Catasauqua Press

Monday, October 23, 2017

Phantoms inching closer to a playoff berth

Thursday, March 30, 2017 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

While a win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday night would have been a giant leap toward the playoffs, the Phantoms at least took another step toward the playoffs with yet another come-from-behind win over Binghamton Sunday night at the PPL Center in Allentown.

Andy Miele was a one-man force as he scored both the game tying and game-winning goals to give Lehigh Valley a 4-3 win in overtime against Bridgeport. The win moved the Phantoms’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to 11 standings points needed to guarantee the team their first Calder Cup Playoff spot since moving to the Lehigh Valley in 2014.

The win was much needed after the team suffered their first shutout of the season the night before, falling to the Penguins 4-0 as they sought to close the gap between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and themselves. Instead, the Pens have pushed the lead back up to five points. Lehigh Valley is currently three points ahead of both Providence and Hershey for second place in the Atlantic Division and pushed the Sound Tigers back to eight points behind them with their win on Sunday.

You can never rest assured when you hold a lead over Lehigh Valley in the third period. Seven times this season – the most in the AHL – the Phantoms have posted third period rallies to win games after trailing. Earlier in the week, Lehigh Valley rallied back from a 4-0 deficit in St. John’s to pick up a 5-4 overtime win and take back-to-back games against the IceCaps.

“Coach said going into the third, ‘we’re getting chances, and it’s only a matter of time until the goalie’s going to break’, and that happened. We have such a skilled team and it shows that we have a lot of character, and when you put those two together, it’s a pretty tough recipe to beat,” said Miele after Sunday’s win.

While Lehigh Valley was definitely disappointed after their loss to the Penguins on Saturday, they didn’t let it carry over to their next game, which is something the team has exhibited all season. The loss to the Penguins also hasn’t deterred the Phantoms from thinking that they can get the top spot in the division and catch their rivals from the north late in the year. The two teams meet three times in their remaining nine games, which certainly gives Lehigh Valley a shot at moving up.

“As long as we keep getting two points, and keep pushing for that first place spot, we’ll be happy,” said Miele. “I know this was a tough loss for them [Bridgeport], because it pushes them a little further out, but they got a point out of it, which is something, because every point matters, and that’s the approach that we’re taking. For us, those two points are so much bigger than just getting out of here with one this weekend.”

Phantoms Facts

No room to sit... It was a huge weekend attendance-wise for Lehigh Valley. Friday night’s game against WBS 8,836 fans crammed into the PPL Center to produce the second largest crowd of the season. The Phantoms followed that up with 8,501 on Sunday against Bridgeport. LV has had 16 capacity crowds this season, and eight of the last 11 home games have been sellouts.

Welcome back... Robert Hagg returned to the lineup Saturday night after he missed 10 games with an injury. The defenseman is in his third season, and is having a good season, with 14 points over 50 games.

Welcome to the fold... The Flyers signed defenseman Mark Friedman to an entry-level contract for the remainder of the season, and have assigned him to Lehigh Valley. The 5’ 10”, 190-pounder out of Bowling Green University.

The Flyers drafted Friedman with the 86th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.