Catasauqua Press

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Phantoms get strong PK

Friday, December 15, 2017 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

Killing off penalties is one of the best things a team can do to help themselves. It’s tough enough to play at even strength, but when short, especially in tight games, that’s where you need the penalty killing unit to step up and make big plays.

On Saturday night in Hershey, the Bears were able to break through with a power-play goal against the Phantoms, capitalizing on a penalty by Danick Martel. That goal snapped a streak of 24 straight penalty kills for Lehigh Valley.

The streak covered six games, each one of the games on the recent season-long homestand for the Phantoms. The streak was a blessing, because Lehigh Valley hadn’t done a very effective job of killing penalties until they returned home ten days ago.

“Part of the problem has been having to shift players in and out because of the roster turnover that we’ve had,” pointed out coach Scott Gordon. “I think guys are just looking at what they can do in different situations to help the team and we’ve been able to have some guys get used to playing in different situations for us and we’ve gotten some consistency to our penalty kills.”

On the season, LV has killed just over 80-percent of their penalties, which ranks them 22nd in the AHL this season. They’ve also scored four short-handed goals, which ranks them fourth in the league in that category. The latest came last Friday against the Penguins when Tyrell Goulbourne stole a puck in the defensive zone and raced past a defender to beat goalie Anthony Peters with a strong shot into the upper corner of the net.

“We’ve been playing well together and we got good pressure on them [Wilkes-Barre/Scranton] and Dustin [Tokarski] made a lot of good saves and blocked shots, and we did good on the forecheck, too,” said Max Lamarche after the Phantoms shutout division leader Wilkes-Barre last Friday night, killing off six more penalties in the game.

LV hasn’t been hurt too badly by their penalty killing during its low points, because they’re not a heavily penalized team. T.J. Brennan – 34 minutes – has the most penalty minutes on the team, but he ranks just 50th in the AHL.

Against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Friday, the Phantoms used a quick start to put an early beat down on the Pens. Mikhail Vorobyev scored his third goal of the season and less than a minute later, Corban Knight made a beautiful steal on a puck coming around the boards and cut to the middle of the ice and fired a shot past Anthony Peters to give Lehigh Valley a 2-0 lead.

HOT ON HOME ICE ... The Phantoms wrapped up an impressive six-game homestand with a 4-1-1-0 record, which included two wins over Hershey. The homestand featured two overtime games and the Phantoms held a 27-21 edge over their opponents. Lehigh Valley is now fifth in the AHL in points gained on their home ice, with 18 of their points coming at home.

THE CIRCLE OF LIFE ... With starting goalie Alex Lyon playing in Philly because of the injury to Michael Neuvirth, Dustin Tokarski will now be getting the Lyon’s share of the playing time in goal. In his first game since Lyon was recalled, Tokarski made 39 saves and shutout the Penguins 5-0. Tokarski was acquired from Anaheim shortly after the start of the season and has served as the backup to Lyon. On the year, Tokarski has played in 13 games and is 7-2-2-1 with the Phantoms.

STANDINGS UPDATE ... Lehigh Valley is currently fourth in the Atlantic Division by winning percentage, but is tied for second based on points. Providence leads in both versions of the standings with a .708 winning percentage and 34 points. Charlotte is second in both - .660/33 - with Lehigh Valley tied with the Checkers in points, but with a .652 winning percentage. The Penguins are third in percentage and fourth in points.