Whitehall-Coplay Press

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Gordon, Lyon hope to get back to NHL

Friday, November 30, 2018 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

There’s a close connection between goalie Alex Lyon and Phantoms coach Scott Gordon. The two can relate well to each other because they have gone through much of the same trials as hockey players. Both went undrafted as goalies, Gordon out of Boston University in the 1980s and Lyon out of Yale. Both also experienced some lean times in the minors.

For Gordon, his minor league days included time in the ECHL after being demoted from the Quebec Nordiques AHL team. In fact, Gordon even struggled in the ECHL and came to the realization that he was probably never going to play in the NHL. That awareness changed his entire career when he returned to playing simply for the fun of the game and allowing his passion to take over rather than worrying about every little thing.

One year to the day from when he was sent to the ECHL, Gordon had climbed not only back to the AHL, but was a member of the Quebec Nordiques.

For the second time this season, Lyon was brought to the NHL only to be sent back to Lehigh Valley, playing in just one game – and taking a loss – for the big-league club. He made his NHL debut last season and played in 11 games with a 4-2-1 record and a .905 save percentage.

Lyon arrived back in the Lehigh Valley on Monday when the Flyers again sent him down, and now he’s back to getting what playing time he can as Gordon juggles Lyon, Anthony Stolarz and top goalie prospect Carter Hart.

For his part, Lyon credits Gordon with helping him to be prepared for where his career is at as he looks forward to a point when he goes to the NHL and doesn’t make the return trip on the Northeast Extension.

“Scott Gordon comes to the rink every day and looks to make players better than they were the day before,” Lyon noted earlier this season. “I’ve improved as a player and as a person – sometimes, it’s hard to see – but it’s because of him and the help that he gives to players. He truly cares about his players.”

The fact that Phantoms players have been ready to step into playing time in the NHL could reap rewards for Gordon as he too looks to return to the NHL as a coach. The Flyers dismissed GM Ron Hextall on Monday and the rumor mill has more heads ready to roll, one of which could be Flyers coach Dave Hakstol. If that’s the case, Gordon could be next in line.

The Phantoms coach will tell you that he doesn’t think about those types of things, preferring to simply do the job in front of him, but he does admit it would be nice to have a second shot at coaching in the NHL, after his first stint with the Islanders didn’t go so well.

For now, both Lyon and Gordon are with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and are smart enough to just focus on doing the job ahead of them. At some point though, they both have to be thinking about the day when Gordon may be writing Lyon’s name on an NHL lineup card.

MILESTONES... T.J. Brennan appeared in his 600th career AHL game on Saturday in the Phantoms 6-3 loss to Providence. In those games, Brennan has 154 goals and 290 assists. He’s also a five-time AHL All-Star and has been named the league’s top defenseman twice. Greg Carey notched his 100th career AHL goal Saturday night in his 300th career game as a professional (270 AHL games, 30 ECHL games). 71 of Carey’s goals have come as a member of the Phantoms.

FROM GOOD TO BAD... Lehigh Valley came out on fire Saturday night against last place Providence, scoring two goals in the first 1:07 of the game. From there though, they fell apart and lost 6-3. The team mustered just four third period shots on goal. Gordon was more frustrated by the amount of time that the Phantoms spent in the Bruins defensive zone. As for the shots, he was at least happy that they were quality shots that just didn’t find their mark.

“Kind of the opposite of what we usually do,” noted Cole Bardreau, referring to the normal sluggish starts by the team. “I don’t know what happened there, but the change of momentum ended up killing us.”

PROSPECTS ON DISPLAY... Carter Hart got the better of the battle between goalie prospects in Friday night’s win over Hershey. The Bears feature another top goalie prospect in Ilya Samsonov. Hart’s season has had both good and bad times, including struggling in Providence the week before and then bouncing back the next night and then carrying that over to Friday night’s game.

“I thought his bounce back from Friday night to how well he played Saturday night, making some huge saves was good,” noted Gordon. “He didn’t get the win but I liked his game better than some of his wins, and that carried over into tonight.”