Monday's Catch Up & Links 2/15

Monday, February 15, 2016
The Phantoms are running out of time to make a push towards the postseason. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
From my viewpoint on press row at the PPL Center, Saturday's loss to Utica really took the air out of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms' sails. They looked deflated.

After the game, you could feel it in the locker room. It was reminiscent to trips into the room after disappointing losses last season. Danick Martel was at a loss for words as to what happened out there Saturday, but said the team played without any real emotion when asked questions after the game.

Mark Alt, who agreed the loss of Andrew MacDonald just hours before the game was a big hit, also wasn't afraid to say the team just didn't work nearly hard enough on the ice to get the results.

Where it leaves the Phantoms is nine points behind both fourth place Providence and fifth place Bridgeport with two more games played than the PBruins and one more game played than the Sound Tigers, who the Phantoms host this upcoming Saturday.

The Phantoms have 25 games left to make up the nine-point deficit on those two teams which are easily the hottest two teams in the entire league right now. Providence hasn't lost a game in regulation in their last 16 contests, while Bridgeport is 8-0-1 in their last nine games.

Without the likes of Nick Cousins and Andrew MacDonald, called up to Philadelphia, and injured centerman Tim Brent, it's up to the remaining guys on the AHL roster to will their way to stinging together some wins down the stretch if they want to contend for the postseason race.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms (23-25-2-1)

Last Week

Wednesday 2/10, Binghamton - 2 at Lehigh Valley - 7

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms kicked things off on the five-game home stand with a major response after back-to-back losses last weekend. Taylor Leier netted his first career professional hat trick, Phil DeSimone recorded three assists and Colin McDonald (1G-1A), Chris Conner (1G-1A) and Cole Bardreau (0G-2A) tallied two points each in a big 7-2 win over the Binghamton Wednesday night.

The Phantoms tallied early and often, tallying two goals on a five-minute major power play and jumping out to a 3-0 lead halfway through the first period. They didn't let their proverbial foot off the gas and never looked back.

Friday 2/12, Portland - 3 at Lehigh Valley - 1

A season-high 46 shots on goal for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms was not enough Friday night against Portland in a 3-1 loss to the Pirates. Despite dominating much of the play, the Phantoms came out with zero points.

Portland was opportunistic, scoring on their first shot of the first period which came over eight minutes into the game. After being out-shot 14-0 in the second period, they were able to re-gain the lead late in the period and ultimately rode their goaltender Mike McKenna to two points.

McKenna stole the show, not only stopping 45 of the 46 shots he faced but also adding two assists in the win for Portland which snapped their three-game losing skid.

Saturday 2/13, Utica - 5 at Lehigh Valley - 2

Another frustrating loss by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms - a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Utica Comets - has the team's playoff hopes fading away into the horizon.

What makes Saturday night's loss more frustrating, according to forward Danick Martel and defenseman Mark Alt, was the lack of emotion and sustained effort by the team that resulted in their demise.

It didn't help that starting goaltender Anthony Stolarz was off his game, having not played in over two weeks and barely seeing any practice time during his recent recall to Philadelphia. It also didn't help that the Phantoms lost their leader on defense in Andrew MacDonald just hours before taking the ice for warm ups tonight - recalled by Philadelphia due to an injury to Michael Del Zotto.

What is left for Lehigh Valley is 25 games on the schedule. It's up to the remaining guys in the locker room to look themselves in the mirror and find a way to turn things around in a hurry.

The Week Ahead

Friday 2/19, Springfield at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday 2/20, Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday 2/21, Lehigh Valley at Springfield - 5:00 p.m. ET


  • Anthony Stolarz is back with the Phantoms after an almost two-week stint with the Philadelphia Flyers, where he sat as a backup and looked off his game in his first start Saturday vs. Utica - marking only the second time this season he was pulled from action due to his play. He surrendered three goals on 18 shots in 23:57 of work. 
  • Andrew MacDonald is back with the Philadelphia Flyers and will likely remain in the NHL for an extended amount of time as Michael Del Zotto is expected to be out long term. MacDonald was playing his best hockey of the season before being recalled, leading AHL defensemen in assists and riding a nine-game point streak (0G-14A) - tied for the longest in the AHL this season.
  • Chris Conner has been the team's best player the last dozen games. He was held off the score sheet his first two games back after a six-week absence, but has since then recorded points in all but one of his last 12 games with seven goals and 10 assists.
  • Taylor Leier notched his first career hat trick at the pro level on Wednesday, and is clearly the best forward prospect on the AHL roster right now. He's been on a point-per-game player the last 17 games (7G-10A).
  • Danick Martel took over the team lead in goals when he tallied his 18th of the season in the third period of Saturday's loss to Utica. Martel ranks 2nd among AHL rookies with those 18 goals, trailing only Providence's Frank Vatrano (20).
Weekly Links

Last week at The Home News, I caught up with Nick Cousins' father Brian to recall some good old childhood hockey stories of Nick playing hockey in their backyard on the frozen 16x32 in-ground pool. Stay tuned for this week's Phantoms feature.

Over the weekend, I posted my weekly look around the AHL's Eastern Conference in Saturday's Morning Skate (2/13).

On Friday night, I talked Phantoms hockey and notable Flyers prospects with Anthony Mingioni on the Off The Post podcast. You can listen to it here.

My latest at Hockey's Future looks at Utica Comets forward Hunter Shinkaruk, who is hungry for a return to the NHL.

Also at Hockey's Future, my look at Montreal Canadiens prospect forward Michael McCarron, a 6-6 rookie with the St. John's IceCaps looking to return to form heading down the stretch and make it back to the NHL.'s Tim Riday has his weekly Future Flyers Report that is a great update on the prospects. He featured the strong week Taylor Leier had, among other notable prospects both with Lehigh Valley and in juniors.

Colleague and friend Patrick Williams who covers the AHL as a correspondent for is doing something really great by starting an AHL-based website for league-wide coverage. Check out his new venture 'Around the A'.


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