It’s been a few weeks since our last Phantoms’ Report so this one is a bit long winded. It’s also my personal first crack at summarizing their play so I get into some personal opinions first. Further down in the article there will also be some quick game summaries. I plan to do some more in-depth reports as I’ll start on a weekly schedule soon, but for now we’ve got a whirlwind review of the past few weeks. Oh, did I mention there are other Prospects quickly talked about at the end of this article as well!? Press on brave reader.
It’s Been An Emotional Roller Coaster All Season in Lehigh Valley
Lehigh Valley have been pretty much the definition of an inconsistent team lately, and their 3 weekend games are a prime example. They were fairly competitive on Thursday despite losing 4-1 on an empty netter to Albany, they were completely crushed by Hershey 6-1 while surrendering goals to 6 different scorers, and then Saturday they have a miraculous 6-2 win in a game where they had 6 different goal scorers of their own versus Wilkes-Barre Scranton. It doesn’t get much more chaotic than that in terms of emotional roller coasters.
Now, I’ll be the first to argue that exciting end-to-end rushing hockey is better than late-90’s New Jersey Devils trap hockey, but you have to draw the line when you start consistently getting outshot and outplayed. When you get outshot regularly, you’re probably being outplayed and if you’re getting outplayed regularly you’re losing games. The Phantoms have been getting outshot about 3 out of every 4 games; 7 of the last 10 for those of you who are counting.
That’s not especially hard to believe when you factor in the Phantoms having 151 more penalty minutes (1133 PIMs total) on the books than their nearest competition for biggest idiots in the AHL (Bridgeport with 982 PIMs). Yes Bridgeport has actually been shorthanded more (which means LV have a ton of misconducts and fighting majors), but that’s not the point I’m making. The point I’m making is that’s a ton of time to be shorthanded, a ton of time to give up a ton of shots, and a ton of opportunities to lose games.
It’s not a recipe for success. That is, unless you’re the 2013-14 Philadelphia Flyers and you can bank on a top-10 Penalty Kill and Powerplay to bail you out of games you’re being outplayed in. Lehigh Valley have a bottom-10 PK and PP.. okay the PK is 19th, you caught me. If we look at the last 10 games as an example we see a worse situation developing. The PK is right where it has been the entire season at 82% (46/56), but the PP has slipped from about 15% to 11% (6/56) as of late. That 4% is a big enough difference compared to yearly averages to drop the Phantoms from having the 23rd best PP to ranking 29th. Ahead of only Charlotte who are converting on just 9.6% of their PPs, yikes.
Have I completely sapped your enthusiasm yet? Well don’t get too down on this team just yet. Despite having a mediocre season they’re hanging on just 5 points out of a playoff spot. Sure they’ve lost 6 of 10, but one of the 4 wins was against Wilkes-Barre Scranton (the team 5 points ahead of them)! They’re winning the important ones! There are still 30 games left in this season so we could still see a hot stretch of play that would push Lehigh Valley into the playoff picture.
Let’s Take a Look at the Last 10 Games
Win (6-1) January 11th vs. St. John’s
Great game here. The Phantoms actually squeaked out a tight 4-2 win (EN goal) the night before against the Ice Caps and they came out and trounced St. John’s in this one with a quick start. They chased Peter Budaj on 3 goals in 10 minutes of the 1st by Gordon, Cousins and Delisle. Scoring party continued through the 2nd with Jones and Lauridsen (his first of the year!) scoring, and Rosehill potted one in the 3rd. 6 different goal scorers. 2 point nights for Lauridsen, Fyten, Leier and Akeson while Cousins had a goal and 2 assists! Stolarz wasn’t tested often; 21/23 saves.
Loss (3-2) January 16th vs. Albany
This was a tough one because LV had a great start outshooting the Devils in the 1st and scoring early in the 2nd to take the lead. Then the wheels fell off the bus and Albany scored on 2 of 3 Powerplays in the last 10 minutes of the 3rd. The last 10 minutes of a close game is when you absolutely can’t take penalties. Minors for Ryan White, Austin ‘why is this guy even on the ice’ Fyten, and Robert Hagg. Nick Cousins continued his strong start to 2015 with another goal and assist, linemate Andrew Gordon had the same. Single assists for Lauridsen who also stayed hot and Adam Comrie who has proven quite capable since his call-up from Reading (7 points in 15 games). Tough loss for Stolarz; 33/36 saves.
Win (5-1) January 17th vs. Binghantom
Just like the game against the Ice Caps, the Sens come out flat and LV let them have it with a Cousins’ goal just 14 seconds in! The foot never leaves the gas in this game as the Phantoms outshoot Binghamton 37-29 and Nick Cousins buries 3 (also adds an assist)! Gordon and Manning pot 2 assists each and goals from Stortini and Rosehill round out the scoring. Back-up Back-up Martin Ouellette turns in a solid effort with 28 of 29 saves.
Loss (5-2) January 18th vs. Hershey
If there’s 1 team Lehigh Valley never seems to beat it’s the Bears. 3 of the last 6 losses have been at the hands of Hershey! The Phantom’s came up against the top Penalty Kill in the league and just couldn’t get anything going as they were 0/8 on the man advantage. Convert on a couple of those chances and you’ve got yourself a game. They were outshot 37-30, but this could have been a different game with a couple PP goals. Andrew Gordon scored to keep up his torrid pace and Oliver Lauridsen continues to learn about the mysteries of the offensive zone as he amazingly scores another goal. In an ongoing storyline this was another tough loss for Stolarz who stopped 32 of 36 shots. This guy has talent. Someone save him.
Loss (7-2) January 21st vs. Hershey
Damn Hershey. Petr Straka gets the party started with an early PP goal, but then.. ugh. Ouellette starts in goal, but only makes it through 14 minutes as the Bears drop 3 on him. The Bears then drop 4 more on Stolarz as they roll to a decisive win. LV give up 3 Powerplay markers in this one, as well as a shorty.. never a good thing. Captain Manning snipes a goal and takes 8 shots, I guess that’s the highlight.
Loss (4-2) January 23rd vs. Syracuse
In a very strange game Syracuse go 0/8 on the PP and Lehigh Valley go 0/4. No special teams goals. Another tough loss here as the Phantoms led 2-1 after a great start against the Eastern Conference leading Crunch. Stolarz stopped 30 of 34 in a good effort, but Vasilevskiy bettered him stopping 30 of 32. Kevin Goumas was finally given a chance to play some minutes and registered 6 shots on goal scoring a goal and assisting on another. Straka scores for the second time in 2 games, and Comrie adds another assist to his totals.
Kevin Goumas is Guarded by Some Sort of Ghoul Playing for Hershey (via Phantomshockey.com)
Win (4-3) January 24th vs. St. John’s
If only the Phantoms played the Ice Caps every night. Andrew Gordon scores again and Goumas turns in another goal and assist playing with Petr Straka who nets the same. LV give up 2 Powerplay goals and 7 opportunities, but escape with the win despite going 0/2 on their own PP. Taylor Leier gets on the board with a goal, and Ouellette has another decent performance stopping 23 of 26.
Hey at this point Brandon Manning went to the All-Star game in Utica. Had an assist. Congrats Cap. East lost 14-12 to the West in case you cared.
Loss (4-1) January 29th vs. Albany
The All-Star break appeared to put Lehigh Valley in a bit of a coma as they came out pretty flat against Albany. The Devils put 3 on the board before the Phantoms had an answer and by then it was too late. The answer came in the form of a Stortini PP marker halfway through the 3rd (assists Manning/Akeson). An empty-netter ended any chance at a comeback, but it was a solid performance from Rob Zepp who stopped 28 of 31.
Loss (6-1) January 30th vs. Hershey
Again!? Christ.. another bad start as the Bears pop 2 in 10 minutes. Leier answered at the 12 minute mark with his 10th goal on the season (Cousins/Akeson with the assists) but then the floodgates opened. Stolarz would give up 2 more in the 2nd, get pulled, and Zepp would give up another 30 seconds later. Plain old horrible.. these guys are apparently unbeatable. Combined 18-5 score in the last 3 losses to Hershey.
Win (6-2) January 31st vs. Wilkes-Barre Scranton
This was a big one to end January. After losing 5 of 6 games in an awful stretch of play this game was kind of an eruption of frustration. They were down 2 halfway through the 1st period and there was finally some push back. It was tied after 1 and emotions boiled over in the 2nd. Derek Mathers and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond fought, they’d fight again in the 3rd and both automatically get ejected. There were 10 misconducts handed out. The most important part is that the Phantoms were the more disciplined group (a rarity) and scored on 2/8 Powerplays while allowing just 1 goal on 5 kills in a free-for-all of a game. Cousins and Leier both had a goal and 2 helpers, Adam Comrie scored to increase his stock further and it was a big night for Jesper Pettersson who tallied his first AHL goal! Rob Zepp was exceptional, especially in the 2nd period where he made 16 of 16 saves (27/29 total).
Others Flyers Prospects in the Professional Ranks
Scott Laughton (2012 – 1st Round)
The Flyers’ Golden Boy prospect is still recovering from the concussion suffered at the hands of Matt Niskanen on the 14th. He’s passed his final baseline test which means he’ll be back in the line-up shortly.
Petr Straka (Free Agent)
Straka had been piling up a few points in the AHL (4 points in 3 games) when he was called up as an injury replacement to the Flyers. He’s been surprisingly effective considering he’d been a disappointment at the AHL level this year (17 points in 39 games). Obviously he’s been lucky as the Flyers have had a 14% shooting percentage so far with Petr on the ice. That’s unsustainable, but it’s great to see a few points go on the board for the young winger. In depth summation of what Straka might produce over here from Matt Bernot!
Oskar Lindblom (2014 – 5th Round)
Scoreless in 5 games means the young Swede has just 1 goal in 9 games since returning from a 4th place finish at the World Juniors. He’s hit a really rough patch after a hot November/December. He now has 10 points in 26 Swedish League games.
Shayne Gostisbehere (2012 – 3rd Round)
Move along. He’ll be back later this year.
Mark Alt (Free Agent)
Still out with a broken hand this is why we’re seeing lots of Adam Comrie (which hasn’t been a bad thing). Rumours of him coming back this weekend.
Valeri Vasiliev (2012 – 7th Round)
Tallied an assist in his last 2 games for Nizhny Novgorod Torpedo. Brings him up to 1 goal and 3 assists in 32 games, a new KHL career high for the 20-year-old! 4 points! Woo! Can he develop into something like an Alexei Emelin? Maybe.
Other Flyers Prospects in College or Junior
Michael Parks (2010 – 5th Round)
A model of consistency (unlike LV) Parks just keeps on going with his point-per-game season. He now has 27 points in 27 games for U North Dakota. They’ve won 3 of 4 since the last update and Parks has 1 goal and 3 assists in those games. He only has 9 goals this year, but surprisingly 4 of them have been game winners! He’s emerged as a real leader on this team and it could be a sign of great things to come as a mid-6 NHL winger.
Michael Parks and Drake Caggiula Celebrate a Goal for UND (via grandforksherald.com)
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
4 points in 5 games has Fazleev back on track. He endured a brutal start to 2015 in terms of point production after a great first half (he was on a point-per-game pace). With 8 points in his last 11 games he’s coming around and he’s up to 39 total points in 50 WHL games. Seeing as he had 25 points in an injury plagued rookie year this season is going a long way in cementing his spot in the Farm system.
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
Speaking of getting back on track, Travis Sanheim now has 15 points in his last 10 games. Yup, safe to say he’s over the disappointment of not making Team Canada. The Hitmen have won 6 straight by a combined score of 40-5.. yes, you read that correctly.. 40 goals for and 5 against. Sanheim has contributed 8 assists in that span as Calgary roll into a stretch drive and head towards the playoffs.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
Val d’Or have righted the ship at least a little bit as they’re 2-2 in their last 4 and strong play from Aube-Kubel is a big part of that. He has 3 goals and 2 assists on 13 shots in those 4 games. His total is sitting at a respectable 53 points in 43 games which ties his career high set last year and is more impressive when you know that the Foreurs have been pretty bad this year at 21-21-3-5.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
The Rockets keep smashing their way through lesser competition in the WHL (5-1 in their last 6 games) and Goulbourne keeps enjoying the ride. He’s had 3 goals and 5 assists in those 6 contests and contributed in a big way in one game in particular. Sure it was a 9-3 blowout of Everett, but he had 2 goals and 3 assists for a 5 point night! He winged Nick Merkley a 2015 top-10 draft threat in that game and reaped the benefits. His 34 points in 43 games rank him just 6th (!) on a stacked Kelowna roster, and he’s closing in on his 37 point career high.
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
2 goals and 8 assists now in 8 games since returning from the World Juniors for big Sam. 19 points in 20 total Q games. The Oceanic have won 3 straight and are going to contend for the crown in the QMJHL, Morin will face a ton of scrutiny once the playoffs start so it’s good to see he has his legs under him. He looked lost at times at the Juniors so it’s nice to see he can contribute offensively at some level. He’s a trigger man for Rimouski as he’s taken 14 shots in the last 4 games, many of which were on the PP.
Mark Friedman (2014 – 3rd Round)
It’s now 10 points in 10 games as Mark Friedman impresses at the NCAA level for Bowling Green. 15 total in 26 games as a rookie defenseman is spectacular so let’s hope he keeps going. He’s slowly been siphoning Powerplay time from the more veteran defensemen on the Falcons’ roster as the season has progressed and he’s fired 8 shots on net in the last 4 games. It’s always tough to judge college kids, especially defensemen and goalies, but it seems like Friedman’s offensive instincts are coming into their own.
Merrick Madsen (2013 – 6th Round)
After Madsen miraculously got into a game for the Crimson I had hoped the coaches at Harvard would be smart enough to give him a start instead of veteran Michalek. No such luck. Michalek has returned to the net and has gone 1-2 with a .893 save percentage. For the love of God sit this guy. He’s now lost 4 of 6. Pray for Merrick.
Marcel Noebels (2011 – 4th Round
Hasn’t played since breaking a finger 3 weeks ago. 14 points in 28 DEL games.
Nick Luukko (2010 – 6th Round)
2 shots, -3 rating, a minor penalty in 3 games. It’s tough to gauge Luukko’s performance when he’s not doing much on the scoresheet. He’s a defensive defenseman and Vermont haven’t been playing collectively good defense lately as they’ve lost 3 in a row. In what I’m sure was an especially nostalgic (he’s spent lots of time here as a kid) and therefore more emotionally bruising experience for Nick, the Catamounts lost to Penn State in Philly in front of 11,000+ fans at Wells Fargo Center.
Reece Willcox (2012 – 5th Round)
Willcox has now missed 3 straight games, and I can’t find a trace of what’s happened on Cornell’s site. Looks like a probable injury as the Big Red usually wouldn’t go without deploying him as a minute-eater. He’s sometimes in the starting line-up so it’s hard to believe they’re holding him out for anything but an injury.
Terrance Amorosa (2013 – 5th Round)
The Clarkson Golden Knights had a pair of big wins 6-0 over Brown and 1-0 over Yale, but Amorosa didn’t even dress. 8 games on the year and 1 assist for the rookie. Better luck getting into the line-up next year Terrance.
David Drake (2013 – 7th Round)
1-1-1 for UConn in the last 3 games and David Drake had an assist. There’s something to be said for a defenseman being invisible on a scoresheet. If you’re not an offensive guy it’s sometimes pretty great if no one notices you; doubly true if you’re playing on a struggling team (8-12-6). Drake has done his best to fly under the radar despite getting more and more responsibility as the year wears on. He now has 1 goal and 4 assists in 22 games, has taken just 3 minors, blocked 30 shots and taken 19 of his own. He’s been steady for a freshman.