Monday's (on Tuesday) Catch Up & Links 3/1

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
The Phantoms face their rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (26-26-2-3) picked up three out of a possible six points over the weekend, but with 19 games left on their regular season schedule they still trail Bridgeport by six points for what is currently the final playoff spot in the AHL's Eastern Conference. The Sound Tigers have one game in hand on Lehigh Valley entering this week's games.

The good news for the Phantoms is that the trade deadline passed yesterday without any moves made by the Philadelphia Flyers - moves that would have likely caused a guy like Taylor Leier or Mark Alt to be sent packing their gear and finishing the season in the NHL with the Flyers.

They also received a potential boost down the stretch as forward Nick Cousins was reassigned to the Phantoms yesterday in a paper transaction, making him eligible to play in the AHL this season and the playoffs should Lehigh Valley qualify for the postseason.

Still, the Phantoms need to continue picking up points in the standings in hopes of closing the gap to the postseason. With three more games this week, starting tomorrow in Syracuse, there are six points up for grabs this week for Lehigh Valley.

A recap of last week, a look ahead to this week's games and plenty of links to extra coverage of the Phantoms and teams around the AHL to help get you through the work week.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms (26-26-2-3)

Last Week

Friday 2/26, Hartford - 3 at Lehigh Valley - 2 (SO)

For the third straight game, the Phantoms found themselves behind in the third period. Friday night against the Hartford Wolf Pack, they were able to - for the third straight game - even things up and force overtime.

The difference Friday night is that the Phantoms had a glorious opportunity with 3:55 left in overtime after Aaron Palushaj ate a high-stick from Travis Oleksuk that gave Lehigh Valley a four minute power play. The Phantoms were unable to net the game winner and came up short in the shootout.

Did the Phantoms pick up a valuable point in the standings, or let a second point slip away after their shootout loss? The answer is both, but depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist you might lean towards one or the other.

Saturday 2/27, Utica - 2 at Lehigh Valley - 1

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are probably dreading their last six Saturday night games. After a 2-1 regulation loss to the Utica Comets, the Flyers' AHL affiliate is now 3-13-3 this season when game day is Saturday.

The real story Saturday night is that the Phantoms simply don't match up well against the Comets' hard and heavy style of play. It was evident two weeks ago when the Comets handed the Phantoms a 5-2 setback and just as present tonight - out shooting the Phantoms 42-22 and controlling large portions of the play.

If not for 40 saves from Anthony Stolarz, making his 6th straight start in net, the Phantoms would have been dead in the water in the third period. Instead, it was a one-goal game heading to the final frame.

Sunday 2/28, Lehigh Valley - 2 at Hartford - 1

As they often do, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms trailed going into the third period. At the tail end of a three-game weekend, a deflating goal allowed with 41.5 seconds left in the middle frame looked like it would doom the Phantoms' chances of making a late push toward the postseason.

Instead, the Phantoms again rallied in the third period - evening the game just 2:02 into the final frame on Taylor Leier's 18th goal of the season. Aaron Palushaj broke up a play in the defensive zone and just missed a stretch pass from Jay Rosehill about eight minutes later and turned it into the game winner.

Palushaj raced to the loose puck behind the net and caught Hartford's goaltender Magnus Hellberg as he was about to play it, forcing a turnover and feeding it in front to an open Kevin Goumas for what was basically an empty net with 11:08 left in regulation to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead.

The Phantoms hung on in the final minutes behind 24 saves by goaltender Anthony Stolarz, who played his third game in three nights in net. The win puts them one point behind Hartford for 6th place in the Atlantic Division and six points out of 5th place and the current final playoff spot held by Bridgeport, who lost in regulation tonight to Albany.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday 3/2, Lehigh Valley at Syracuse - 7:00 p.m. ET
Friday 3/4, W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday 3/5, Lehigh Valley at Binghamton - 7:05 p.m. ET

  • Goaltender Anthony Stolarz has started seven straight games for the Phantoms, playing all three games last weekend. Jason LaBarbera was already dealing with a nagging injury before being struck by a puck on the bench in Friday night's game against Hartford. Martin Ouellette was called up from Reading to back up Stolarz.
  • The flu bug has been making its way through the Phantoms locker room. On Sunday, defensemen Mark Alt and Max Lamarche did not make the trip to Hartford and the Phantoms needed to call up Jesper Pettersson from Reading. Pettersson stepped in and played Sunday.
  • Forward Pavel Padakin was reassigned to Reading before this weekend's games and he continues to score in the ECHL. He's in the midst of a five-game points scoring streak and has 17 points (8G-9A) in 21 ECHL games this season. Over the weekend he tallied two goals and an assist in three games.
  • Speaking of points streaks, Chris Conner extended his to nine games (2G-10A) on Sunday when he added an assist on Taylor Leier's third period goal in Hartford. Conner has taken over the team's scoring lead with 41 points (12G-29A) in 40 games this season. He has points in 17 of his last 18 games.
  • Newly signed forward Dalton Smith hasn't made his Phantoms' debut yet, but he skated with the team during pregame warmups on both Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps he will make his debut Wednesday night in Syracuse against his former team.
Weekly Links


Last week at The Home News, my weekly Phantoms print story featured newly signed forward Dalton Smith and his family ties to the Philadelphia Flyers organization. Stay tuned for this week's Phantoms piece, on how it's crunch time for Lehigh Valley's playoff push.

Over the weekend, I posted my weekly look at the AHL's Eastern Conference in Saturday's Morning Skate (2/27).

On Thursday, my feature on Phantoms forward Jay Rosehill after a great 1-on-1 interview on a wide variety of topics.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed forward Colin McDonald to a two-year contract extension on Saturday. The Phantoms' captain is very thankful to be a part of the Flyers organization.

Taylor Leier on the trade deadline, and Aaron Palushaj on knowing what it's like to be traded on deadline day.

The Flyers didn't make any trades Monday, but several moves made yesterday affect the Phantoms in respect to their divisional opponents adding and losing players. Take a look at the recap of moves made around the Atlantic Division.

Hockey's Future

My feature on Toronto Maple Leafs forward prospect Josh Leivo, with opportunity knocking on the door after his latest recall from the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

My monthly notebook article takes a look at the AHL's Eastern Conference's playoff picture with only seven weeks left in the regular season. Atlantic Division thoroughly discussed.

My prospect feature on Florida Panthers rookie defenseman Michael Matheson, who is focusing on consistency in his first pro season.

The Providence Bruins are firing on all cylinders heading down the stretch, led by Boston Bruins forward prospect Seth Griffith.

Flyers Coverage

Tim Riday's weekly Future Flyers Report, which features an impressive points streak by someone not named Shayne Gostisbehere. Riday also had a well written feature on recent Flyers Hall of Fame inductee Jimmy Watson.

A very detailed story on a multitude of Flyers' topics from Bill Meltzer including Brayden Schenn's hat trick, Jimmy Watson's Flyers Hall of Fame induction and GM Ron Hextall on the trade deadline and why the Flyers didn't make any moves.

How many Flyers will make the World Cup of Hockey rosters? Flyers beat writer Dave Isaac of the Courier Post takes a look.


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