All meLVin’s mascot friends are in town, so how can I not get the “Hockey Night” column out of hiatus for a quick preview? Let’s Go Phantoms!
Where We Are
The Phantoms are 17-18-6-3 overall, good enough for seventh place in the AHL Atlantic, and pct-tied with Wilkes-Barre for sixth place. A reminder: six teams will make the playoffs from the Atlantic. So, let’s just hope we can grab that sixth spot, get murdered by Providence in the first round, and then not get any playoff money returned to us. /s
The Phantoms are playing about .500 hockey lately, after starting dreadfully slow this season, and then going on a tear for a short time. Indeed, they’re 5-4-0-1 in the last 10.
I’ll make some observations in a minute, but the power play is still kinda weak, 28th in the league. Meanwhile, the PK is sixth in the entire league.
What I’ve Observed
Since the start of 2022–and even going back to the end of November–the team seems to be finding it’s identity and meshing with what coach Laperriere wants them to do. I think they’ve looked really good moving the puck, breaking out of the zone, transition in the neutral zone, and even holding the offensive zone most times. What they haven’t been able to do reliably, on a night-to-night basis, is put themselves in a position to score goals. They have a tough time getting to the dangerous areas, and then a tough time finishing when they do get there. Perhaps it’s as simple as having someone who can finish (Tanner Laczynnski returned last night, Ryan Fitzgerald should hopefully return soon). Anyway, I’ve enjoyed watching the hockey and I haven’t stopped going to the games despite the lack of pre-game columns lately.
So who’s on the team, anyway?
Yeah, that’s one of the problems. Getting roster and injury information out of this team is extremely difficult. Absolutely everything runs through Philadelphia these days. The Philly beats mostly don’t care about the Phantoms unless they feel like they can get some clicks from it. Then there was the taxi squad and the Olympics. The NHL trade deadline isn’t until March 21–super late this season–so we likely won’t see things settle down until after that. I’ll try to do better, also. Click on the media kit below to see info for today, and the transactions tab on theAHL.com to check for late changes.
What else is new?
Well, the Farr Lot is closed, if you haven’t already seen. The DaVinci Science Center will move there eventually. But for now it’s just blocked off entirely. If they’re not actively working, why couldn’t they leave a 3-foot path for pedestrians to get to/from the Spiral? Somebody’s gonna break an ankle in there.
I’ve been missing The Hamilton and 99 Bottles as pre-game choices. No word on when 99 Bottles or “Sports and Social” or whatever it’s called, will re-open. I heard The Dime is back to mostly normal, but I haven’t been.
The arena itself has been back to mostly normal as well, and the crowds are returning. Concessions are open and there are no ushers to be found–even at center ice. Just like we’re used to. Expect a nice crowd and plenty kiddos today for meLVin’s birthday.
Plenty of good seats are still available for today’s game–including some nice family package specials for meLVin’s birthday.
The loss of the Farr Lot makes parking more complicated, but it’s still been readily available. You must pay in advance to park in the arena/orange lot attached to the facility. In all other parking areas, you must park head-in to comply with plate scanners and other Parking Authority 1984 surveillance. I’m not sure if they’re checking street parking on Sundays or not, these days. If so, the ParkMobile App is the way to go, I understand.
Doors at 2:15PM for the public, 2:00PM for Season Ticket Members. Puck likely won’t drop until 3:17PM or so.
Springfield is in town. They just got reinforcements from St. Louis so keep your eye out for defenceman #15 Scott Perunovich who has 21 points in 13 games played at the AHL level this season. Springfield is in first place in the Atlantic, but doesn’t have near the points of that Utica team we hung with last night–plus Springfield has had an easier schedule.
Referee Peter Schlittenhardt (#12)
Referee Sam Bernier (#81)
Linesperson Dan Kelly (#98)
Linesperson Nick Briganti (#58)
What To Watch
- Watch out for mascots everywhere–and lines of folks clamoring for pictures.
- Remember, there will likely be a mascot hockey game at one of the intermissions. Those are always fun.
- Sandstrom got injured last night and left the game. Rumor is, groin. Will Ustimenko come back on short rest? Ersson’s still injured? Nagle still with Team USA? So, Metcalf?
- Special Teams: Springfield has a good PP, but our PK is good as well. Our PP is dreadful, but their PK is worse? Both pretty even matchups and could be where this game gets decided.
- Team response: Last week the Sunday turnaround was a good one for us. Can we respond today after a tough-fought shoot-out loss last night?
Phantoms are in Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday, then two in Cleveland next weekend. They’ll return for a mid-week tilt versus the Bruins on Wednesday, March 2–unless it gets moved for a concert or something.
See you at the arena,
PS: I’ve been off my game with these previews, it’s true. But Jack has been gathering the images you see above, the whole time. Thanks to him for the never-wavering hard work.