If you think your weekends are busy, consider the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
This past weekend, they wrapped up the middle portion of three-straight, three-game weekends on their schedule. While it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Phantoms will be playing playoff hockey this spring, nothing is official just yet. With 13 games left to play in the regular season, the Phantoms have dropped their magic number down to 12 after a productive weekend.
Imagine if you will this scenario.
Before the AHL season begins, you scour the Phantoms schedule and pick out a game to see against their rival, the Hershey Bears. It’s an early March game, so you figure the weather isn’t likely to be too bad and it could be a big game for both teams. As the season goes on, you notice that the Bears aren’t very good and the Phantoms are kicking their butts in head-to-head meetings. No problem, because you figure at least you’ll see a Phantoms win.
You’ve heard of trickle-down economics.
On Monday, it was trickle-down transactions for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The day brought with it the NHL trading deadline, which also brings the rule that states any player on the NHL roster when the deadline passes is not eligible to be returned to the AHL for the rest of the season. That put all eyes squarely on Flyers GM Ron Hextall to see just what he was going to do in an effort to improve the NHL team and how any moves would affect the Phantoms.
First, goalie Brian Elliott went on the injured list for the Flyers.
Then, on Saturday, Michal Neuvirth went down with an injury leaving the Flyers scrambling in goal.
Former Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon, who was replacing Elliott on the Flyers roster, played the rest of Saturday’s game with no backup. While there’s no good time for an injury, the fact that GM Ron Hextall still had a few days before the NHL trade deadline hit was somewhat of a silver lining.
As much fun as rivalries are, for them to be at their best, both teams have to be competitive. Unfortunately, the Hershey Bears haven’t upheld their end of that deal against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. On Friday night, Lehigh Valley downed Hershey 5-1 to give themselves a perfect 5-0 mark against their Chocolatetown rivals. They also took their scoring advantage over Hershey to 26-10. The Bears have struggled against everybody this season, leaving them last in the Atlantic Division with a 19-25-3-4 record and just 45 points on the season.
You know that Monday morning feeling when you head into work and it takes you a while to get going? Especially if you had a few extra days off. The Phantoms had that look to them Friday night when they returned from the All-Star Break to face the Charlotte Checkers at the PPL Center. To be honest, both teams had that look as the game started off with a myriad of missed passes and turnovers. The Checkers even got a penalty for too many men on the ice in the opening minutes of the game.
You can learn a lot watching YouTube. Heck, even some professionals use the video system to learn new things. Oskar Lindblom did just that to pick up a trick that he used in the shootout portion of the AHL Skills Competition to score a goal.
Years ago, the great John Facenda, the voice of NFL Films, used his legendary voice to refer to “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field,” as he talked about the Green Bay Packers and their historic field. It wasn’t quite that dramatic, but the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears took to the ‘frozen tundra of Hersheypark Stadium’ recently, with Lehigh Valley skating to a 5-2 win over Hershey.
The Phantoms reached the halfway point of their season with what Phil Varone called an “embarrassing” performance in a 6-2 loss to Springfield Saturday night. Lehigh Valley came out with a good first period, but that was about all it was able to put together as the Thunderbirds scored four unanswered goals to waltz out of the PPL Center with a win.
Varone scored his 100th career AHL goal in the game, but was more focused on the weak effort that the team put on the ice.
When you talk about the best players on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season, there isn’t much debate. Defenseman T.J. Brennan and winger Danick Martel would be the consensus best of the best for Lehigh Valley. Both were recognized by the AHL when they were named to the Atlantic Division All-Star Team. This year’s AHL All-Star Classic will be played in Utica on Jan. 29, with the skills competition taking place the day before the game.