“It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s”
– Traditional, thought to be coined originally by Coach Terry Henigan, UC-Irvine, Retired
Jim’s and Joe’s
The Phantoms have been away since the Teddy Bear game on 12/14 (and this column has been away since 12/6) and at one point during that time, the Flyers were fielding a lineup for NHL game play which featured fully 50% Phantoms attackers–players who either started the season in the AHL or have spent significant time here. And, that didn’t include blue-liner Phil Myers.
Every team has injuries, and every team has call-ups, but I feel like it’s gotten the best of the Phantoms recently. Since they’ve been away, let’s review some numbers:
1-3 on most recent 4-game road swing
2-7 in December
3-7 in last 10
3-11-0-2 on the Road for the season
Last Place in the Atlantic Division
29th ranked Power Play in the league
28th ranked Penalty Kill in the league
9-3-1 at home this season, by winning percentage that’s a 3rd-place in the division.
Another thing to note is that the Flyers have continued to play good hockey and win hockey games by plugging in the depth of the system which had accumulated at AHL Lehigh Valley. It has certainly weakened our team, but it shows that the players we’ve lost have been good enough to contribute to a winning effort on the next level.
Plenty of comings and goings since we last met. Here’s a summary to the best of my knowledge:
- Twarynski and Bunnaman are healthy, and playing for the Phantoms
- Kase is back from his injury as well as his NHL debut
- Swavely is still with the Phantoms
- Ratcliffe was a scratch last night, but is believed to be healthy
- TJ Brennan, Cal O’Reilly, and Kyle Criscuolo might be injured
- Nic Aube-Kubel is with the Flyers, and has been playing very well
- Andy Andreoff is with the Flyers [UPDATE: See Below]
- German Rubtsov is back from his injury as well as his NHL debut
- LW Max Willman has joined the team on a PTO, and is wearing #20
- The Goalies have been mostly alternating, and mostly playing well
- D Chris Bigras has returned from his injury
- F Misha Vorobyev remains with Philadelphia, but there could be a roster move as soon as today or tomorrow as the Flyers get healthy–could be him or Andreoff, but I think NAK has played well enough to stay up for now. We’ll see. [UPDATE: Andreoff has gone on waivers; if he clears he’ll be here tomorrow, likely.]
- Gabriel continues to fight. He’s good at it and I love having him around, but he’s half way to the suspension level right now. All things considered it’s probably best for him to just continue to play his game and not worry about it.
Lines From Last Night
19 Carey 25 Bunnaman 49 Laberge
18 Twarynski 21 Fitzgerald 15 Sushko
20 Willman 17 Rubtsov 38 Kaše 8
Strome 11 Swavely 29 Gabriel
5 Wotherspoon 3 Welinski
27 Bigras 39 Prosser
14 Friedman 44 Willcox
34 Alex Lyon
It’s “Calendar Night” and Utica is in town for their only visit of the 2019-2020 season! The Comets are the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, and currently sit in third place in the AHL North.
Food and Drink: If you’re into beers, and lagers in particular, give the Phantoms Brew Line a try at the game tonight. It’s done by BrewWorks and is quite flavorful with plenty of malt.
Referee Mason Riley (#79)
Referee Jim Curtin (#90)
Linesman Michael Magee (#41)
Linesman Richard Jondo (#55)
The Comets have the 4th-ranked power play in the entire league, and the 15th-ranked penalty kill. They’ve been a solid road squad this season, too, which makes this game a challenge for the foundering Phantoms. However, as a strong home club, we should be able to compete.
Five Things To Watch Tonight
- Watch the goalie and defense. I believe it will be Berube tonight as Lyon started last night, and we’re in the middle of a 3/3 with Hershey coming to town tomorrow. I don’t think it’s the blue line and the netminder losing games for us. Nor do I think they’re winning them, most nights. What do you think? How do they look tonight? How do they look killing penalties?
- Gabriel versus #55 LM Jondo. I believe it was 55 who took Gabriel had to the ice following a fight in Hershey recently. Will we spot any bad blood between them? I mean, he can’t fight him, right? Right?!?
- Watch the energy level. From as much as I’ve been able to glean, it feels like we’ve been playing decent hockey on most nights. It’s one thing to have a last-place team, another to give up before the season is even half over. Remember Hershey? Last season at this time we beat them two straight times by a combined score of 13-1. They were in last place, and I had left them for dead. But, they turned it around and made the playoffs. We, didn’t. This thing isn’t over–this team went down to Charlotte last weekend and took a home game from the team that crushed first-place Hartford in two straight the weekend before that. We can play with anyone, but the effort is going to have to be there.
- Watch Kaše and Rubtsov. They were on the same line last night. They are two of my favorite players to watch. They continue to get better every game.
- Watch Sushko and Strome. The “S-brothers” have been quietly playing better and better and it’s starting to show up on the score sheet. Can they contribute tonight?
Week 17 in the NFL is tomorrow and it might be the last chance for me to see my team. This means I’ll likely miss tomorrows hockey game versus Hershey at the PPL Center at 3:05PM. ‘Hockey Night’ will also go on hiatus.
The team heads to Canada next weekend for Laval, Belleville and Toronto in a 3/3. They’ll stop at Utica on the way back (kinda, they’ll probably fly home?) on Friday 1/13 to finish four in a row on the road, before we face two North Division foes on Saturday 1/11 and Sunday 1/12, Laval and Cleveland respectively, at the PPL Center.
Then, we’ll finally get a Wednesday home game on 1/15 versus Syracuse, with Binghamton and Rochester coming in the following weekend to cap five straight home games in January.
Then more road games. Then the All Star Break.
See you at the arena,
Cover Photo by Jack Mitroka.