Not talking Nor’easters…
With but 12 games remaining in the 2017-18 AHL regular season, the Phantoms are in first place. However, with 5 of those 12 games versus the Bruins of Providence, we’ll get a preview of what kind of playoff team this version of the Phantoms will be. It’s a perfect storm of a playoff match-up to conclude the season and tune up for the tournament.
Last weekend the Hamilton Street Heroes recovered from a Friday-night loss to Bridgeport by beating the Sound Kittens in their own home and taking care of the pesky Binghamton
Senators Devils on Sunday afternoon.
Last night, the Phantoms began their third 3/3 weekend in as many weeks with a shootout loss in Hartford. John Muse was in net, and goals were scored by Bardreau, Friedman, and Aube-Kubel. The shootout went just the three rounds with the Phantoms failing to tally a marker. Danick Martel, with 2 helpers and a +3 was awarded the third star of the game. The loss brings the season record with the Wolfpack to 0-1-4. Is that right? Crimony, bunch of close games with that crew, and fewer wins than you’d think.
The Phantoms magic number drops to 9 with the extra-time point and a Bridgeport loss last night. We have a 10-point lead over Wilkes while they have four games in their flippers.
Many have pointed out that the first-place Phantoms haven’t had to play but the one game versus third-place Providence yet this season–a 3-2 win on January 24 at PPL Center is the only time they’ve met. However, I’ll also point out that the bears-named-after-a-color haven’t had to deal with the first-place team much, either. Just like these games could be a nice test and warm-up for the Phantoms, they could also be a litmus test for the third place team–contender or pretender, eh?
Player Report and Team Stats
- F Corban Knight missed a couple of games last weekend with a minor injury, but returned to the lineup last night.
- F Mike Vecchione missed last night’s game due to a lingering issue with a body part. He’s day-to-day.
- F Oscar Lindblom and G Alex Lyon remain with Philadelphia, as does D Travis Sanheim. All are eligible for AHL playoffs. F Matt Read is not.
- D Sam Morin remains injured. We’re hoping to get him back next month to get ready for playoffs.
- G Anthony Stolarz started Wednesday night in Reading. While he lost the game, he did look good early to those in attendance. He’ll start for Reading again tonight. It will be interesting to see how they handle things going forward.
- Head Coach Scott Gordon had his contract with the Phantoms extended, so he should be around for a while–lest he get promoted to the Flyers should they make a coaching change, that is. Terms of the contract extension were as vague as his injury reports.
- The Phantoms enter the week as the highest-scoring team in the AHL averaging an impressive 3.54 goals per game. Over the team’s last 16 games (13-2-1), Lehigh Valley has outscored its opposition 67-32. The Phantoms lead all AHL clubs having tallied an impressive 223 total goals this year.
- The Phantoms are 21-6-3-2 at PPL Center this season and have outscored their opposition 121-93 in 32 games in downtown Allentown. What’s more, the Phantoms have now garnered standings points in 13 of their last 14 home games (11-1-2).
- Forward Phil Varone enters the week leading all Phantoms and remains first among all AHL skaters in scoring with 62 total points (19 goals, 43 assists). He tallied five points across three games last weekend and has already established new career highs for both goals (19) and points (62) in a single season.
- Forward Greg Carey enters the week leading all Phantoms and tied for second among all AHLers with 26 goals scored this season. He buried three conversions in three games last weekend and enters the week just two goals shy of the 28 markers he netted a year ago. Carey enters the week having compiled 54 goals across 135 games since coming to Lehigh Valley last season.
- Forward Nic Aube-Kubel is currently third among all Phantoms in scoring with 41 points and fourth on Lehigh Valley’s roster with 17 goals this season. He also enters the week as the team leader with 77 penalty minutes.
- Defenseman T.J. Brennan enters the week as one of just four AHL blueliners to have tallied 40 or more points this season. The five-time All-Star enters the week having notched 12 goals and 28 assists across 51 games this year.
- Lehigh Valley is 37-1-2-1 when scoring three or more goals this season and is 34-5-1-3 when allowing three goals against or fewer.
- Phantoms are 21-6-3-2 at home, which is a nice home ice advantage.
LET’S PLAY THAT HOCKEY
The show gets underway at 7:05PM tonight with the hockey part starting shortly after 7:15PM. It’s a “St Paddy’s Day” game, so look out for plenty of revelry downtown–I know The Hamilton in particular has stuff going on tonight. Be careful out there and don’t drink and drive.
Providence beat Rochester last night at home. Last weekend they lost in Toronto and beat Rochester in OT. Providence’ roster doesn’t scare me too much, but Zane McIntyre is a pretty good netminder, along with the other guy Binnington–and 27 Austin Czarnik is good.
Referee Reid Anderson (#49)
Referee Chris Pontes (#21)
Linesman Tom DellaFranco (#71)
Linesman Jason Mandroc (#17)
MEDIA KIT (Rosters, records, and other stats for tonight)
Five Things To Watch
- Number one is always goalie. With Muse going last night we’ll likely have Tokarski tonight. Both have been solid and I guess I’d give my edge in confidence to Muse. This is the biggest game of the weekend in terms of setting the tone for the 5/12 games left versus Providence. Whomever the goalie is, I hope he’s up to it.
- Watch to see if Vecchione can get back.
- Watch Myers. He’s playing very well and making things happen from the blue line. Who is he paired with tonight? How does he look to you both with and without the puck?
- Watch Vorobyev. He’s also been coming into his own of late. He might not be the guy scoring the goals, but he’s been the guy with the puck before the goal–if you know what I mean.
- Phantoms came out strong last night and could have had more goals early on. When they didn’t, they got out-shot in the second and third periods. How do they start out tonight? How does that translate to the second and third period? Can they draw on the crowd energy? (I’m expecting a raucous crowd tonight with the holiday and all.)
We’re right back here tomorrow at 3PM for a Sunday matinee. The Springfield Thunderbirds will be in town for “wall cling” day for the kiddos.
Next weekend the Phantoms will have back-to-back on Friday and Saturday up in Providence–their first appearance up there this season. We’ll be at the arena for the NCAA games. Watch the blog for some further information including the possible return of der Eishockeyzuschauer. We should be getting the match-ups and game times from the NCAA tomorrow afternoon, and the Phantoms have announced a “Fan Fest” out on Hamilton Street in conjunction with the games. Again, just waiting on times, at this point.
SteelHawks indoor football will kick off their home schedule in PPL Center on Saturday April 21. That’s more than a month away, but you’ll be hearing from your Phantoms ticket rep as they’re in charge of ticket sales for SteelHawks this season. Season tickets are super cheap, but they also have these new ticket mini-plans available so that you can pick the game(s) you want. Remember, tickets from the team are ALWAYS cheaper than buying them from the box office due to the exorbitant fees. It’s a good time and I’d encourage you to check it out.
See you at the arena,
go ahead and say it: kill the bear