Catasauqua Press

Thursday, May 23, 2019
photo by justsports photographerT.J. Brennan thinks the Phantoms can still turn around their season. photo by justsports photographerT.J. Brennan thinks the Phantoms can still turn around their season.

Lehigh Valley looks to turn around season

Thursday, March 7, 2019 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

The latest bump in the road for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms is turning into more of a complete and total car-consuming sinkhole in the road. The team broke a five-game losing streak Saturday with a 3-1 win over Utica, after which a brawl broke out as the teams headed for their respective locker rooms. That show of testosterone may have been just the thing to spark the Phantoms, but unfortunately, they came back Sunday and lost to Bridgeport.

In addition to now having lost six of their last seven, you can take it back further to get just four wins in their last 14 games. Since we hung our new 2019 calendars on the wall, they’re 9-14-2-1 and have been shutout twice, while not recording a shutout of their own. The latest scoreless performance for the Phantoms came Friday night in Syracuse, which made for a long bus ride back to Allentown.

The barrenness of their offense may have become complete desolation Sunday when they had a two-man advantage for a full two-minutes and not only couldn’t put the puck in the net, but they managed to get just two shots out of the two-man advantage.

Defenseman T.J. Brennan believes things will change and admits that they have to change if the team is going to reach the postseason. “It’s going to turn. We’re working hard, guys are emotional, guys are frustrated; those are all good signs that people care. You’ve just got to channel that energy into the right place. We could go 5-4 or 4-4 and then go on a 10-game win streak, so things can change pretty quickly.”

With the team five points behind Utica, Belleville and Providence, who are tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they’re going to need the type of turn around that Brennan believes could happen. The calendar is the worst enemy of the team right now, with just 18 games left in the regular season. Lehigh Valley not only has the logjam of eighth place teams to contend with, but they’re tied in the conference standings with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The next 10 days will be important ones for Lehigh Valley. During that stretch, they have one home game and one road game against the Penguins, two games at home against division leader Charlotte and home games against Providence and Toronto; all games against division rivals who are either tied with or ahead of the Phantoms.

A DEAD DEADLINE... The AHL trade deadline came and went Monday afternoon without any moves involving the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. One former Phantom was dealt when Providence sent forward Austin Fyten to Belleville for Stuart Percy. It was thought that the Phantoms might be adding some help in the form of a defenseman, but nothing transpired.

FEELING STRONGER EVERY DAY... Pascal Laberge played two games in three nights over the weekend and has now played in three of the four Phantoms games since returning from hip surgery and missing most of the season. David Kase played Saturday and Sunday after being out of the lineup since early December with an upper-body injury. Kase took a shot into the boards from Utica’s Brendan Woods Saturday and came out of it in good shape. Teammate Reece Wilcox served as Kase’s bodyguard, getting into a slugfest with Woods following the hit.

DOWN AND OUT... Nic Aube-Kubel went hard into the boards in the first period of Friday night’s game in Syracuse. After the collision, he landed on the ice in a heap and remained motionless for a while. While no injury has been officially announced, Aube-Kubel has not played since the crash.