Get busy with the facts
No zodiacs or almanacs
No maniacs in polyester slacks
Just the facts”
– Rush, Roll The Bones, lyrics by Neil Peart (1952-2020)
Here we are in 2020, the year of the eye doctor as it were, and it’s time to see our way towards winning more hockey games. It didn’t look that way last night in a 5-2 loss up in Utica, NY. I always liked Justin Bailey, but he scored a hattie on us and that’s all they needed. Misha and Bunny added the tallies for the Phantoms, with Lyon in net, pulled after first two goals.
In fact, the Phantoms have lost three of four since the calendar turned, and two of three on their Canadian road trip, part of a six-game losing streak. That’s 1-7 in the last eight, and 2-8 over the last 10. They are tied on points for last place in the division and the entire Eastern Conference.
At home, though, we’re still clinging to a 9-5-1-2 record and with the next five games in a row at the PPL Center, perhaps the vision of wins will be coming back into focus. This is the point last season when Hershey turned things around, so let’s do it!
F Cal O’Reilly and F Kyle Criscuolo have returned from their injuries. F Morgan Frost and F Andy Andreoff have returned from the Flyers. D TJ Brennan has returned from exile. D James de Haas has returned from Reading. F Misha Vorobyev has returned from the Flyers, while F David Kaše has been called up.
Swavely and Strome are currently in Reading. D Mark Friedman is with the Flyers. The Fly guys have been thin on the blue line, hence the Friedman call–not that he didn’t deserve it. Further call-ups seem unlikely at the moment due to the Flyers salary cap situation. However, a long-term IR move or further injury could force things. For the Phantoms, Welinski is nicked up, so we’re not flush with extra defenders either.
In fact, early today, D Eric Knodel was called up from Reading. The West Chester native is on an AHL deal. He’s had four goals and 22 assists for the Royals this season, +15. He’s 6’6″, and a left-handed shot. The University of New Hampshire product has AHL experience with Toronto, San Diego and Rochester. He’ll wear #36.
The Lines last night looked something like this:
12 Andreoff – 23 Frost – 49 Laberge
15 Sushko – 9 O’Reilly – 51 Criscuolo
19 Ratcliffe – 25 Bunnaman – 24 Vorobyev
29 Gabriel – 21 Fitzgerald – 20 Willman
27 Bigras – 39 Prosser
43 Brennan – 44 Willcox
5 Wotherspoon – 2 de Haas
34 Alex Lyon
Exciting hockey lately in Reading, as the Royals sit in third place in the ECHL North, two points behind second place Brampton, and 6 points behind first place Newfoundland. Ustimenko is currently out-playing Sandtröm in net, but both are getting valuable North American professional development time.
Laval is in town for their only visit of the season. They beat us last weekend in Canada, 4-0. Our old friend Phil Varone is on the team, as is former Hershey captain Garrett Mitchell who is on a PTO from Reading. Laval beat Syracuse 7-5 last night, sweeping the home/home. Mitchell did not play.
There is no promotion or theme tonight, as far as I know. But, O Canada!
Remember new parking rules: Pull in, do not back in.
Pre-or post-game, the best places to watch some of the football playoffs, in my opinion:
Referee Alex Ross (#7)
Referee Jordan Deckard (#14)
Linesman Patrick Dapuzzo (#57)
Linesman Jud Ritter (#34)
Five (or more) Things To Watch
- New Ice. It’s the first game on new ice, installed following the motor racing last weekend. Watch for #OskarStrong.
- Watch to see if Gordon goes back to Lyon after the quick hook last night.
- Watch our old friend Varone, and for sure don’t leave him standing by himself near the goal mouth
- Watch to see if Carey gets back in there. He was listed as a “veteran scratch” but has been nursing some bumps and bruises lately, as we all are this time of the season, amirite?
- Twarynski and Welinski are injured. Can Welinski make it back? The whole organization is in need of blue line depth right now. The Knodel call up makes me think not.
- If Garrett Mitchell plays for Laval, how does he look? Could he have helped us on a PTO rather than Laval?
- Gotta watch Frosty, right? I didn’t think we’d see the kid again after he went up and immediately started getting his name on the score sheet. But it’s a tough grind up there, and he’s not the kind of player you want on the fourth line or in the press box. He needs to work on his game and that’s why he’s here. All interviews have been with him having a tremendously positive outlook, and he’s happy to be our lone All Star selection (as long as he’s still here).
- Quietly, Maksim Sushko leads all Phantoms skaters with a +12. He has 5 goals and 6 helpers on the season. Pay attention to his game tonight.
- Watch the new D-man Knodel. Does he have what it takes to stick in the American League this season? We need a guy to move the puck with Friedman out, is he that guy? Will this give us more flexibility with the veteran scratch rules?
A Word About The Team So Far
There’s been some grousing about Coach Gordon, but I think the situation is just bad. The veteran backbone of the team is mostly new. Add in a mostly new prospect group and he’s teaching his systems to a whole new group. The injuries and call-ups haven’t helped, and while every team has them, not every group is as new as this one–and perhaps not as many as the 11 Phantoms who have started a game for the Flyers this season–and that doesn’t include any goalies. Perhaps the whole Gordon “systems” are needlessly complicated and sometimes I think overly-aggressive considering the group he’s working with. But that’s the way it is. Hopefully our group can settle in and string together some games–including the road variety.
Today is the first of five straight games at home, for a team who plays better at home. If the Flyers can leave our roster alone hopefully we can string together some wins and gather some points.
Tomorrow Cleveland will be in town for a 3:05 matinee start. It’s Star Wars night, and in case I don’t get to the preview (I probably won’t, unfortunately), please be careful about your costume choices and weapon-like props as security can be cranky about that sort of thing.
Wednesday night we host Syracuse for a mid-week affair. And, next weekend is “Racing Weekend” with Binghampton and Rochester coming in on Friday and Saturday respectively giving this home-stand a particular “North Division” feel to it.
After next weekend, the team will be in New England for a couple games before the All Star Game in California.
See you at the arena,
Cover image by Jack Mitroka.
Lyrics and quotes are always used for educational purposes.