“Well, they were the only two I had.”
-Lightning coach Terry Crisp, asked why he used two goalies in a 10-0 loss
About Last Night
F Danick Martel returned to the ice last night in Springfield as the Phantom cruised to a 8-2 victory. F Corban Knight chipped in with his second career hat-trick which was later removed–on a night when pucks seemed destined for the enemy’s net. While a couple of the goals could be described as “fluky” I thought it was still the dividend paid for hard work an hustle out on the ice. It’s good for that to pay off to reinforce that type of play.
Tuesday night in Bridgeport the Phantoms won 5-0 after a slow start. Tokarski got the clean sheet for the Phantoms while five different Phantoms notched goals: Goulbourne, Friedman (his first as a pro), Vecchione, Fazleev and McDonald.
Goalies And Goalies
All week I’ve been thinking about goalies. As you know, Alex Lyon is up with Philadelphia as Brian Elliott will be out for several weeks or more. Neuvirth becomes the #1 in Philly now–and he can be brilliant at times–but can also be maddeningly inconsistent as well. He has had trouble staying healthy at times in his career as well. For me, I would give Lyon some regular starts to keep Neuvirth fresh.
However, it’s not up to me, and Lyon didn’t look sharp in a couple of quick looks up there. Certainly, we’ve seen what it looks like when he’s not comfortable–the first six weeks of this season is exhibit one. However, he has been playing very, very well and it would be my strategy to try to get him enough time to get right. But I can also see Hextall’s challenge with that: The Flyers are in a playoff spot right now and can’t exactly afford to give away standings points in the name of “on the job training.” For this reason, with only a week left before the trade deadline, the Flyers are expected to be buyers for a veteran goalie–perhaps on an expiring contract.
Until that happens, around here we ride with Dustin Tokarski and John “Moose” Muse. They are both AHL veterans and both have played well for us at times. In fact, it seems that every time Lyon gets called up, Tokarski plays a little better–like he’s got a chip on his shoulder. And, that’s a good thing for Phantoms phans.
Lurking is Anthony Stolarz. Latest news from Philly is that he’s going to begin ramping things up in his come back from a second knee surgery, and could be ready for game play before the end of March. By that time we should be getting things solidified for a crack at the Calder tournament and maybe not the time or place for rehab starts. However, there could be a game or two–or even some time in Reading involved. This, of course, assuming the “ramp it up” goes according to schedule. There are no exact time tables, it’s simply one step at a time and then see if you’re ready for the next one. We’re all glad Stolie is doing well, though, for his sake and for his career.
“Keep Your Enemies Closer”
While the Phantoms were pounding the Thunderbirds in Springfield, Wilkes Barre was getting their butts handed to them in Rochester. The 12-3 score would have been worse if the ‘Merks hadn’t missed both extra points. The flightless birds lost a couple players to injury during the game, and seemed to become unglued with the officiating. They were also not interested in killing the resultant penalties, and there you go.
The combination of Phantoms win and Penguins loss–by whatever margin–puts the Phantoms officially in first place. I don’t make much of it right now. Four teams make the playoffs and I just want to play good hockey, stay healthy and be ready for the playoffs. However, it his kind of nice. I remember last season, we took a bad loss at some point–I think it was 7-1 and it may have been to Springfield–and a Wilkes Barre website said that the Phantoms shouldn’t be considered a playoff team after such a bad loss, regardless of their record. Well, now the shoe is on the other foot, but I’m certainly not going to go that far. We’ve got them coming in here tomorrow and I can’t say I’m any more confident knowing that they’re going to be smarting for a while after such a loss. They do have to deal with a difficult Utica team tonight at home, though.
Players and Stats
With Martel back, we’re pretty healthy. Defencemen Morin and Willcox are the only injured players. Swavely and Krusher are back in Reading, and as you read above, Lyon is in Philly. There’s still “veteran problem” so you’ll see the healthy vet scratch every night.
Last night’s scratches: Morin and Willcox (injury), McDonald (veteran), Fazleev and de Haas (healthy), Tokarski was the backup goalie with Muse starting in net.
Other notes from Phantoms Media Dept, and more:
- Forward Phil Varone enters the week leading all Phantoms and is second among all AHL skaters in scoring with 46 total points (11 goals, 35 assists). Tied for second among all AHLers with 35 assists, Varone has recorded 10 multi-point outings this season.
- Forward Greg Carey enters the week leading all Phantoms and tied for fifth among all AHLers with 21 goals scored this season. Carey currently ranks second among all Lehigh Valley skaters with 33 total points.
- Forwards Oskar Lindblom and Nic Aube-Kubel are the only players to have appeared in each of Lehigh Valley’s 50 games to date. Aube-Kubel is third among all Phantoms in scoring with 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) while Lindblom is tied for fourth with 31 total points (13 goals, 18 assists).
- After missing 11 games due to injury, forward Corban Knight returned to Lehigh Valley’s lineup last week and tallied six points (2 goals, 4 assists) across a busy and productive three-game week. All told, the 27-year-old center has tallied 29 points (9 goals, 20 assists) across 39 games this season. And those numbers don’t include an assist Tuesday in Bridgeport and two goals and another assist last night in Springfield.
Lehigh Valley is 28-1-2-1 when scoring three or more goals this season and is 26-3-1-2 when allowing three goals against or fewer.
- Look, Rochester just scored another goal on the Penguins
- The Phantoms are currently tied for second in the AHL with 15 one-goal wins this season. Lehigh Valley is an impressive 15-2-3-3 in games decided by just a single goal this year.
- The Phantoms are 17-5-3-1 at PPL Center this season and have outscored their opposition 97-77 in 26 prior games in downtown Allentown. What’s more, the Phantoms have garnered standings points in eight straight home games (7-0-1).
- The Phantoms have tied a franchise record with 5 or more goals in four straight games. It last happened in Philadelphia in 1999.
Snow be darned, we’ll drop the puck 10-15 minutes after the 7:05PM “event time.” It’s a good night to park in one of the decks rather than the lots as much of the snow will fall during the game. Certainly, we’ll play this game now regardless of the weather as both teams and refs should be in town by the time you read this. My experience downtown is that they do a pretty good job with the streets in the arena district, but don’t always get to the sidewalks right away. Choose your footwear wisely.
The Hartford WolfPack, AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, are in town. They had been playing some solid hockey and challenging for that fourth spot in the standings, but have recently hit some road bumps. The trade with Hershey and the announcement by New York that they will be gutting the franchise has things in slight disarray. They didn’t play last night, but lost two in Charlotte earlier this week. Still, they’re 4-2-1 this month with a couple after-regulation wins.
It’s “Go For The Gold” night at the PPL Center, where we’ll salute the Winter Olympics and the team will be sporting snazzy
gold cream-colored sweaters. Theses will be auctioned off live after tomorrow’s game. Will they wear them again tomorrow? I don’t know, but I’m guessing no–that they’ll get a nice wash and autograph before then.
Review: I always want to wait to see how they look on the ice, but these are really sharp to my eye. Unlike the “color rush” jerseys, these have the three different colors that makes for a nice shirt. Plenty of stripes and balance. As someone on SpaceBook pointed out this week, they are quite reminiscent of the design worn at the outdoor game at Citizen’s Bank Park a few years back.
Referee Guillaume Labonte (#35)
Referee Ben O’Quinn (#27)
Linesman Bevan Mills (#53)
Linesman Luke Murray (#92)
MEDIA KIT (Rosters, Stats, etc.)
5 Things To Watch
- I think Coach Gordon will go back to Tokarski tonight. Watch to see if he can continue to play with an edge.
- Watch to see how the lines shake out. Interesting that both Fazleev and McDonald had goals on Tuesday but then were scratches on Friday. Everyone has to take a turn, and there’s the veteran rule, I know. Still, watch to see how it looks before the game by following along on Twitter.
- Watch to see if Martel comes back for a second game in a row. If he’s a scratch, I can almost guarantee it wasn’t his idea. That kid just loves hockey.
- Hartford had the Charlotte trip this week, but didn’t play last night. Watch to see if they look fresher than the Phantoms late in the game, and if that results in some late goals which we’ve been kind of prone to this season–particularly at home of late.
- Watch to see what the crowd looks like with the weather event tonight–and if it starts to dwindle as the snow piles up during the game.
- BONUS: Watch to see if we can set a franchise record by scoring 5 or more goals.
We’re right back here tomorrow afternoon for a 5:05PM start time on meLVin’s birthday bash day. The Penguins will be in town; this will be the last we see of them until the final game of the season here at the PPL Center, and our games at Casey Plaza have concluded. If you see Tux tomorrow, tell him Rochester just scored again. The Pens have Utica at home tonight after a difficult ride home from the Kodak City.
After Sunday, we head out on the road for the next week: Wednesday in Utica, Friday in Syracuse, and a Saturday stop in Binghamton on the way home. Our next home game after tomorrow is Friday March 2 versus Hershey.
See you at the arena,