Monday's Catch Up & Links 11/17

Monday, November 17, 2014
My apologies again for not posting my regular Monday links article last week as I was at the tail end of covering my fourth game in four nights and took a day trip to Rochester for last Monday's Americans vs. Adirondack Flames game at Blue Cross Arena. Busy times indeed as the season is now in full-swing.

Penguins Drop Two Of Three Last Weekend

Speaking of busy, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins had another three-in-three over weekend, though vastly different than their weekend sweep November 7th-9th.

They won their fourth straight game in a 3-1 win over Lehigh Valley, though the game was tied at 1-1 until a Bryan Rust goal - his 7th - gave the Pens a lead they wouldn't look back on. The insurance goal was an empty net tally in the final seconds.

On Saturday, it looked as though the Penguins were well on their way to their 5th straight win after jumping out to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period with goals coming 1:05 apart from Conor Sheary and Andrew Ebbett. Unfortunately for the Penguins, a pair of goals from Yanni Gourde and a 3rd period tally from Syracuse Crunch captain Mike Angelidis saw the Pens lose in regulation.

The Penguins were finishing a three-in-three at the always packed Giant Center against Hershey on Sunday, playing against a Bears team that had enjoyed a rare Saturday night off - the only Saturday Hershey doesn't play a game. Though largely out-shot and outchanced, the Penguins were able to
 steal a 2-0 lead on a pair of Jayson Megna goals before again relinquishing the lead in a 3-2 regulation loss.

Phantoms Split Weekend, Young Defense Improving

The feeling in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms locker room is that while they are improving their defensive game - allowing 53 total shots in two games over the weekend as opposed to 44 and 40 in back-to-back games the weekend prior - they need to limit their trips to the penalty box, clean things up to simplify things on the power play and bear down late in games.

On Friday night, the Phantoms finished their four-game road trip against rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The two teams were each assessed eight power plays, and the Penguins ended up pulling away in the third period. The Phantoms played much tighter defensively but couldn't capitalize on their opportunities until a third period power play goal by Brandon Manning got them on the board.

The Phantoms returned home for a Saturday night match up with Toronto and seemed energized in the first period, scoring two goals 57 seconds apart midway through the first period to turn the tides and take a 2-1 lead into the third period. Toronto tied it with a power play goal, but Manning gave the Phantoms a 3-2 lead with another third period power play goal - his second of the weekend and third of the season. The Phantoms got into penalty trouble late, needing to kill off the final 1:33 of regulation shorthanded 5-on-3 that turned into a 6-on-3 when the Marlies pulled their goaltender. A big-time block and some timely saves in net propelled the Phantoms to a big 3-2 win to kick off a five-game home stand.

Monday's Weekly Links

  • In last week's issue of The Home News, I wrote about the Phantoms' stumble after a strong start and talked to forward Andrew Gordon about going on the road as well as highlighted all the injuries on the blue line throughout the Philadelphia Flyers organization. 
  • This week at The Home News, it's home sweet home for the Phantoms as they kicked off a five-game home stand Saturday night. I again talked to Gordon - one of three assistant captains on the Phantoms - because it seemed like us writers were going to Gordon a lot lately after some tough losses, so only fitting he was asked about the win. I also talked to veteran defenseman Brandon Manning - who saw a two-game stint with the Flyers in the beginning of the month - about if he feels he needs to take his game to another level to anchor a young AHL blue line in the Lehigh Valley. Check back later in the week for that story.
  • I've spent a lot of time in the first half of the month traveling to various AHL games outside my normal realm of Penguins and Phantoms. I've seen several teams league-wide, including the Adirondack Flames, Binghamton Senators, Norfolk Admirals, Rochester Americans, Syracuse Crunch and Utica Comets. Stay tuned to Hockey's Future all season long for extended AHL coverage for a more broad look at the American Hockey League (AHL).
  • It's not too often you see a top-five NHL draft pick play at the AHL level for long, if at all. As a 19-year-old, Jonathan Drouin was penciled in to make his pro & NHL debut this season with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the fall. Unfortunately for Drouin, a thumb injury in the preseason prevented him from being on the Lightning's roster on opening night. He was re-assigned to Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate in Syracuse for a conditioning stint and it was quickly evident Drouin was ready for the NHL. I caught up Drouin in Syracuse after his second pro game and talked about coming off injury and his play-making prowess. I also wrote about the organization's ability to develop NHL forwards through their farm system.
  • Each month at Hockey's Future, I recap the major happenings in each conference of the AHL as well as include a hot list of the top five performers among the conference's top prospects. Up first is the Eastern Conference's Notebook for November. Check back next week for a look at the Western Conference.


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