LV wins two in return home
The Phantoms clicked their skates together three times and said “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”
With that, the team that had lost four straight returned to winning form with back-to-back wins taking two of the three games on their recent homestand.
The good news for the team is that three of its next five games are also on home ice, giving the team some momentum.
On Wednesday night, the Charlotte Checkers were in town and it was Gerry Fitzgerald who netted the winning goal in a 3-2 win. After a night off, Lehigh Valley went to overtime to again beat Charlotte 5-4 with Mark Friedman scoring the game winner.
The team looked for a third straight win Saturday against Belleville, but it wasn’t to be as they fell 2-1.
The nine goals in three games were a substantial turnaround from the five goals in four games that they scored during their slide. Head coach Scott Gordon believes that coming back to home ice and being able to relax a little is going to turn around a team that he believes was pressing too much on offense.
“Maybe gripping the sticks a little too tight and looking to make something happen where there wasn’t anything,” said Gordon. “When you do that, you don’t allow things to develop and you make bad choices with the puck.”
Ironically, the scoring on the homestand got started with a player who hadn’t been with the team during the recent string of offensive stutters.
Pascal Laberge, who was recalled from the Reading Royals in time for Wednesday’s game, scored just over three minutes into the contest with Charlotte to give the Phantoms (8-6-1-4) an early lead that may have taken some of the pressure off.
From there, the team seemed to settle in and played a more controlled game than it had in the past few games.
“When you’re struggling like that, an early goal is the best medicine,” said Gordon. “Now you can take a breath and not press as much because you’ve got a lead and you have that one quick goal to your advantage.”
Lehigh Valley will need to both take advantage of playing at home and find a way to win on the road. Once the calendar turns to December, only four of its next 15 games are at home, meaning that it will have to turn around their 2-4-0-2 record, which ranks them 27th out of 31 teams in points on the road.
There are two four-game road stretches in their road warrior part of the schedule, with one taking them as far south as Charlotte and the other taking them north to Laval, Belleville, Toronto and Utica.
AROUND THE AHL... The hottest team in the Atlantic Division is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Pens are 7-2-0-1 in their last 10 games. In the North Division, Toronto has won six straight while Rochester has put together five straight wins and seven in their last eight games.
The hottest team in the AHL is the Milwaukee Admirals, which opened the season just 4-3-1-2, but have strung together 10 straight wins to move to the top of the Central Division.
The Phantoms’ 8-6-1-4 record has them in fifth place in the Atlantic, six points behind first-place Hartford.
FORMER PHANTOM UPDATE... Morgan Frost has had a quick start to his NHL career, scoring two goals and adding an assist in his first three games in the league.
The team has seemed to have a little extra fire under it when the 20-year old is on the ice. The Flyers drafted Frost with the 27 overall pick in the 2017 draft. Meanwhile, Joel Farabee has had a decent introduction to the NHL with two goals and four assists in 17 games.
Goalie Carter Hart is playing better, but still struggling at times in goal for Philadelphia. His .898 saves percentage, which ranks 17th among goalies with 15 or more games played this season.
TOSSING OF THE BEARS... The annual Teddy Bear toss that nets thousands of stuffed animals for children across the Lehigh Valley area, will be held on December 14 against Hartford. Fans are invited to bring stuffed animals of any size to the game and when the Phantoms score their first goal, toss them onto the ice. The bears will then be collected and given to area agencies to distribute as Christmas presents to children. Last season, the team set a record with over 7,000 stuffed animals being tossed onto the ice.