HOCKEY NIGHT IN ALLENTOWN: “Bear-ly Watchable” 10/13/2021

One last tune-up before the games count for real. Hershey comes to town for a mid-week tilt at the PPL Center.

From March. Photo: Jack Mitroka

Looking Back

Following a mid-week loss up in Wilkes-Barre, the Phantoms opened their home pre-season schedule Friday night at the PPL Center in front of 4,375 faithful. The Penguins took a 3-1 lead in the middle of the second period, but the Phantoms came roaring back behind an electric goal by 18yo rookie Samu Tuomaala and the tying tally and overtime winner both by young rookie Morgan Frost. 20 penalties in the game made it hard to watch at times.

The very next afternoon, they headed for Hershey to face a rested Bears side who did not play Saturday night. Felix Sandstrom stared down the barrel of a 22-1 shot deficit and allowed only three goals on 31 shots over two periods. He then yielded to rookie Samuel Ersson from Sweden, who kept a clean sheet in the third and allowed the Phantoms to climb back into it while still getting out-shot 36-12 in the game. A third period marker by Linus Sandin was what pulled the Phantoms to within one, but they ultimately fell short. Tonight is the rematch.

Trivia Time

If the puck stops half way on the goal line, and half way across the goal line, is it considered a goal?

Photo: Jack Mitroka

Ealry Impressions and Takeaways

Overall: The team looks organized and aggressive behind the coaching of first year bench chief Ian Laperriere. The special teams units look sharp and non-tentative overall. I’m unsure what to make of all the penalties, but as it evened out at the end of the game on Saturday, I can say it was probably overzealous referee play, plus a little aggressiveness on the part of newer players, than a pattern of sloppiness or anything of the sort–but that is something to keep an eye on. Sunday in Hershey, the Bears were the more penalized team, slightly.

G Sam Ersson looks like he might be the real deal. It’s early, of course, but I’m not sure I’m ready to send him to Reading. Reading does have two goalies already, so one of our teams will start the season with three, it seems. Not ideal, but it is a long season and injuries do, unfortunately, happen.

F Max Willman just continues to impress. Since earning himself an NHL deal, he’s just continued to play hard and fast and make things happen. He’s the early favorite in the “Kram’s favorite player” category, so look out jersey bidders.

F Samu Tuomaala looks like he has enough to stick around. There’s enough “compete” with him to make me think the 18yo can hang with the big boys. And you know what they say, “You can’t coach speed.” He can flat-out fly.

The young defenders, guys who played for us last half-season, in games that didn’t really count, Wyatte Wylie and Linus Hogberg, look bigger and more decisive this season compared with several months ago. Maybe it’s because my seats are closer? Nope, they’re better. I was impressed by both on Saturday night. I hope one or both of D Egor Zamula and D Cam York can join soon–pending health and the needs of the Flyers (see below).

I thought Morgan Frost looked fine. Maybe not dominant early in the game, but he made it count at the end when we needed it. Regardless, he’s likely not long for this level–especially as the Flyers plan to open with a short bench as a cap-saving strategy. Enjoy watching him while he’s here.

Veteran blue-liner Adam Clendening looked good on Saturday, and like he’ll help the young talent in that group develop. Ditto Cal O’Reilly and Gerry Mayhew with the forwards.

Another guy who looked bigger was F Tyson Foerster. I’m not sure he was moving around as quickly as I had remembered, either. He’s almost as big as Isaac Ratcliffe. But he’s always someone to watch.

Speaking of big: Tryout blueliner Jackson van de Leest is huge. But a bit tentative here early on. If the Flyers have system-wide contracts available, I think he’s worth a contract and perhaps a start in Reading where he can log plenty of minutes. (I guess not…)

Roster Update

G Felix Sandstrom (#32), F Jackson Cates (#18), D Nick Seeler (#55), LW Garrett Wilson (#49) and D Cam York (#44) are now with the Phantoms.

Sandstrom and Wilson we know well, and York is the first-round pick who was here for a few games last season. Jackson Cates is the brother of Flyers prospect Noah Cates, and also got a cup of coffee here last half-season. Seeler is a 28yo NHL/AHL veteran who did not play last season. Previously he was with the Wild and the Blackhawks.

The Flyers claimed Forward Patrick Brown off waivers from Las Vegas, giving them a little more depth at the NHL level and keeping a little more talent on the Phantoms.

F Charlie Gerard heads to Reading Royals.

Currently on the injured list for the Flyers are a couple more names that might become important to the Phantoms when/if they get healthy–one way or another:

F Wade Allison

F Ryan Fitzgerald

F Tanner Laczynski

D Samuel Morin

F Zayde Wisdom

D Egor Zamula

D Cooper Zech

UPDATE: As expected, some pruning this morning… Ustimenko to Reading as I anticipated. Master to ECHL Maine. Schmeimann to WHL. van de Leest to WHL.

Roster stands at 26:

5 Adam Clendening – D

6 Linus Hogberg – D

8 Mason Millman – D

9 Cal O’Reilly – C

15 Maksim Sushko – RW

16 Matt Strome – F

17 German Rubtsov – C

18 Jackson Cates – C

19 Isaac Ratcliffe – LW

20 Max Willman – F

21 Linus Sandin – RW

22 Logan Day – D

23 Morgan Frost – C

24 Brennan Saulnier – F

25 Connor Bunnaman – C

26 Gerry Mayhew – C

27 Samu Tuomaala – RW

29 Wyatte Wylie – D

40 Ryan MacKinnon – D

42 Hayden Hodgson – RW (Tryout)

44 Cam York – D

49 Garrett Wilson – RW

55 Nick Seeler – D

71 Tyson Foerster – RW

30 Samuel Ersson – G

32 Felix Sandstrom – G

Nice, umm, tackle? Photo: Jack Mitroka


Here’s a copy of the game-day information sent out just prior to Saturday’s game–after press time.

Doors Open @ 6:15 pm*The Show Starts @ 7:05 pm
*= Season Ticket Holders can present their digital Season Ticket Card to gain Early Entry access at6:00 pm at the Air Products Gate or WFMZ-69 Gate
We cannot wait to welcome you to PPL Center for tonight’s game!
Here is some information to “know before you go” for your event tonight:


If you have any issues locating or accessing your tickets for this evening’s game, please review our Mobile Ticketing Guide

  • It is strongly recommended to save your tickets to your Apple iPhone Wallet or Android Google Pay prior to arriving at the arena to make sure you have a seamless entrance into the arena.
  • Please note, masks are recommended inside PPL Center at all times, even for visitors that are fully vaccinated, per CDC guidelines.


  • The QNB Bank box office at PPL Center is currently open on event days only, 1 hour prior to doors opening for the event. We will be happy to assist you with any ticket inquiries or issues! Tonight, the QNB Bank Box Office will open at 5:00 pm

To help ensure your safety, PPL Center asks all guests to comply with the following policies and procedures:
·        Nose and mouth coverings are recommended (but not required) at all times with the exception of while guests are actively eating or drinking.
·        Clear 12″ x 12″ x 6″ bags, clear one-gallon resealable (Ziploc style) bags, or small clutch bags are required to minimize contact and expedite the security screening process.
·        Guests will be able to scan their own tickets upon entering, using new, state-of-the-art ticket pedestals allowing for contactless entry, with Event Staff available to assist as needed.
·        Existing cleaning procedures have been amplified and additional routine sanitizing of all high touch surfaces and areas has been implemented for all events using CDC-recommended disinfectant and electrostatic sprayers.
·        PPL Center features a state-of-the-art HVAC system allowing for double filtration and maximum outside air circulation, and utilizing filters of nearly hospital grade that are highly efficient in removing infectious aerosols and virus particles from the air.
·        Hand sanitizer stations have been placed at each entrance and throughout the arena for guest use at any time.
·        Plexiglass dividers have been installed at all security screening checkpoints, concession stands, merchandise stands, guest services desk, and cashiers.
·        Upgraded point-of-sale systems have been installed at all concession and merchandise stands featuring tap-and-go pay options, Apple Pay and Google Pay, to encourage contactless and cashless transactions where possible.
·        All restrooms are equipped with touchless sinks, toilets, and soap and paper towel dispensers.
·        Smoking and re-entry are prohibited, including previously designated smoking areas. 

Restaurant Week: This is Downtown Allentown Restaurant Week, so look for some food and drink specials at your favorite downtown locations. Not all are participating, so check online first if you’re looking for something in particular.

Participating Restaurants:

  • Allentown Brew Works
  • Batch Microcreamery at the Market
  • Bar 1838
  • Bell Hall
  • Blended by Bru Daddy’s
  • Brü Daddy’s Brewing Co.
  • Frutta Bowls
  • Honmono Sushi
  • La Vida Café
  • Little Miss Korea at the Market
  • Mo’s Eatery
  • Reading Coffee Co
  • Tacos y Tequila
  • Tavola at the Market
  • Zahra at the Market

Referee Michael Zyla (#4)
Referee Mike Dietrich (#15)
Linesman C.J. Murray (#48)
Linesman Tom DellaFranco (#71)

Photo: Jack Mitroka

What To Watch

  • Watch the goalies, as per usual. I think Ersson belongs. Do we see anything else out of Sandstrom or Ustimenko to make us think they need to be in Reading? (Update: Usti to Reading)
  • Watch special teams. All the crazy situations Saturday night, sometimes it was tough to tell. I thought the PK was very good. The power play seemed reasonable, but maybe inconsistent at times. Hopefully both units can get off to a good start this season, under new leadership
  • Hershey’s probably good. And, a little chippy. In fact, this whole division is good, except maybe Hartford. While we might have a good team with a lot of talent and the right mix of veterans and youth–it might not matter. It will be a battle every night.
  • Watch the “compete.” If it’s a battle every night we’re gonna need a tough, and tough-minded–team that doesn’t give up. So far, I think we might have it.
  • I mentioned that I thought Wylie and Hogberg looked improved physically and hockey-wise. Watch to see if Cam York looks similarly more decisive and athletic. Watch to see if Seeler looks like he can help our blue line group.
  • See if German Rubstov can get on the ice. He’s been missing so far this preseason, I think. There could be an injury. Something to monitor.
  • 49 Hayden Hodgson remains the only player on tryout. You’d assume he’d be in the lineup tonight. Let’s see how he looks.
Sandin Scores! Photo: Jack Mitroka


In the days leading up to a home game, I spend hours and hours curating every detail about the Phantoms roster and game-day experience so that you have the finest pre-game primer that you need to enjoy the game. But sometimes–just sometimes–I like to go to the basement, put on a Melvin hat, turn out the lights, and use a few drops of “Visine with Bleach” before I type my column, in a effort to vent my frustrations. And that’s “Hockey-while.” (h/t Stephen Colbert)

Look, it’s been only one game, and I’ve already had enough of the “ref show.” Seriously you cannot tell me all 20 penalties Saturday were 100% legit. Then, they go and miss a serious slew-foot which sent Brennan Saulnier to the room. “Preseason for everyone” and all that, but it’s time for them to clean it up and call an efficient and fair hockey game. We’re not paying to see the refs.

Hockey-while, I think the way the Royals just did it–and the way the IronPigs have always done it for season ticket holders–is the best. Have a ticket pick-up event and give out the tickets or the download instructions as well as the STH gift and any other swag (game schedule, etc) all at once. It really charges the season ticket base for the season and everyone is happy and hopeful. I understand it would have been difficult this season, but moving the gift to November or December cheapens it somehow and places it under a microscope. And people who don’t want the gift or the event can just pick stuff up later if they want. Phantoms need to strongly consider that plan for next season, whether they combine it with a pre-season practice/autograph day or not. Have some cheap or free refreshments available. Make it a thing. Hold it outside on the street and close down Hamilton. See, there’s lots of ideas.

Photo: Jack Mitroka

Up Next

The season gets underway for reals on the weekend: Saturday at 6PM in Wilkes-Barre and Sunday at 3PM in Hershey.

Opening weekend for us starts US National Women vs Canada Friday 10/22, Opening Night Saturday 10/23, and Opening Weekend Continues Sunday 10/24 at 3PM.

See you at the arena,


Trivia Answer: No goal, puck must be completely across the goal line. If any part of the puck is touching the line, no goal.

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

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