News and Notes Before We Get Back To Some Home Hockey Games, Finally
It’s been an excruciating October, here in the fifth season of hockey in downtown Allentown.
Is it because of the Phantoms record?
No, indeed the 5-3-0-1 record is about where they probably should be at this juncture.
It’s because the Phantoms have had only 3 home games during October, to begin the season. As we turn the calendar to November, we’ll get to welcome six home games out of ten total games during the penultimate month of the calendar year.
And, while I’d expect that will help the team get into a rhythm and get the fans juices flowing, the fact of the matter is that the team has been really good on the road, registering a 4-1-0-1 record, ranked sixth in the entire AHL. In addition, the Power Play, which is ranked 12th overall in the league, is 11th overall on the road. The Penalty Kill, still gaining acceptance at 29th overall, functions as the 8th best unit in the league as a road squad.
Roster Notes and Whispers
The big news last weekend, of course, was that Nic Aube-Kubel and Tyrell Goulbourne were called up to the Flyers. It was a first for NAK, as he made his NHL debut Tuesday night in a Flyers victory. As I wrote at the time, I feel like it was the right move for the struggling Flyers, as far as the things they could do right now. The coach was looking–begging–for someone to add a spark, and the exuberant Aube-Kubel and the physical Goulbourne as just the guys who can do that. We’ll see how much playing time they get, and what their roles are on the ice, as the Flyers’ western road swing continues. Indeed NAK didn’t get that much ice time during his debut–although he made a couple nice passes and represented himself well–and Goulbourne watched from the press box.
One or both of those young men may return to the Phantoms in the near future, but with the news that forward Corban Knight will be sidelined for four months or so, there will be a need at forward for the Flyers. Young center Misha Vorobyev returned to the Phantoms as his former teammates were promoted. He’ll be tasked with logging extensive ice time and working on the things the NHL staff has identified for him. Indeed, he had lost the confidence of the Flyers coaches, and it was costing him serious playing time which he needs in order to improve his game.
Like the Phantoms, the Flyers continue to carry three goalies. Pickard seems to be the odd man out at this juncture, although waiting for the 30-days to expire for an AHL assignment seems a bit silly given the goalie infestation present at the American League affiliate. So, we’ll await a move there–be it a loan or a trade or what have you. With two extra forwards and one extra blue-liner, the Flyers are in decent shape to carry the third goalie for now.
Other player notes:
I’m hearing the periodic rest for F David Kaše is due to organizational concerns about his past injuries and the desire to get him strength training with the requisite rest, all during the season. It’s not due to his play on the ice. He’s done well and I’d expect to see his role expand as the season goes along.
LW Carsen Twarynski, seems to me to be struggling a little bit. He has the organization concerned mostly about consistency at this juncture. However things shake out with the lines, perhaps we’ll see him staying put with the same line-mates over the next stretch to try to help him. A Twarynski/Vorobyev pairing? Stay tuned.
RHD Philip Myers has the bar set really high for him. Despite his strong showing on the score sheet in this young season, the Flyers want to see him driving play even more, seeing the ice, and using his teammates. Once he starts doing that, expect him to take a spot in South Philadelphia rather than at 7th and Hamilton.
Lackluster Hershey Showing
The Phantoms suffered their first road loss of the season in the 1-3 showing in Hershey on Sunday afternoon. Alex Lyon was backed up by Anthony Stolarz in the net. According to many with eyes on this game–including players and coaches–it was the worst Phantoms effort of the season, even eclipsing the 0-7 drubbing at home to Springfield, where 5 goals were scored versus our PK.
It was the fifth road game in nine days, on a quick turnaround with a roster shuffle thrown in. So, we’ll file that one away and get back to business on Friday.
Lines and Thoughts
Given the roster shuffle prior to Sunday’s game, I won’t go into the lines over the first four games of the road trip. Sunday, we saw the first change in the top line, as RW Aube-Kubel needed to be replaced. On Sunday anyway, it was Cole Bardreau who got the honor of playing alongside the veterans Carey and Varone. Here’s what it looked like:
10 Carey 26 Varone 9 Bardreau
25 Bunnaman 21 Vecchione 22 Conner
24 Twarynski 15 Vorobyev 19 Fazleev
38 Kaše 17 Rubtsov 13 McDonald
43 Brennan 6 Samuelsson
7 Palmquist 5 Myers
2 de Haas 37 Friedman
Notes: Twarynski hasn’t been playing great lately, so the upstart Bunnaman gets his shot on the Vecchione line, and ended up scoring our only goal on the day, his first of the season with the Phantoms. Vorobyev returns for ice time and centers Carsen along with Radel Fazleev, while Taylor Leier was a scratch. And, we see the return of the former third line of Kaše-Rubstov-McDonald.
Along the blue line, the veteran pairing of Brennan and Samuelsson returns, as the prospects Myers and Friedman are in their natural spots as well. deHaas has seen his playing time reduced but returned to gather an assist in this game with Willcox sitting, and has been putting up some really good numbers according to the advanced-stats guys.
I’m not sure of the significance going forward: As the effort was poor on Sunday, it could be a matter of the scheduling and you’ll see a similar lineup tomorrow in Binghamton. Or, you could see a complete re-working in some manner. Expect Taylor Leier–perhaps somewhat snubbed by the recent call-ups, to be back on the left wing with a vengeance this weekend–perhaps on the Vecchione line. Without a ton of natural right wings, you should expect to see guys like center Fazleev, and all-purpose forward Bardreau get looks there. Young buck Kaše took a turn there recently as well.
The following is hockey information from the Phantoms Media department’s weekly report:
Bunny’s Big Night
Rookie forward Connor Bunnaman potted his first professional goal in Sunday afternoon’s game against the Hershey Bears. The 20-year old tallied his first pro point on October 20 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and, with that, now has two points (1G-1A) in five games this season.
Phil the Thrill
As of Sunday, Phil Varone is currently riding a seven-game point streak – dating back to October 13 – in which he has tallied two goals and 10 assists for 12 points. The reigning league MVP is also tied for third in the league for longest point streak during the 2018-19 season.
Carter is Smarter
Goaltender Carter Hart notched his second win as a professional in Saturday night’s 5-2 win over the Binghamton Devils, making 29 saves on 31 shots which included some highlight-reel stops.
Phantoms by the Numbers:
- 1: Sunday night’s 3-1 loss to the Hershey Bears was only the second time all season that the Phantoms have been held to a single goal or less
- 6: The Lehigh Valley Phantoms strung together six straight games with at least one power-play goal between October 13 and October 27
- 14: Phil Varone is currently tied for second in the league with 14 points on the season
16: Nic Aube-Kubel is set to make his NHL debut with the Flyers after getting the first call up of his professional career on Sunday
- 152: T.J. Brennan netted his 152nd career goal in the AHL on Saturday and is now just 15 goals away from breaking the all-time record for goals by an AHL defenseman
- 200: Chris Conner played his 200th game as a member of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Saturday night in Binghamton, the first player ever to do so
Calendar and Programming Notes
The Phantoms have been getting some much-needed rest this week before they head on up the ‘pike to face off against the Binghamton Devils again tomorrow night. They’ll complete the home/home at the PPL Center for “Go Green Tailgate” game on Saturday, as we finally get back to hockey at the PPL Center.
That game will kick off four in a row at home for the orange and black, with two next weekend versus Springfield and Charlotte–two of the top teams in the AHL Atlantic this season. The following Wednesday we’ll get our first home mid-week tilt in a rematch with Charlotte in the middle of their six-game swing through the northeast.
On the blog, a special feature may appear tomorrow afternoon if everything goes right. “Hockey Night” may or may not appear in some form Saturday morning, as my status for the game Saturday night is currently unknown. You’ll almost certainly get a Notebook next week in advance of the two big games next weekend, as well as the corresponding Hockey Night setups.
See you at the arena, eventually,