Phantoms Lose 3-0: Four Things

Photo: Jack Mitroka

The Phantoms took the ice for real in their first action of the 2019-2020 season, and didn’t exactly make my pregame roster love-fest and season prediction look good (read it HERE).  The 3-0 loss to Providence was at times sloppy, at times uninspired.  They didn’t deserve to win, and there’s no need to sugar coat that.  But I do have a couple observations from my notebook from last night:

1. Waste of a Good Crowd

I know folks were hand-wringing over the empty seats, but the Morning Call Club area is going to be that way due to the nature of the contract you have to sign to get in there, and the fact that the seat licence gets you access to the concerts.  Companies pay for those season tickets, but don’t always have the intention to use them every game.  Or, folks stay up top in the club to eat and drink and hang out rather than sit in the seats.  And that’s fine.  If you want hockey atmosphere I’d recommend the regular sections.

But I digress.  The point is, that I thought the crowd held a certain amount of electricity, which was just waiting for something to ignite it.  No goals and no fights (more about that below) kinda kept people in their seats.  It’s too bad, I felt like the crowd could have played a role in the game–home ice advantage and all that–had we had the chance.

Some of that is probably the new team coming together as well.  As we get to know them, and they get to know us–and each other–they’ll sense stuff like that and it can be a more symbiotic relationship.  I think.  That’s my read on it.  Or, maybe just score a goal once in a while.

2.  Flashes

There were some flashes.  Guys who made you kind of say, “Who WAS that?!?”  Here are a couple who flashed into my consciousness:

  • Nic Aube-Kubel had moments where it seemed like he might be able to put his imprint on the game.  It didn’t happen, but it flashed into my sight.
  • Matthew Strome, a fourth rounder from 2017, ate a guys lunch.  Then he stepped over him and took the puck, and quickly moved down the ice, on-net.  Nothing came of it, but Strome is a guy who perhaps gets over-shadowed by the higher profile Frost, Farabee, and Ratcliffe.  But size is something you can’t teach, and his 6’4″ frame was noticeable and in this case he moved plenty quickly.  We’re not a big team, so having a big winger out there–in addition to Gabriel–can be useful.  I know he’s had a few games with us in the past, but he looked better last night.  Skating has been his bugaboo, so we’ll keep an eye on that.  He looked good on that particular play.
  • I put out the #FrostWarning last night, looking for young Morgan Frost to make his Phantoms debut and get on the score sheet.  The Phantoms stole my hashtag, and Frost wasn’t visible for much of the night.  Then it happened.  He was in the difficult area, along his own boards near the corner, and corralled the puck, put quick moves on two different guys, and sped up the ice.  He wasn’t able to finish the play, but it would have been a highlight reel end-to-end.  He flashed it.  I’m looking forward to seeing more plays like that in the near future.

3. Too Much Dancing

I’m kind of fighting-agnostic.  I don’t go to hockey to see fights and in most cases they don’t particularly interest me.  But, I don’t wring my hands about them, either.  I do think it might be dangerous to completely out-law them at the highest levels.  Dirty plays can get guys hurt, and that’s the last thing I want.  If you can settle it on the ice, then sometimes it’s necessary.  Heck, even Sydney Crosby had a fight last night.

But with the strict legislation of the fighting, what we’re now seeing is a lot of dancing.  Everybody grabs up and chirps, some face-washing maybe, and then nothing comes of it.  Or, off-setting roughing minors.  I don’t find it much fun to watch.  Nobody wants to have that fight on their record this early in the season?  I get it.  That doesn’t mean I like it.

In this case, there might have been an opportunity to get the electricity in the building released (see above), but I’m not out there, so I’m not going to point to any particular play or player.  Just something from my notebook from last night.

4. Not a Referendum on Gordon

I saw calls for Gordon’s head, between periods last night.  Golly, that’s quick.  I’ve been very critical of him in the past for a variety of reasons, but I do think he knows how to win in the AHL.  Early on, I was skeptical of the “systems.”  We always heard early in the season that the new players had to learn the “systems.”  Fine, but how come other teams just plug in new players and immediately play well?  Are the players that much better?

Two years ago when we won the division, we saw that he was able to have his team play a certain way and that he was able to design play to counter what other teams do on a game-to-game basis.  Last season we saw what happened when things started to go sideways after Gordon was called up–we couldn’t correct it and get back on the rails.  Gordon’s performance in Philadelphia also has to be seen through the prism of the organizational upheaval and their relative talent-level at the NHL level.  I, for one, am glad he’s back.

But that brings us back to “systems.”  They’ve got this whole week to get ready for division rivals Wilkes-Barre and Hershey.  Farabee, Lyon and Myers will be back from Prague.  They’ve got to get the lines set and get in a rhythm.  They might want to put the “umbrella” power play on hold until everyone’s comfortable keeping the puck in the zone rather than watching TJ chasing pucks back to the other end of the ice.  They need to continue to play with pace, but with more precision.  We have the talent to do it, and for now, I’m glad Gordon is here to guide them.  And if he throws a puck at your head during practice, that means you have to shut up and play better.

Game Report

Here’s the info-graphic and the official media report for the game.  I thought Rubtsov played well, but you know how I am about three stars–lose 0-3 and we don’t really deserve one.  At all.  Not even for the home opener.

PPL Center Hits Sell Out for Sixth Consecutive Home Opener
Phantoms Fall in Opener to Providence
October 5, 2019
Lehigh Valley, Pa. –  The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (0-1-0-0) saw goalie J-F Berube save 21 of 24 shots, but fell to the Providence Bruins (1-0-0-0) on Saturday evening by a final score of 3-0 in front out of a sold out PPL Center crowd. The Phantoms fans have now helped sell out all six home openers in Lehigh Valley.


The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Providence Bruins kicked off their 2019-20 seasons on Saturday night at the PPL Center. The Phantoms played a strong first period defensively, keeping the Bruins to just six shots while also bringing some physicality to the ice.
While the Phantoms did play strong defensively in the first, the Bruins were able to strike first on Saturday night when forward Anders Bjork fired a one-timer past Phantoms goaltender J-F Berube following a faceoff win by the Bruins. The Phantoms would answer back with intensity including a big hit from first-year Phantoms forward Matthew Strome and a tremendous scoring opportunity from fellow first-year Phantom Morgan Frost, who shot the puck between his legs but into the leg pad of the Bruins netminder.
The Phantoms would get a power play opportunity late in the first period and were able to get a few solid opportunities at the net but Lagace was able to keep the Phantoms scoreless in the first period, stopping all 12 Lehigh Valley shots.
Both teams would remain aggressive in the second period that saw the Phantoms add an additional nine shots to their total, giving them 21 through the first two periods. Lagace, however, would remain perfect through two periods of playing, stopping every shot the Phantoms threw at him.


In the third period, a power play midway through the period gave the Phantoms several opportunities to tie the game but were unable to do so as Lagace was able to keep the puck out of the net. The Bruins made it a two-goal lead with 7:50 remaining in the period, when forward Brendan Guance put one past Berube on a one-timer from the top of the right circle capitalizing on a power play opportunities for the Bruins. A few minutes later forward Paul Carey added to the Bruins lead, giving them a 3-0 lead with five minutes remaining in the third period. The Phantoms would make a push for a goal in the games final minutes but were unable to do so, as Lagace stayed perfect on the evening, stopping all of the Phantoms 28 shots.


3 Stars:
1 – Max Lagace (28 saves on 28 shots)
2 – Anders Bjork (1 G, 1 A)
3 – German Rubstov (6 shots)




1st Period:
PRO: (13:28) Andjers Bjork (1) (Lantosi, Boril)


2nd Period:


3rd Period:
PRO: (12:10) Brendan Gaunce (1) (Didier, Bjork)
PRO: (14:59) Paul Carey (1) (Steen)


NEXT TIME OUT: The Phantoms will hit the ice once again next weekend for a pair of home games against Pennsylvania rivals, starting Friday Night against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and concluding Saturday against the Hershey Bears.

Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey

5 replies

  1. Calls for Gordon to be removed? Undoubtedly the same hockey experts who yell “SHOOT” when there are two opposing players between the PP point man and the goal.

  2. Well, at least the Phantoms front office people can be pleased with the shutout loss because, empty seats or otherwise, the official attendance for the 2019/20 AHL season opener checked in at 8,453 and that figure qualifies as what the team always love to loudly tout as the “standing room only sellout”. As a matter of fact, all six of Hamilton Street Heroes’ AHL season-openers have now qualified as “standing room only sellouts” if my understanding of the threshold (attendance higher than 8,420) is correct. Obviously, it is the good hockey people of the Lehigh Valley who are responsible for this respectable streak of six straight season-opening sellouts :

    8,453 vs Providence in 2019 … (Phantoms lose 0-3)
    8,707 vs Brideport in 2018 … (Phantoms win 6-3)
    8,648 vs Hershey in 2017 … (Phantoms win 7-2)
    8,505 vs Springfield in 2016 … (Phantoms win 4-2)
    8,425 vs Syracuse in 2015 … (Phantoms lose 3-4)
    8,647 vs Adirondack in 2014 … (Phantoms win ot 4-3)

    With all respect due Al Morganti and others, the proverbial question of “Where have you gone, Danick Martel?” is about right. To review, the historic season-opener at PPL Center-loving Martel had one goal against Syracuse in 2015, two goals against Springfield in 2016 and a hat trick against Hershey in 2017. Sure enough, diminutive Danick also found the back of the net for the Syracuse Crunch during their 2019/20 AHL season-opener this past Friday night.

    So, speaking of history, there have now been six different starting goaltenders for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their six AHL season-openers played at the PPL Center in Allentown : Rob Zepp, Jason LaBarbera, Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon, Carter Hart and Jean-Francois Berube.

    While I’m not quite sure if getting blanked on home ice in the season-opener is not some sort of super bad omen for the Phantoms’ entire AHL campaign, in sharp contrast, I am wondering whether or not the rehabilitated Russian German Rubtsov generating six shots on goal in one game is to be seen as truly prophetic.


  1. Hockey Night in Allentown: “Too Much Time On My Hands” 10/11/2019

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