You know that Monday morning feeling when you head into work and it takes you a while to get going? Especially if you had a few extra days off. The Phantoms had that look to them Friday night when they returned from the All-Star Break to face the Charlotte Checkers at the PPL Center. To be honest, both teams had that look as the game started off with a myriad of missed passes and turnovers. The Checkers even got a penalty for too many men on the ice in the opening minutes of the game.
You can learn a lot watching YouTube. Heck, even some professionals use the video system to learn new things. Oskar Lindblom did just that to pick up a trick that he used in the shootout portion of the AHL Skills Competition to score a goal.
Years ago, the great John Facenda, the voice of NFL Films, used his legendary voice to refer to “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field,” as he talked about the Green Bay Packers and their historic field. It wasn’t quite that dramatic, but the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears took to the ‘frozen tundra of Hersheypark Stadium’ recently, with Lehigh Valley skating to a 5-2 win over Hershey.
The Phantoms reached the halfway point of their season with what Phil Varone called an “embarrassing” performance in a 6-2 loss to Springfield Saturday night. Lehigh Valley came out with a good first period, but that was about all it was able to put together as the Thunderbirds scored four unanswered goals to waltz out of the PPL Center with a win.
Varone scored his 100th career AHL goal in the game, but was more focused on the weak effort that the team put on the ice.
When you talk about the best players on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season, there isn’t much debate. Defenseman T.J. Brennan and winger Danick Martel would be the consensus best of the best for Lehigh Valley. Both were recognized by the AHL when they were named to the Atlantic Division All-Star Team. This year’s AHL All-Star Classic will be played in Utica on Jan. 29, with the skills competition taking place the day before the game.
Goaltender Alex Lyon earned the win in goal as he returned to the Lehigh Valley crease for the first time since Dec. 1 after spending most of the month with the Philadelphia Flyers. The key to Lyon’s success may have been the overall sharp play of the Phantoms defense, which held the AHL’s second-highest scoring offense to just 29 shots, 28 of which were turned away by Lyon in Lehigh Valley’s 3-1 win against the Charlotte Checkers.
For Catasauqua standout Isaiah Graves, the 2017-2018 season should be one to remember. Unfortunately, it’s not starting off as well as he would have liked. His team has been able to mount just a .500 record, going 2-2 in the early going. Worse than that though, his Grandmother recently passed away and he’s had to chase the 1,000-point milestone with a heavy heart.
Corban Knight is in one of those streaks where everything he does looks almost effortless, but turns out to be good. Take for example, the play he made Sunday in Bridgeport when he was literally on his stomach behind the goal, but still was able to flip the puck to Danick Martel, who was stationed in front of the net for a go-ahead goal.
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.
Just as the Phantoms finished up a six-game road trip, they looked forward to a nice set of games on home ice and all seemed right with the world. Then came word that leading scorer Danick Martel and defenseman Sam Morin were heading to Philadelphia. On the same day, forward Alex Krushelnyski was also summoned to the Flyers.