Lehigh Valley Phantoms Update 12/9

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Image courtesy of Amy Irvin (38Photography)

The Phantoms had a very typical AHL week. No games from Monday to Thursday and three games over the weekend with only the middle one being a home game. They started off their weekend festivities with a short trip to Scranton to play the rival Penguins. Rob Zepp was in goal for Lehigh Valley, his first appearance after missing roughly a week due to a lower-body injury, and it was definitely an outing to forget. The Phantoms took five minors in the first two periods and somehow managed to not give up any goals, but it was clear all of the penalty killing wore Lehigh Valley out as they managed to give up 4 even strength goals. Zepp was pulled after 31 minutes and only 17 saves on 21 shots. While Anthony Stolarz was good in relief (11 of 12 saves) the damage was already done as the score ended up being a 5-1 final. Brett Hextall scored our only goal of the night with Austin Fyten and Petr Straka getting assists. The only other news would be three Phantoms received misconducts: Jay Rosehill for abuse of official, Oliver Lauridsen for boarding, and Brandon Manning for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Fortunately for the Phantoms, they didn’t have too much time to think about the beating as they were on the ice roughly 24 hours later in a tilt at home vs. the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Zepp was given the nod again and with a perfect nine save first period it looked as if the rust was shaken off from his injury last night. Brett Hextall opened the scoring just over six minutes into the second period, staying hot with his second goal of the season, but the lead wouldn’t last. Just 30 seconds later the Sound Tigers evened the tilt at ones. Just over a minute after that Darroll Powe netted his fourth of the year from Andrew Gordon and Mark Alt. While they did tighten up the defense after taking the 2-1 lead, the Phantoms couldn’t close the door all the way as Bridgeport tied up the game with a little over five minutes to go in regulation. After a scoreless seven minute overtime this one went to a shootout. Although Jason Akeson started off the dreaded shootout with a goal, that was the only positive event that happened for the hometown Phantoms. Both Bridgeport shooters scored and Blair Jones and Andrew Gordon were denied, capping the 3-2 loss.

The young Anthony Stolarz was in net for the back end of the home-and-home in Bridgeport looking to regain form after going over a week between starts. An early PP goal off a too many men penalty gave Bridgeport the early lead just under four minutes into the game but the Phantoms answered back with the next three. Andrew Gordon on the PP, Darroll Powe, and then Jason Akeson on the PP all helped give the Phantom’s a 3-1 lead. Halfway through the second our old firend Harry Zolnierczyk cut the lead in half for the Sound Tigres, but Brandon Manning answered with another PP goal just five minutes after that to extend the Phantoms lead to 2 on Manning’s sixth goal of the year. The Phantoms ceded one more goal before the second period ended, but Stolarz and the Phantoms were able to turn away all 10 shots in the third to seal the victory. Jason Akeson added an empty netter to put the final nail in the coffin—this capped off a four point night for the new Phantom (2G, 2A), as he’s clearly getting comfortable back in the AHL.

Last week I mentioned that both Samuel Morin and Travis Sanheim both received invites to the Canadian World Junior Championship camp and I gave them an 80% and 25% of making the team, respectively. I didn’t see this at the time, but Craig Button, one of the most respected hockey journalists in Canada came out with his final projection for the Canadian team and had Morin as the top left defender and Sanehim as the third left defender. I try not to take everythign these guys say as fact, but Button is usually in the know (he had Morin pegged to the Flyers at 11 overall the year we took him even as some experts had Morin falling to the late second round) and deserves the benefit of the doubt. I’ll update my projections to 90% for Morin and 55% for Sanheim. Also working in Sanheim’s favor is that he’s playing absolutely amazing hockey for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Here were his stat lines for each of his three games last week: 2 assists +3, 1 assist +3, 3 assists +1 (6 assists, +7 on the week). He’s already passed his point total from last season (29 in 67 games) as he’s already got 31 points in 30 games this season. He is, in my humble opinion, the Flyers top defensive prospect over the likes of Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Hagg.