“I score most of my goals in the third period because I don’t like to lose.”
-Mark Parrish, Islanders
Last weekend the Phantoms were beaten by the Penguins–and themselves–right here at the corner of 7th and Hamilton on Friday evening. They rebounded and jumped out to a 3-0 lead the very next night on Casey Plaza before holding off the charging flightless-birds for a 3-2 final score.
The team flew up to St. John’s where Tuesday night they somehow erased a 4-0 deficit near the end of the second period, to win in overtime.
Wednesday night, with Phan Nation looking on from the comforts of Chickie’s and Pete’s in Allentown, the Phantoms had a 1-0 lead, lost it for a 2-1 deficit, then tied the game and won in the shootout.
Three wins in a row, only one in regulation but outside the division it doesn’t matter. Stolarz was in net for all three.
I said it on Twitter: I really like where this team is right now. No, I don’t like to come from behind and I’m not entertaining the rah-rah propaganda that the local organization spews out regardless of result. What I like are the things I’m hearing from the coaches and players. I like the mindset. Even after that loss to the Pens last weekend the player quotes represented accountability and a desire to do better–not a positive spin, or “puck luck” excuses or “we’ll be ready next time” stuff. The coach’s comments were similarly accountable, pointing out that the players were given the assignments and failed to follow through on them in the second period of last Friday’s game when they fell apart. No positive spin, just the reality. That’s the only way stuff is going to get fixed on a team that is certainly good enough to make some noise in the post-season if they’re up to it.
In come the Pens once again. All these late-season meetings are working out so well you have to be certain they’ll do this to us again next year.
The Phantoms’ magic number is now 16, which will reduce by 2 with a win tonight. Bridgeport is the current 5th place team, so from a magic-number perspective tomorrow’s game could be worth 4 points. Bridgeport just lost their good goalie to the NHL so they look to be the most at-risk of dropping out right now. We’ll talk more about them tomorrow, but if you’re scoreboard watching, that’s the team we hope loses (the most) right now. Hershey’s reinforcements through trades and signings have been paying off, and they look to be the hottest team in the whole group–we’ll deal with them next weekend.
These games with the Penguins are important–just not for the entire reason you might think. While overtaking the Black and Pittsburgh-gold would be swell, the real key is the fact that they’re a good team and we must keep winning to hold off Hershey, Bridgeport and Portland. Wilkes Barre hasn’t clinched, but does have enough of a cushion that they will not likely end up as the odd-man out–but someone will and no way I want it to be us. Also, having home-ice advantage for the opening series might be nice too–a reason to try to stick to at least second place.
- The Philadelphia Flyers, parent club of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, have signed defenseman Mark Friedman to an entry-level contract for the 2017-2018 season. A 5’10”, 191-pound blueliner from Toronto, he will report to Lehigh Valley for the remainder of the 2016-17 campaign. He’s with the club and practicing, but I wouldn’t count on seeing him in a game right away. Perhaps after we clinch.
Defenseman T.J. Brennan enters the week leading all Phantoms and tied for second among all AHL blueliners in total scoring with 51 points (18 goals, 33 assists). The four-time All-Star also leads all AHL defenders in goals (18) and shots on goal (186) and is tied for the league lead among defensemen in power play conversions (10).
- Forward Greg Carey enters the week leading all Phantoms and tied for second among all AHL skaters with 26 goals this season. Carey continues to be the AHL’s leader with 17 power play conversions this year.
- Forward Andy Miele has been one of Lehigh Valley’s most productive offensive contributors in recent weeks. He’s tallied 16 points (4 goals, 12 assists) over his last 20 games and enters the week tied for third among all active Phantoms in scoring with 45 total points (8 goals, 37 assists).
- Forward Taylor Leier returned to the lineup last Saturday in Wilkes Barre. He missed a number of games with a lingering issue. He scored an important goal in St. John’s this week and had returned to his rightful place on the left wing of the top line.
- D Robert Hagg appears ready to return and should be in the lineup either tonight or tomorrow–but probably not both. LaMarche (+3) has played well in his stead.
- F Steve Swavely and D Jesper Pettersson have been returned to Reading as they ready for their playoff run.
- F Boyd Gordon and D Will O’Neill are still out and will remain so until at least the playoffs.
- F Chris Conner missed all three wins since the team left town. He has some kind of injury we would gather. Of course, we know nothing more than that.
Things aren’t so peachy down in Baseballtown. The coach is leaving and now the GM as well. They’ve been shuffling players via trades and signings as well as coping with losing guys to the Phantoms. Still, they were recently in first place, and currently sit in third–3 points out of first and 5 ahead of the first non-playoff team.
They lost both games in Norfolk last weekend, then dumped two more this week to Manchester and Adirondack. They’ve got Adirondack again tonight at the Santander, then off until Friday for Norfolk again.
They’re baaaack. The Penguins come marching in once again as the season series between two of the top teams in the AHL rolls on. The Pens roster has continued to fluctuate thanks to their parent club in Pittsburgh, but they just keep on winning, easily dispatching Syracuse last night.
Archibald, Sundquist and Corrado are in the bigger Steel City, while Pouliot is back. Jarry played last night, but I’m not sure that precludes him from starting again tonight as they could go DeSmith tomorrow at home for Utica. They’ve got two hot-shot Spring additions, RW Aston-Reese and C Josephs. I haven’t heard much from Josephs, but Aston-Reese is a big-time finisher who is already averaging like two points per game since joining the Pens.
The Phantoms hold a slight edge in the series 4-3-1 (Pens 4-4) with the away team winning the last few games.
Puck Drop: 7:00PM
Doors: 5:30PM (Saturday)
Tickets: This game has already gone ‘SRO’ and there are a smattering of tickets available on the secondary market. Don’t drive downtown and pay for parking unless you have tickets in your hand.
Parking: One oddity to report: Following the game last Friday, all of the gates were not open in order to leave the Community Deck. We were able to switch exits to get out. That happened one other time at the Walnut Deck, and we just waited for them to catch on. Use caution and don’t pay for parking twice!
Promotion: meLVin Garden Gnome for the kiddos. They usually have plenty, but if you’re dead-set for one, arrive a little early and use one of the main entrances.
Broadcast: In addition to the usual suspects, tonight’s game is available over the air and on regular cable, where available, on WFMZ-69. Nice! Oh, it’s the weekend which means radio switches to AM-790.
Media Kit: WBS Pens 325
Pre-Game: Radio and TV pre-game at their normal times.
Last Friday Mrs. Kram made her return with her four-game win-streak intact and the sting of the Wednesday OT loss to Syracuse in a game she missed, fresh in our minds. We hadn’t been to grain. in a bit so we dropped in on them for some St. Patty’s Day grub. Good food and service–and very reasonable if you ask me–as per usual. Alas, we’ll have to change things up now and she’s unavailable for tonight, so we’ll see what’s up later today. With the early doors I may just eat at home and take my pre-game beverage(s) up in the Miller Lite Loft.
No one answered my query the other day: Where are the best wings? Let me know…
What To Watch
Because I’ve liked the demeanor of this team lately, I’m less uptight about this game than I was last Friday when the Pens were in town. Maybe it’s just me. I’m less worried about wins and losses right this minute and more worried about the style and quality of play on the ice and how they handle themselves throughout the game. Here’s what I’m looking for tonight:
- Look for Lyon in net. He had three in a row after last Friday’s loss to the Pens, then Stolie had three in a row. Looks like Coach is trying to keep them both in-rhythm. Let’s see how it works out.
- Watch to make sure we’re challenging the Pens at the blue line and not letting them walk into our zone and set up their offense. That’s a recipe for disaster.
- Watch the power play. It hasn’t looked great to my eye of late–perhaps the return of Leier will help–but they’ve also given up two shorties in the last week. No more of that, please.
- Watch that Aston-Reese chap. He was one of the leading scorers in the NCAA and it appears he hasn’t missed a beat coming to the AHL. How do the Pens keep getting these guys? Anyway, the knock on him is that his skating isn’t great. Let’s see how he does tonight with Sam Morin up in his business. For goodness sake we need to put a man on him, though, and make him move.
- Watch the break-outs and zone rhythm. See if our guys are making smart decisions with the puck. That’s what cost us in the second period last Friday.
- Watch to see if Rob Hagg is back. If so, how does he look?
- Watch to see if Chris Conner returns. If so, who sits? Goulbourne? But Tyrell has been playing decently (+/- 0) and kept his AHL job over Swavely. Maybe McCarthy, although he’s -1 and not done poorly.
- Watch Aube-Kubel tonight. I think he’s been playing better lately–more confident. Take a look and see if you agree with me.
- Watch to see how much romper room nonsense is in your section, what with the kid’s night and all. Maybe a couple fights tonight to get the kiddos excited? (please, hold your wave for baseball season)
- Will they wear orange or black tonight? I’m changing my own jersey rotation after last Friday; we’ll see if it works.
Back at it tomorrow with Bridgeport in town for a late-afternoon tilt. They’re in 5th place right now and get to play in Hartford tonight. Tomorrow’s game is another division match-up, this one probably more important to assure a playoff position.
Puck drop is at 5:05PM tomorrow, with doors at 4:00PM. Bridgeport will then return on Friday to close out March. Second two next weekend are on the road Saturday and Sunday: Wilkes Barre and Hershey respectively.
See you at the arena,