Photo courtesy of Just Sports Photography
While the Scott Laughton call-up dominated the headlines this past week there was plenty of other activity going on in Lehigh Valley. Blair Jones was sent down to take Laughton’s spot on the first line and given Jones recent AHL history (38 points in 38 games in 2013-14) the Phantoms couldn’t use Laughton’s call up as an excuse to let up offensively.
The Hershey Bears came to Lehigh on Wednesday and the Phantoms offense picked up where they left off scoring two goals within the first seven minutes of the game. Andrew Gordon put in the games first goal from newcomer Blair Jones and Robert Hagg. That goal was followed by one from Brandon Manning, assisted by leading scorer Nick Cousins (4-8-12 in 16 games). The Phantoms surrendered a powerplay goal in the second and an even strength goal early on in the third. That was it for the scoring, until Blair Jones netted the only goal in the shootout to secure the win in his first game with the AHL club. Rob Zepp was good as usual stopping 27 of 29 and all three shots in the shootout. Shayne Gostisbehere’s recent ACL tear might be horrible for his own development, but it opens the door for more minutes for some other young defenders, most notably Robert Hagg. Hagg has been making the most of this opportunity as he poured 8 shots on the Hershey goal, leading the team in shots again (Manning had 6, Taylor Leier and Straka had 5).
While Rob Zepp has had a great start to the season, former second round pick Anthony Stolarz hasn’t had the best start to his first pro season. The rookie started off the year 0-3 and was in need of a big game. Well, he stole the show last Friday night vs. the Worcester Sharks stopping every one of the 36 shots he faced. Taylor Leier and Robert Hagg gave the Phantoms a 2-0 lead in the first (Hagg assisted on Leier’s goal and Blair Jones assisted on both) and Brandon Manning added another (four games in a row with a goal!) just a minute into the second period. The quick 3-0 lead was good enough to chase the Sharks starting goalie after giving up all three goals to only eight saves. Andrew Gordon tacked on the fourth goal in the third, which was pretty uneventful except for the 5-on-3 that was killed off in the waning minutes of the game to preserve Stolarz’ first professional shutout. One good start early on can do wonders for a goalie’s stats as this win brought Stolarz’ save percentage from .909 to .933. Hopefully he can build on his first “W”.
The phantoms didn’t have much time to celebrate the victory as they hosted the St. John’s Ice Caps (Winnipeg’s affiliate) on Saturday night. The Phantoms got on the score sheet about half way through the first period on Petr Straka’s fourth goal of the season. After putting up seven goals in two wins prior to this game the scoring finally dried out in Lehigh Valley as the only other goal in regulation was a power play goal early in the second by the visitors. The rubber stayed out of the net until 3:43 into overtime when the Phantoms ceded the game winner. Rob Zepp was good again, stopping 24 of 26 taking his numbers to 7-3 with a 2.43 GAA and a .921 save percentage. Leier, Manning and Zack Stortini led the way with five shots a piece.
The Phantoms play three games this coming week: Wednesday vs. Springfield, Friday in Albany and Saturday vs. Norfolk.
Keenan Sutherland does a great job with his bi-weekly prospect report so I won’t get in depth with the prospects outside of Lehigh Valley like I did last week, but here are just a few notes on the Flyers two most recent first round picks:
- Samuel Morin made his return from a broken jaw last week and played in two games scoring a game winning goal and tallying two assists. He also had 6 PIMs and 8 shots on goal.
- Travis Sanehim had three games in the past seven days and cashed in with a powerplay goal and three apples.
With the Phantoms going 2-1, Stolarz getting his first win by shutout, Laughton getting the call-up, and Morin and Sanheim combining for 2 goals and 5 assists, I’d say it was a pretty good week for the Flyers farm system.