If sports teams made trades based on the popularity of their players with the fans, Taylor Leier would still be a member of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Instead, as the old saying goes, sports are a business and Taylor Leier is now a member of the Rochester Americans. The 24-year old left winger was dealt to Buffalo for right winger Justin Bailey.
If the Phantoms New Year’s resolution was to come out of the gate hot in 2019, consider their resolution to have been shorter than most of us who resolved to lose weight this year. Since putting new calendars on the wall, Lehigh Valley is 1-5-0-0 and have lost six of seven games. In those games, the Phantoms have been outscored 27-15 and have dropped to a fourth-place tie with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Most players have rolled out the usual excuses – call-ups, injuries, etc. - but can we talk about the elephant in the room?
Consider that you lose your job and have to tell your wife. That’s not fun. Now, consider that you’re going to have to tell your wife that because you lost your job, you have to move from Idaho to Quad City, Illinois for another job.
Then after one day at work, you’re again let go and now have to move 978 miles to Manchester, New Hampshire. Then, just a few weeks later, good news; sort of. You weren’t fired, but you’ve been “transferred” to Reading, Pennsylvania. So, with three pretty substantial moves in three months, how happy is your wife?
Remember in Batman how Commissioner Gordon used to shine that big bat signal in the sky to summon Batman to his office? In this case, it wasn’t a bat signal, it was a Phantoms logo and it wasn’t Commissioner Gordon doing the summoning, it was coach Gordon – Scott Gordon – being alerted to trouble in Philadelphia. And oh dear, Gordon brought his sidekick Carter Hart (too bad his first name isn’t Robin) with him for the trip down the turnpike to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
In the grand scheme of things, Connor Bunnaman’s second goal of the season wasn’t one that will be extremely memorable. His goal put the Phantoms up 1-0 in a game that they would wind up losing 4-2 to the Cleveland Monsters. What “Bunny” did with his goal though was launch an avalanche of stuffed teddy bears and other assorted animals onto the ice as part of the Phantoms annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms spent this past weekend in Canada, and boy, did they have fun.
The Phantoms swept their three-game road trip through Canada with an overtime win in Laval and two regulation wins in Belleville and Toronto. Nicolas Aube-Kubel had an especially good time on the trip, picking up two, game-winning goals.
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.
The Phantoms continued their up-and-down play this season by splitting two road games over the weekend.
On Friday, they beat Providence 5-4 but followed that up with a 3-2 loss to Springfield the following night. After 16 games, the Phantoms are 9-5-1-1, but are 4-3-1-0 over their last eight games. It’s worth noting that four of those games have been against Springfield (9-4-0-2) and Charlotte (13-3-1-0), who are two of the three teams ahead of the Phantoms in the Atlantic Division. They’ve also played two games against Binghamton (8-7-3-0), who are third in the North Division.
The Phantoms offense has been hot early in the season. Hot enough that they are tied for second in the AHL in goals, just two behind the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who lead the league with 57 goals. The Phantoms, Chicago Wolves and Toronto Marlies all have 55 goals on the season following weekend action.
Defensively, Lehigh Valley has allowed 49 goals, ranking 11th in the league for the most goals allowed.
The rivalry is back and as good as ever.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (3-2-0-1) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (4-2-0-0) started the 2018-2019 version of their rivalry at the PPL Center last Friday and then took it north for the second game of the series. The teams split the two games, ironically, with each winning on the other team’s home ice.