Monday's Catch Up & Links 12/28

Monday, December 28, 2015
Phantoms split a pair of games over the weekend following the holiday break. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are entering a crucial stretch of games as the calendar year comes to an end and the midway point of the season approaches. Sitting in 5th place in the Atlantic Division, a good showing on the team's current five-game road trip could bring them home to the PPL Center on January 8th much in the thick of things in the playoff race.

The Phantoms head to Binghamton Tuesday night, before a New Years Eve trip to the Giant Center to take on the rival Hershey Bears. Then, the Phantoms get a weekend away from home in southern Maine as Lehigh Valley plays a pair against the Portland Pirates this weekend - a team two points ahead of them and in 4th place in the division. The final playoff spot.

Jason LaBarbera is playing well in his return from a five-week injury absence. He didn't get the result he deserved in a strong showing in Binghamton before the break, but picked up his first shutout win of the season in a dominating 35-save performance Sunday in Wilkes-Barre. For the Phantoms to make a serious push towards the postseason, they will need continued strong play from both of their goaltenders.

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Lehigh Valley Phantoms (15-16-1-0)

Last Week

Another frustrating one-goal game that the Phantoms came up on the short end of in a sloppy first game back from the holiday break for both teams. Lehigh Valley went an abysmal 1-for-9 on the man advantage, getting the lone tally with one second left on their ninth power play attempt in the third period on Robert Hagg's first of the season. It simply wasn't enough to get it done.

Anthony Stolarz played another strong game in net, stopping 27 of the 29 shots he faced, but he was out-done by Bridgeport's Christopher Gibson. Gibson stopped 21 of 22 to pick up his 11th win of the season, and was called up to the New York Islanders following the game.

The Phantoms didn't play a perfect game Sunday afternoon in Wilkes-Barre by any stretch of the imagination, but as head coach Scott Gordon said after the game it doesn't have to be pretty. There aren't any style points heading the Phantoms' way, but they did get two points in the standings after a 3-0 shutout win over their rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to kick off a season-high five-game road swing.

Jason LaBarbera had been playing better as of late without being rewarded, but the Phantoms goaltender was nothing short of perfect Sunday - stopping all 35 shots he faced. Andrew MacDonald, Petr Straka and Colin McDonald each tallied a goal in the win, while Nick Cousins led the way with a game-high two assists.

The shutout loss was the Penguins' second in a row after they came into today's game following a 5-0 blowout loss in Hershey the night before.The Penguins pinned the Phantoms in their defensive zone for long stretches of time throughout the contest - especially early on - but were unable to put one past LaBarbera.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday 12/29, Lehigh Valley at Binghamton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Thursday 12/31. Lehigh Valley at Hershey - 5:00 p.m. ET
Saturday 1/2, Lehigh Valley at Portland - 7:00 p.m. ET
Sunday 1/3, Lehigh Valley at Portland - 4:00 p.m. ET


  • Goaltender Jason LaBarbera picked up the Phantoms' first shutout win of the season Sunday evening in Wilkes-Barre.
  • Defenseman Jesper Pettersson was back with the Phantoms this weekend, called up from Reading (ECHL) after injuries to Matt Lashoff and Maxim Lamarche left the Phantoms with only five healthy defensemen.
  • Defenseman Christian Marti has been skating with a yellow, non-contact jersey in practice and is nearing a return to the lineup.
  • Forward Danick Martel skated in a yellow jersey at the team's pregame morning skate on Saturday and teammates said he was close to making a return to the lineup, possibly Tuesday night in Binghamton.
  • Head coach Scott Gordon confirmed after Sunday's game that forward Evan Rankin has re-signed with the Phantoms on another professional tryout (PTO) contract.
Injured List: Christian Marti (upper body since 11/20), Kevin Sundher (lower body since 11/27), Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Danick Martel (undisclosed since 12/18), Brandon Alderson (illness since 12/27), Maxim Lamarche (undisclosed since 12/19), Chris Conner (upper body since 11/28), Matt Lashoff (undisclosed since 12/16) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Weekly Links

Last week's story at The Home News was my most popular yet, so thanks to all those who shared.

If you missed it, the weekly Phantoms feature took an inside look at just how much work goes on behind the scenes through the eyes of Lehigh Valley Phantoms' head equipment manager Andy Rannells. This week's feature will focus on the team's current road trip and just how crucial the upcoming stretch of games is for the Phantoms.

Over the weekend, I posted my weekly look around the AHL's Eastern Conference in Saturday's Morning Skate (12/26).

If you missed it before the holiday break, I talked to Robert Hagg about his slow start offensively. Over the weekend he tallied his first goal of the season Saturday night and added an assist on Sunday.

Phantoms forward Tyrell Goulbourne and Hershey Bears defenseman Madison Bowey were best friends while the two played hockey together in the WHL with Kelowna. While still good friends off the ice, Goulbourne and Bowey find themselves on opposite sides of a bitter AHL rivalry between Lehigh Valley and Hershey in the pro ranks.

My monthly look at the AHL's Eastern Conference for December should be posted at Hockey's Future soon. If you missed last month's article, here's the November Notebook article,


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