Monday's Catch Up & Links (2/23)

Monday, February 23, 2015
The Phantoms' home woes at PPL Center have continued and Lehigh Valley remains on the outside looking in when talking about the postseason race.
 Only eight weeks left in the AHL's 2014-15 regular season, and with less than 25 games remaining on every team's schedule - the pressure and intensity gets ramped up heading into March.

While the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are comfortably in 4th place in the Eastern Conference, earning points in 12 of their last 13 games, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are entering the week seven points out of the final playoff spot in the conference - continuing to lose on home ice.

Both teams have Friday night off, but the Penguins are in the midst of a six-game road trip that sees them in the Northeast this weekend. The Phantoms are in the midst of mostly home games, where they look to end their losing skid at the PPL Center.

Ebbett Powers Penguins Past WolfPack

Sunday, February 22, 2015
Andrew Ebbett's first of two goals this afternoon was his 100th career AHL goal.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins used timely goals from Andrew Ebbett in the first and third periods and a dominant middle frame to power past the Hartford Wolfpack 4-1 in the first of four meetings between the two teams this season.

The first of Ebbett's two goals, coming 5:48 into the contest, was his 100th career AHL goal and it gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead after the WolfPack had dominated play from the opening face-off. His second of the night, just 10 seconds into the third, gave the Penguins all the insurance they would need at a 3-1 advantage.

It was a good afternoon for fourth line enforcers as Hartford's Nick Tarnasky scored his first of the season to tie things up at 1-1 late in the first period. The Penguins' Pierre-Luc Leblond also tallied his first goal of the season Sunday in what turned out to be the eventual game winner.

While Scott Wilson has been the rookie in the spotlight lately, and deservedly so with nine points (four goals, five assists) in his last eight games - including three game-winning goals - Conor Sheary extended his points scoring streak to eight games with a secondary assist on Ebbett's goal on the opening shift of the third period.

Jeff Zatkoff kind of quietly put together a strong performance in net, with 22 saves on 23 shots - particularly sharp in the opening minutes of play when Hartford was all over the Penguins. The win is just Zatkoff's 2nd in the calendar year of 2015, though he is 2-0-2 in his four starts in February.

There could be some bad blood between the Penguins and WolfPack when they next play again this upcoming Saturday up in Hartford after a questionable second period hit by Dylan McIlrath on Bobby Farnham knocked the WBS fan favorite out of the game. Farnham first went to the WBS bench but later retreated to the locker room with trainer Kyle Moore and did not return.

Phantoms Fall in OT to Hartford Despite Strong Effort

Saturday, February 21, 2015
Hartford extends Phantoms home skid to seven games.
Sometimes when you're in the midst of a losing skid at home like the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are, it seems like you just can't catch a break. Tonight's 5-4 overtime loss to the Hartford WolfPack was a prime example of this.

"I really like the way we played," head coach Terry Murray said after the game. "We played as good a game as we have played on the road when we were winning just recently. We had everyone on board. Everything was there except the goaltending, it wasn't good enough."

The Phantoms controlled play in the majority of tonight's contest, especially in overtime - outshooting Hartford 7-2 - but the lone mistake made by the Phantoms ended up in the back of their net with 1:12 left in the extra session.

"I thought we played pretty well," Nick Cousins said, adding," One bad miscue there in overtime and they go down and score, but I think we outplayed them for the most part of the game. Obviously one point isn't what we were looking for, but we have to take the positives of tonight and build on it this week."

Saturday's Morning Skate 2/21

Anthony Stolarz has just two wins in his last 11 appearances.
Points are at a premium with less than nine weeks left in the AHL's 2014-15 regular season. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins enjoyed a Friday night off, but the rest of the East Division was in action.

Last night I was in Allentown at the PPL Center as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms dropped their sixth straight game at home, a 5-1 decision to the Providence Bruins - a team they are chasing in the Eastern Conference's playoff race.

Tonight, I'm back inside PPL Center as the Phantoms hope for a better result against the Hartford Wolfpack at 7:05 p.m. EST. I'll have full coverage with in-game updates via Twitter at @TonyAndrock_TCG and a post-game recap here online shortly following the game.

For in-game updates of tonight's Penguins home game against the PBruins, make sure you are following @H_P_Hockey.

East Division Standings (through 2/20's games)

1. Hershey: 51GP, 30-14-5-2, 67 points
2. W-B/Scranton: 52GP, 28-18-2-4, 62 points
3. Lehigh Valley: 48GP, 24-22-5-1, 54 points
4. Binghamton: 52GP: 22-24-5-1, 50 points
5. Norfolk: 48GP, 21-25-3-3, 48 points

Eastern Conference Standings (through 2/20's games)

*1. Manchester: 50GP, 31-13-5-2, 69 points
*2. Syracuse: 51GP, 30-13-8-0, 68 points
*3. Hershey: 51GP, 30-14-5-2, 67 points
4. Hartford: 52GP, 29-16-4-3, 65 points
5. Springfield: 53GP, 29-18-6-0, 64 points
6. W-B/Scranton: 52GP, 28-18-2-4, 62 points
7. Providence: 53GP, 27-19-6-1, 61 points
8. Worcester Sharks: 50GP, 27-17-4-2, 60 points
9. Portland: 51GP, 27-21-3-0, 57 points
10. St. John's: 54GP, 24-23-5-2, 55 points
11. Lehigh Valley: 52GP, 24-22-5-1, 54 points   
* = Division leader

Providence Pushes Past Phantoms at PPL Center

Friday, February 20, 2015
Phantoms home skid reaches six games.
After a scoreless first period between the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Providence Bruins Friday night, Providence took over - scoring four goals in the second period and never looking back in a 5-1 win over the Phantoms.

"It's not good what we're doing right now, especially on home ice," defenseman Oliver Lauridsen said after the game. "It's fixable mistakes, we make them ourselves. It's not something they are doing, it's something we are doing to ourselves and it's sad."

The loss brings the home losing skid to six games for the Phantoms, who are in the midst of a home stand with six out of seven at the PPL Center.

"We need guys to step up," Brett Hextall said after tonight's loss. "I don't think we had anyone today step up. We let them off the hook."

The Phantoms are back at it Saturday night at home against the Hartford Wolfpack.