Catasauqua Press

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Phantoms lose two, key games recently

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

The Phantoms had two chances to take a big step up in the Atlantic Division this past weekend and they whiffed on both chances.

The schedule had Lehigh Valley at Charlotte on back-to-back nights this past Friday and Saturday and the Checkers took both games, leaving the Phantoms in fifth place in the Atlantic Division, 19 points behind Charlotte. More importantly, Lehigh Valley is now 10th in the conference standings, which would leave them on the outside looking in at the playoffs.

In Friday night’s game, Mike Vecchione scored a short-handed goal just past the midway mark of the first period to give Lehigh Valley a 1-0 lead, but it was short-lived. The Checkers tied the game later in the first period and then got the eventual winning goal in the second period. Alex Lyon was in goal and made 32 stops, but the Phantoms offense was stifled by the Checkers defense.

The following night, a comeback fell short and the Phantoms lost 5-2. At one point, it appeared they had cut Charlotte’s lead to 4-3, but a goal by Carson Twarynski during a delayed penalty was negated when an official ruled that the Checkers had momentarily regained possession, which would have stopped play. That put the score back to 4-2 and the Checkers then got a fifth goal to get the win.

The two games in Charlotte made for a long trip home as the team not only looked to get themselves straightened out in time for a third straight road game Friday night in Syracuse, but also to wonder how they might be affected by the NHL trade deadline, which was this past Monday. As it turned out, the Flyers pulled off just one trade, sending fan favorite Wayne Simmonds to Nashville for Ryan Hartman and a conditional fourth round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The one-for-one swap meant no changes for the Phantoms roster, other than Justin Bailey being loaned to the Phantoms. The move came before the 3 p.m. trade deadline, so Bailey would be available to the Phantoms should they make the playoffs. The Flyers also did some other paper shuffling moves sending Phil Myers and Corban Knight to the Phantoms before 3 p.m. and then calling them back up after the deadline. Like the move with Bailey, because they were on the Lehigh Valley roster – at least in spirit – before the deadline, they are eligible for the AHL postseason.

One issue for Lehigh Valley will be the fact that they have seven AHL “veterans” on the roster and only five are allowed to be active for any one game. That means that two guys who are used to playing a lot of minutes will be out of uniform for each game, which won’t make them too happy.

TURNAROUND TIME... Lehigh Valley is 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and in serious need of some wins if they’re going to claw their way back into the playoff picture. Lehigh Valley has three games in three days this weekend with home games against Utica and Bridgeport after Friday night’s game in Syracuse. While they’re currently 10th in the conference, they’re only four points out of the final playoff spot and six points away from climbing all the way up to sixth place.

READY TO GO... After two games with the Phantoms, the Flyers recalled Sam Morin from his conditioning assignment with the Phantoms. Morin had knee surgery last May and wasn’t even back on the ice until a couple of months ago. The past year has been a rough one for Morin who has been off the ice more than he’s been on because of various injuries.

A DOWN RIVALRY... The rivalry between the Phantoms and Penguins hasn’t had the same intensity this season as in the past couple of seasons. Oh sure, they still hate each other, but while the Phantoms are 10th in the conference, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is a point behind Lehigh Valley in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. The fact that both teams are struggling just to make the playoffs rather than for divisional supremacy has tempered the rivalry this season.