Photo Courtesy of JustSports Photography
The biggest news out of Lehigh Valley over the past week were some roster changes. Rob Zepp has a lower body injury and missed all three games, although he shouldn’t be out much longer. Martin Ouellette was called up to take his spot. Jason Akeson cleared waivers and was able to get into both weekend games and Mark Alt returned from his lower-body injury and was inserted into the lineup for rookie 7th round pick Jesper Petterson for all three games last week. The move with the most impact was the return of last years scoring leader Jason Akeson (64 points in 70 games).
The waiving of Akeson generated a lot of backlash from angry fans who felt that Akeson was never given a shot—but this move might have been the best thing for Akeson’s trade value. Akeson plays right wing. So does Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, and Matt Read. That’s called a log-jam. Read and Simmonds have experimented playing on their off wing and haven’t had very much success. Playing left wing as a right handed shot is difficult and unless you are used to playing the off-wing (like Voracek and Jagr) it is dramatically different than playing your on-wing. Akeson wasn’t doing anything (0 points in 12 games) in a limited role in the NHL and his trade value was literally non-existent as he cleared waivers. Hopefully he’ll be able to provide some immediate help to the Phantoms and put together a quality AHL campaign. He is a restricted free agent after the season so there’s a chance we could get some compensation if another team puts in an offer for him—although I wouldn’t hold my breath for getting anything higher than a late round pick.
As for last weeks action, the Phantoms had three games, the first was against the Springfield Falcons on Wednesday night at home. There wasn’t too much to be excited about early on as the Falcons, who have the second most points in the AHL, scored the first three goals of the game. It’s always nice to see a push back when your team falls behind but Darroll Powe (3rd of the year) and Taylor Leier’s (5th of the year) third period goals weren’t enough to overcome the Falcons. Anthony Stolarz was decent coming off his first professional shutout, stopping 31 of 34. Taylor Leier and Steven Delisle led the way with 5 shots a piece, Brandon Manning had 4 with an assist.
Friday night the boys traveled to Albany for a date with the Devils. Once again the Phantoms fell behind 3-0 early on with Stolarz getting chased after making only 8 saves on 11 shots. Taylor Leier (6) and Petr Straka (5) were able to add tallies in the second, but the offense went dry again in the third as the Phantoms dropped the weekend opener 4-2. Oullette was good in relief stopping 11 of 12 while (again) Brandon Manning led the team with 5 shots and had another assist. Taylor Leier has picked up the pace after his former linemate, Scott Laughton, was called up to the big club and had 4 shots on goal.
The Phantoms returned to the PPL center, where their record is 5-2-2, on Saturday night for a bout with the Admirals of Norfolk. Austin Fyten netted his second of the year just over a minute into the game with newcomer Jason Akeson picking up his first AHL assist of the year on the play. Norfolk evened the scoring in the second half of the period and added one more to take the lead in the second—then the Phantoms exploded. From 11:25 to 14:22 in the second period the Phantoms scored three goals. Blair Jones’ first two goals of the season were sandwiched around Taylor Leier’s team-leading 7th goal (3 strait games with a goal for Leier) to give the Phantoms a 4-2 lead going into the third. All three goals were assisted by Brandon Manning, who now has a team leading 16 points in 17 games. Blair Jones assisted on Taylor Leier’s goal helping him finish off the Gordie Howe Hat Trick. Norfolk did add one roughly five minutes into the third, but Anthony Stolarz was able to keep everything else out of the net and seal the deal for his second win of the season. He was tested with 38 shots and managed to stop 35 of them taking his numbers to a respectable .919 save percentage and 2.87 GAA.
The Phantoms are off until the weekend when they go three-in-a-row at Scranton, vs. Bridgeport, and at Bridgeport.
Lastly some news on our last two first round picks:
Sam Morin (1G, 1A, in 2 games this week) and Travis Sanheim (2G, 4A, 3 games) were both named to the Canadian World Junior Championship tryout camp. Just being invited to this camp is an honor and I’m sure the Flyers brass is very happy that these guys will be able to audition for roles in the holiday tournament hosted by the Canadians. As of right now I think Morin has a better shot to make it due to him being a year older, I’d say he’s got roughly a 80% chance of winning a spot on the team. Sanehim is a year younger and the Canadians are loaded with talent, as usual, so I’ll say only 25% chance he makes the club— although he’s off to an amazing start this season with 25 points in 27 games (29 in 67 last year).