Saturday's Morning Skate 3/21

Saturday, March 21, 2015
Lehigh Valley Phantoms conclude their five-game road trip tonight in Worcester.
It's getting down to crunch time in the American Hockey League, as teams on the bubble in the playoff picture are starting to make their push for the postseason. All 30 AHL teams are in action tonight, with several important match ups among teams fighting for playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Last night, I was in Hartford, Connecticut as the 5th seeded Hartford Wolf Pack hung on for a 3-2 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (11th in the East). If you missed last night's exclusive game recap with quotes from Blair Jones - who made his return to the lineup after a 24-game absence due to injury - you can see that here.

Tonight, I'll be at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., to see the Phantoms' final game of the five-game road trip against a Worcester Sharks team that enters today just one point out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

You can catch full coverage of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms game tonight both on Twitter -> @TonyAndrock_TCG for LIVE in-game updates as well as here online after the game for a full RECAP of the action and post-game player reaction.

East Division Standings (through 3/20's games)

1. Hershey: 12 games remaining, 39-18-5-2 = 85 points
2. W-B/Scranton: 13 games remaining, 36-20-3-4 = 79 points
3. Lehigh Valley: 15 games remaining, 29-25-6-1 = 65 points
4. Binghamton: 13 games remaining, 27-28-7-1 = 62 points
5. Norfolk: 12 games remaining, 23-33-5-3 = 54 points

Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

*1. Manchester: 14 games remaining, 39-15-6-2 = 86 points
*2. Hershey: 12 games remaining, 39-18-5-2 = 85 points
*3. Syracuse: 14 games remaining, 37-17-8-0 = 82 points
4. W-B/Scranton: 13 games remaining, 36-20-3-4 = 79 points
5. Providence: 12 games remaining, 34-21-7-2 = 77 points
6. Hartford: 13 games remaining, 34-21-5-3 = 76 points
7. Portland: 14 games remaining, 35-22-4-1 = 75 points
8. Springfield: 12 games remaining, 33-24-7-0 = 73 points9. Worcester: 14 games remaining, 33-23-4-2 = 72 points
10. St. John's: 11 games remaining, 29-28-6-2 = 66 points
11. Lehigh Valley: 15 games remaining, 29-25-6-1 = 65 points
12. Albany: 13 games remaining, 27-25-5-6 = 65 points

Lehigh Valley - 2 at Hartford - 3

In Connecticut, the Phantoms fell behind 2-0 early on a pair of Wolf Pack power play goals and never recovered - twice making it a one-goal game but coming up short after a barrage of shots and pressure in the final minute.

For the Phantoms, there were plenty of familiar faces back in the lineup in Blair Jones, Petr Straka and Brandon Manning and one new face in recently signed forward Cole Bardreau - formerly of Cornell Unicersity - who tallied his first pro goal in his AHL debut last night to get the Phantoms on the board. Jones had the other tally for Lehigh Valley, who got 29 saves on 32 shots from starter Rob Zepp.

The Phantoms finish their five-game road trip tonight in Worcester before finishing their three-game weekend hosting rival W-B/Scranton on Sunday afternoon at the PPL Center.

W-B/Scranton - 1 at Syracuse - 2 (OT)

In upstate New York, Penguins team captain Tom Kostopoulos forced overtime with a game-tying goal midway through the period, but Slater Koekkoek gave Syracuse the win in the extra session with the game winning goal.

Matt Murray stopped 27 of 29 for the Penguins, while Kristers Gudlevskis stopped 27 of 28 shots in the win for the Crunch.

The Penguins host Binghamton tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET before traveling to Allentown, PA to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Sunday evening.

Hershey - 3 at Portland - 2 (OT)

The Hershey Bears extended their East Division lead and guaranteed top-three seed in the Eastern Conference to six points over the Penguins with an overtime win in Portland Friday night on Andre Burakovsky's first AHL goal.

Defenseman Mike Moore registered an assist on all three goals and Philipp Grubauer stopped 25 of the 27 shots that came his way for the Bears in the win, while Alexandre Bolduc tallied both Pirates' goals and Mike McKenna stopped 21 of 24 shots in the loss for Portland.

The two teams rematch tonight in Maine with both teams in the playoff picture.

Norfolk - 3 at Binghamton - 4

In Binghamton, the BSens rallied from a 2-0 first period deficit behind a three-point performance from Shane Prince, who got the BSens on the board with 38 seconds left in the opening frame on a power play goal. Prince also tallied the game winning goal midway through the third period as well as added the primary assist on the game-tying goal in the final minute of the 2nd period.

Cole Schneider added a goal and two assists and Scott Greenham stopped 28 of 31 shots for the BSens in the win while Max Friberg led the Admirals attack with a goal and an assist and Jason LaBarbera stopped 31 of the 35 shots he faced in the loss for Norfolk.

Binghamton heads to Wilkes-Barre for a Saturday night match up with the Penguins, while Norfolk continues on their road trip for a 5 p.m. face-off in Albany against the Devils.

Other Eastern Conference Scores

Bridgeport -3 at Springfield - 1
Manchester - 5 at Providence - 2
St. John's - 1 at Worcester - 3

Saturday's Eastern Conference Schedule

Norfolk at Albany, 5:00 p.m. ET
Providence at Bridgeport, 7:00 p.m. ET
Hershey at Portland, 7:00 p.m. ET
Lehigh Valley at Worcester, 7:00 p.m. ET
St. John's at Manchester, 7:00 p.m. ET
Hartford at Springfield, 7:00 p.m. ET
Utica at Syracuse, 7:00 p.m. ET
Binghamton at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 p.m. ET


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