“I think our players need to pick themselves up off the floor and get going.
It’s time for them to stop feeling nervous and feeling sorry for themselves, and time to go out and play.
You play hard, you’ll enjoy it.
If you enjoy it, you’re winning.”
-Wayne Gretzky, Coyotes Managing Partner
Andy Miele had had enough. After losing yet another game to the Penguins on home ice Saturday night–this time without scoring a goal–and falling behind 3-1 heading into the last half of the third period late Sunday afternoon, he knew the team needed a couple goals.
After feeding Mark Zengerle flying down the wing for a goal for the first part of the comeback, he took a pass from TJ Brennan to get the equalizer with 2:42 left to play. Then, in the “last minute of play” in the overtime period, when Taylor Leier couldn’t jam the puck home, he buried that one as well.
Two points for the good guys as we inch closer to the Calder Cup Playoff tournament for the first time in a septennial.
The Phantoms’ magic number is 11. It will decrease by two points with a win, and by two more with a regulation loss by the fifth-place team–in this case the very Bridgeport Sound Tigers who return to the PPL Center again tonight.
With 238 goals this season, the Phantoms are first among all 30 AHL clubs in goals scored this year. What’s more, Lehigh Valley continues to lead the AHL averaging 3.55 goals per game.
Lehigh Valley boasts an AHL-leading seven wins this season when trailing after two periods. The Phantoms erased a trio of third-period deficits in four games last week and have outscored their opposition 98-61 in third period play this year.
The Phantoms are 21-9-3 at home this season and have outscored their opposition 127-101 in games played at PPL Center. Lehigh Valley enters the week tied for second among all AHL clubs in goals scored on home ice. What’s more, Phantoms fans have produced 16 standing room-only sellouts this season and have generated capacity crowds in eight of Lehigh Valley’s last 11 home games.
- D Will O’Neill reportedly needed surgery on his injured wrist/arm. He’s been seen in a cast and will most likely be out until the playoffs and probably longer.
- F Boyd Gordon remains out with a knee. I don’t expect him back any time soon.
- D Mark Friedman remains about on ATO having signed his ELC for next season. I don’t think we’ll see him playing until after playoffs have been clinched–and maybe not even then. He’s got sweater number 37 though, if you seen him about.
- F Chris Conner has been out for a few games. Sources tell me he has bruised and/or broken ribs. He was skating earlier this week with non-contact jersey and I’ve been told there’s a chance he’ll play this weekend. It is possible as long as he’s not in danger of a punctured lung and depending on his pain tolerance.
- D Robert Hagg returned from injury last Saturday, then took Sunday off as planned. I’d expect him back full time starting tonight.
- D T.J. Brennan enters the week leading all Phantoms–and is tops among all AHL blueliners–in scoring. He has 55 points (20 goals, 35 assists). He currently leads all AHL defenders in goals (20), power play goals (11) and shots on goal (197) and is tied for the league lead among defensemen in game-winning tallies (5).
- F Andy Miele is currently second among all Lehigh Valley skaters in scoring with 51 points (10 goals, 41 assists) and enters the week first among all active Phantoms averaging 0.91 points per game. He’s tallied an impressive 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) over his last 17 games.
- G Anthony Stolarz has won each of his last six straight starts in goal. The third-year netminder has produced a 2.76 goals-against average coupled with a 0.922 save percentage during his recent surge.
The Royals got back to their winning ways, finally, with an overtime victory last Saturday night versus Adirondack. They face Norfolk tonight at the Santander–a team that recently swept them two in a row in Virginia.
As the weekend begins, the Royals are tied with Manchester for third/fourth place. Adirondack has clinched the playoffs and Brampton–tomorrow’s opponent–is in between. The threat comes from Wheeling (Pittsburgh) seven points back of the playoff hopefuls. I’m looking for Reading to clinch this weekend. Their magic number is 4, and they play in Wheeling on Sunday.
And back in town are the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. As mentioned above, a nice quick way to reduce the magic number and lock up the playoff bid would be to win in regulation tonight. In addition, it would be nice to hold off surging Hershey and Providence, and try to maintain second place in order to assure the maximum number of home games in the potential opening series.
Bridgeport beat Springfield Wednesday night at the MassMutual Center 3-2. As we’ve noted previously, the Sound Tigers play a physical game using size and positioning, then counter-attacking to gain goal chances. They’ve lost some scoring and their best goalie to New York and are ripe to be beaten if we play the right game. We may see Penn State product Eamon McAdam in goal, although he played on Wednesday so if they’re alternating we might get Williams again.
Puck Drop: 7:05PM
Tickets: Plenty of good seats are still available as of this writing.
Parking: The Sixth Street corridor is a mess. Construction at 6th/Hamilton and 6th/Linden makes it not only tough to drive in that area, but many of the sidewalks have been ripped up as well, making it dangerous for pedestrians forced to walk in the street. Kram recommends parking in the 7th Street corridor, or west of the arena until things improve.
Promotion: Fan Appreciation Night. Do you feel appreciated yet?
Media Kit: (rosters, stats, season series information) sound tigers 33117
Referees: Pierre Lambert #47, Dave Lewis #46
Linesmen: Tom George #61, Jud Ritter #34
Pregame: Radio and TV as per usual–week night game so AM-1470.
I’m in the mood for a steak. The Dime means I don’t have to go back outside in the rain to get into the arena–just gotta cut down on the appetizers and cocktails in order to keep the bill in line. Plus, they haven’t been very good about opening up more than one security line lately so the alternate entrances are more desirable at this juncture.
What To Watch:
- Stolie’s been the hot hand right now, so as far as I’m concerned we should ride him. But I don’t feel strongly about it; both are good if we’re playing good defense.
- Watch to see if Conner suits up. Expect Hagg back full time now. Leier really finding his legs again I think, since returning two weeks ago.
- Watch to see if the Phantoms try to score goals similar to the Zengerle and Miele finishes from Sunday–odd man rushes.
- Those two goals were also far-post shots. I noticed during the Jarry shutout Saturday as well as with the opposing netminder Sunday that both guys hugged the near post more than usual. Is that the book on the Phantoms? We like near post? I don’t know, but it’s something you can watch tonight. And, see if the Phantoms can adjust by either shooting far post or trying to get the puck to the back door quickly.
- Or, will the Sound Tigers be content to continue to just pack it in around the goalie and hope to generate their own offense off counter punches and lucky shots?
- Watch the power play. I don’t think that unit has been particularly sharp of late. For a skilled offensive team such as ours it is imperative that we capitalize on those advantages when we acquire them. The offensive pressure creates those chances as the other team is forced to commit sloppy or overly-aggressive penalties. The resultant man-advantage is all part of that strategy. Gotta get the puck in the net. 0-for-9 on the PP will not fly in the playoffs.
It’s a “three in three” weekend for the Hamilton Street Heroes as they head off to Casey Plaza to once again face the first place Penguins. Lately, the visiting team has had the advantage in the series, for whatever reason. The Pens got three guys back from Pittsburgh and one guy back from injury and are at near full-power as we enter the final month of the regular season. Saturday’s game will be a nice test for the Phantoms, and makes tonight’s game even that much more important for the weekend.
Sunday afternoon they’ll be in Hershey to face the surging Bears. As mentioned above, important to try to fend off the Bears to maintain at least second place in the division for home ice in the first round of the Calder–should we be so fortunate to make it.
The Sunday game with Hershey will have a re-match at the PPL Center on Wednesday night.
See you at the arena,