The Phantoms battle the Devils later this afternoon at the PPL Center, in a game that will be televised LIVE on the NHL Network.
After a couple games off, “Hockey Night” is back to get you ready for today’s game with all the details YOU need to know:
When we last left our (Hamilton Street) Heroes at the PPL Center on Friday, March 2 versus Hershey they were primed and set to dispatch the hapless and helpless hershey squad in front of a raucous crowd who braved the wind and slush to see the hockey. Then a funny thing happened on the way to the crushing win: For about the first time this season, the team came out on the ice not ready to play. Passes were to skates instead of sticks and the defense was content to watch the Bears play the hockey rather than participate. Goalie John Muse took the hook from the coaches–more to wake up his teammates than as any kind of punitive measure against him personally. And yup, as I stopped my drinking early in order to facilitate a preemptive egress, the team came back to win 7-6 in one of the biggest comebacks ever. Glad I didn’t leave. Thank you, beer. Also from this game: Aube-Kubel gets suspended for Sunday and Friday for an elbow-shiver to the head delivered along the boards.
Then the back to back where this fake reporter just couldn’t muster the blog for a pre-game. Binghamton was in town, who had played the Phantoms tough the previous weekend in the Southern Tier of New York. My hatred for the Devils perhaps contributed to my delinquency at the keyboard. Our heroes battled hard for a 4-0 win.
March is a 3x3x3 month, and the first 3/3 ended in Hershey for the rematch with the Bears. The shootout went extra innings, tied 1-1 on a Corban Knight tally, when Misha Vorobyev notched the shootout winner.
With no mid-week contests this month, we fast-forward to Friday when the blogging again took a break. Bridgeport came to town and notched a 3-2 win in a close game with a lengthy goal challenge that didn’t go the Phantoms’ way. Despite what you might hear from the phans, it wasn’t a goal. It looked that way from my seat and from the first board replay, but once they went to the Jurassic-duration-replay system, I had a chance to punch up the TV feed on my phone to discover the illusion: It never went in. The bigger point was that the three day delay took the wind out of the Phantoms’ sails and they ran out of time trying to get the goal they needed to even things up.
The rematch in Bridgeport last night wasn’t as easy for the Sound Kittens. The return of Kubes coupled with the determination of Greg Carey, some nice passing by Misha Vorobyev and a Moose-like wall in goal led to a 4-1 win for our Heroes.
And here we are. It’s shovel and pail day, and the sun is out. One more meeting with the hated Devils who play the ugliest of hockey. LET’S DO…..get this over with.
To reduce magic number of 14 and clinch playoff birth, we’re cheering for a win today as well as a Bridgeport loss to Springfield at 3PM, and we can be as low as 10 by the time you leave the arena tonight.
- Lindblom and Lyon remain with the Flyers, but maintain their eligibility to return for/during the playoffs. Read, not so much.
- Stolie is said to be ready to play this weekend, but coach says no.
- Colin McDonald was injured for a couple games in there, but has returned.
- Corban Knight missed time last night after blocking a shot. His status for today is unknown.
- Travis Sanheim was recalled to the Flyers Friday afternoon on emergency basis due to injuries to Hagg and Oduya. He’ll remain eligible for AHL playoffs, but the Flyers motives are unknown. He probably deserves to be there playing, but if they’re going to sit him as soon as Oduya is ready (“day to day” while Hagg is a couple weeks) then I call foul.
- Reece Willcox returned from injury Friday night, then took yesterday off. Expect to see him back out there today.
Stats and Information from Phantoms Media Services
Forward Phil Varone enters the week leading all Phantoms and remains first among all AHL skaters in scoring with 57 total points (18 goals, 39 assists). With 18 goals, he’s now matched his career-high for goals in a single season and is now just three points shy of matching his personal-best for points in a single campaign.
Forward Greg Carey enters the week leading all Phantoms and tied for sixth among all AHLers with 23 goals scored this season. Second among all Lehigh Valley skaters in total scoring with 43 points, Carey also leads all Phantoms with 148 shots on goal and is tied for the team lead with six power play conversions.
- Forward Mike Vecchione enters the week tied for 11th among all AHL rookies in total scoring with 35 points (14 goals, 21 assists). The Union college product is currently fifth among all Phantoms with 21 assists and sixth in total scoring.
- Defenseman T.J. Brennan enters the week tied for second among all AHL blueliners with 12 goals scored and fourth among AHL defenders in total scoring with 39 points.
Lehigh Valley is 35-1-2-1 when scoring three or more goals this season and is 32-4-1-3 when allowing three goals against or fewer.
- The Phantoms enter the week as the highest-scoring team in the AHL averaging an impressive 3.53 goals per game. Over the team’s last 13 games (11-1-1), Lehigh Valley has outscored its opposition 56-25.
- The Phantoms are 20-5-3-2 at PPL Center this season and have outscored their opposition 114-87 in 30 games in downtown Allentown. What’s more, the Phantoms have now garnered standings points in 12 straight home games (10-0-2).
- After last night: 1st place Phantoms are 39-16-7. Phantoms 5-1-0 last 6 games. Points in 14 of last 16: 12-2-1 Points in 18 of 21: 16-3-2 Phantoms when scoring 3 or more goals: 36-1-3 Phantoms when lead or tied after 2 periods: 33-1-7 Phantoms when lead after 3 periods: 33-0-0.
In the tight ECHL North, the Royals are in third place, just two points behind first-place Manchester. They’re coming off the road after 8 straight away from Santander. They’ll be back in action in Reading on Wednesday versus Fort Wayne.
LET’S DO THAT HOCKEY!
Show time is 5:05PM today for the 5:15PM puck drop. Doors will open at 4PM and kiddos will get a pail and shovel to use at the beach this summer. Use the main entrances for the giveaway. Good seats still remain for today’s game. Street parking on Sundays is free according to this.
Since we beat them last Saturday 4-0, the Binghamton squad has gone 2-0-1 including a shutout win versus Hershey last night and pushing Wilkes to overtime on Friday. Despite their paltry spot in the standings, they are not to be trifled with.
Referee Kenny Anderson (#66)
Referee Furman South (#44)
Linesman Travis Gawryletz (#67)
Linesman Richard Jondo (#55)
*Note: I didn’t get the number of the guy doing the repeat pump-fakes on the face-offs Friday night, but if I see that again I might go over the glass. It drives me crazy. I don’t pay to see refs play games with the puck; I pay for hockey and there’s no hockey while the official is fingering the puck. Sorry to get off on a rant.
5 Things To Watch Tonight
- Watch the player intros. I know Coach Gordon said no Stolie this weekend, but given the time change and the quick turnaround and the travel back from Bridgeport I wouldn’t be blown away if we see #41 come screaming out of the tunnel for warm-ups. I wouldn’t bet on it. I think he may need a bit more time. I also peek at that mid-week game in Reading this week as a remote possibility. Muse was super again last night. He’s 9-1, 2.27 GAA, and .928. That’s pretty darn good for the “ECHL Call-Up Guy” and the kind of depth we usually lack compared with Wilkes. If I had to bet money on the starter, I’d go with Tokarski tonight.
- Watch to see if Corban Knight returns. I still say he’s a key player for this team. If he needs the day off to get well after last night, then that’s fine but goodness I hope he’s not more injured than that. As of this writing, I haven’t heard of any reinforcements so I take that as good news.
- Watch Misha Vorobyev. He’s getting better by the day, acclimating to the league and the country and everything. He’s not going to be a big-time finisher, but he showed he can bury one by winning the shootout the other day, and had two key primary assists to start the game last night.
- Watch to see the energy level. These weekends are tough, and with two bus rides under their belt will they come out and use the speed and skill necessary to beat the ugly-hockey brand played by the Devils?
- Watch Nik Aube-Kubel. He might be next to get called up. Also, will he continue the physical play that earned him the suspension? I hope so–elbow notwithstanding.
Surprise! Next weekend has three games, also!
The home games will be Saturday and Sunday next weekend, as the team will start out the 3/3 in Hartford. On Saturday night we’ll get a look at Providence for only the second time this season, as the fellow playoff-bound squad has mostly avoided playing the top two teams here in Pennsylvania. Sunday’s game next week will be earlier–3:o5PM for some reason. It’s the first of the “same time” games this spring, running up against the Steel FC home opener, in a conflict that affects only me. So we’ll look at the weather and see if I want to watch Springfield or soccer. (“mmmmm, tailgating….”)
See you at the arena,
Special thanks to Jack Mitroka for the photos in today’s post. Look for more to come, in addition to many more from Cheryl Pursell.