gillz have to take care of some business tonight.
Since getting shut-out by the Phantoms a week ago Wednesday, the Pens crushed Hartford like a grape and squeaked by Providence, both at home. They’re 3-2 in March. “The machine” is not firing on all cylinders, but they seem to have a nice supply of high quality, after-market parts at their disposal. Recall it was a mostly-ECHL guy who potted the winner for them last time they visited the Queen City.
Puck Drop: 7:05PM
Tickets: Seats on the primary market are sparse. There is the possibility that this game will got “SRO” by puck drop. There are some 200 seats–some of them excellent–available on the secondary market as of this writing.
Parking: Travel downtown is still a bit tight due to the snow and no where to go with it. Most lots and walks have been cleared; just leave a little extra time for travel. Caution leaving as it’s St Patty’s Day; don’t drink and drive. I thought the walks were in great shape around the arena, but the slush on the streets still means you must choose your footwear wisely.
Promotion: Celtic Celebration, and the Phantoms will once again sport the green-on-green sweaters. They will be live-auctioned immediately after the game in the Morning Call Club. Players will not be available, but I’m expecting that jerseys will be already signed, although I cannot promise such. Like the holiday sweaters, I’m expecting prices to be high.
Broadcast: The usual suspects. I listened live on FM-89.9 on Wednesday in the arena. It’s a cool way to watch the game.
Media Kit: pens 317
Pregame: TV and Radio as per usual.
Wednesday I set up shop at the bar in Bell Hall to enjoy a couple drafts and some wings. The wings there are really good–are there any better downtown? If you think there are, hit me up in the comments or on SoMe and let me know where. I do like that they’ve been good about rotating the taps in Bell Hall of late–I like to try different stuff and with that many taps there’s no reason they can’t continue to have variety, much of it fresh and local which is also nice.
After winning both games last weekend, Mrs. Kram sat out Wednesday and the team lost. She returns tonight for the big game with the Pens. I believe we’re headed for grain. tonight. I still mourn the demise of the pork belly tacos, though.
What To Watch
- I’m expecting Stolie as the goalie in tonight’s contest. Lyon didn’t play poorly Wednesday night but did seem a bit slow on the back-door plays. Easy for me to say holding a beer in row 20, I know. Both guys have played well lately provided the team in front of them takes care of the finer points of defense.
- Both Jarry and DeSmith are capable goalies for Wilkes Barre, so neither would present as an advantage for the Phantoms to face. The key is their defense, the strength of their squad, which might be a bit depleted by injury and call-up. Can they keep up their strong play and keep the powerful Phantoms off the board?
- Watch the third period. We’ve been an absolutely dominating team in the third all season long, if you want to look at the goal differential and the record when leading at the second break–before Wednesday. Was that a blip or a new trend?
- Watch to see if Conner is in the lineup. Watch to see if Goulburne continues to get the starts over McCarthy–even on St. Patrick’s Day. Watch to see if any of the injured surprise us and return.
- Watch to see if that Size 52 line can continue to hold their own and not get pushed around. Watch to see if that fourth line can continue to bring the energy.
- Willcox was the only guy with a -2 in Wednesday’s game. Does that mean he was the one responsible for the back door scores? I don’t know about that, but if you want to keep an eye on him tonight I wouldn’t blame you. He needs to be extra-responsible playing next to T.J. as Brennan will take some chances going forward.
- One of the keys to breaking up the Pens attack is to challenge them at the blue line. I know, not rocket surgery. But watch to see if we’re letting them enter the zone and easily set up their attack. If we are, we’re dead.
Tonight’s game concludes the four-game home stand. Thus far we’ve gathered 5/6 standings points, which could be 5,6,7/8 after tonight’s contest. And, with four points available from the Penguins this weekend, by tomorrow night we could find ourselves in first place. Or, down by 7 points. Or somewhere in between. Big games, these.
Tomorrow night we’re up in Wilkes Barre, where they’ll have their own St. Patty’s day festivities planned. Only upper level seats remain for that game. And, if you think the Phantoms’ green shirts are ugly, check out what the Pens will be sporting tomorrow:
(I think I just threw up a bit in my mouth. Who laughs last, indeed.)
Anyway, the Heroes board a plane for St. John’s Sunday for a two-pack Tuesday and Wednesday. Catch the Wednesday game (6PM start!) at Chickie’s with the whole Phan Club crew–raffles and 50/50 and the whole deal open to everyone.
Two big division tilts next weekend at the PPL Center: Saturday with the Penguins (who else?) and Sunday (!) with Bridgeport. A rematch with Bridgeport two weeks from tonight and March will be closed for business.
See you at the arena,