Phantoms 'Not Mentally Ready' in 4-2 Loss to Portland

Sunday, March 20, 2016
Phantoms slow start haunts them in loss to Portland. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The team isn't using it as an excuse, but there's no doubting that an overnight bus ride back from Toronto Friday night into Saturday morning which saw the Lehigh Valley Phantoms get back into town at 6 a.m. ET took its toll on the team in the opening period tonight against Portland.

The home team just didn't have their skating legs in the first ten minutes, or what several players post-game said was the necessary mental focus to be competitive. The early hole proved costly as the 3-0 deficit was too much to overcome, extending the Phantoms' win-less skid to seven games (0-5-2) after a 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Portland Pirates.

With 11 games left on the regular season schedule and the Phantoms 11 points out of playoff contention, the mantra in the locker room is to band together and play for each other.

There are still plenty of things left to play for. For guys on expiring contracts, it's a chance to show both Flyers management and scouts watching the games that they have what teams are looking for. For guys under contract next season, it's a chance to leave a lasting impression before the off-season and attempt to work their way up the depth chart.

Quick recap and thoughts from the locker room after the jump.


Scott Gordon's post-game thoughts:
I didn't think the first ten minutes we were ready to play. We dug ourselves a hole - first ten minutes we are down 2-0. 
Adam Comrie on message between first and second periods:
Stop turning pucks over, get bodies to the net. We just came out with a lot more tempo and a lot more excitement in the second period.
Comrie on reason behind the slow start:
Coming off the trip, we should have been a little bit more focused today coming in on Sunday, more mentally strong there.
Comrie on approach in final 11 games:
Yeah I think it's tough sometimes, but we should band together as brothers and be strong and come out together and play for each other.
Tim Brent on what went wrong in the opening minutes of the game:
We got away from what we have had success doing. That's putting pucks behind defensemen, getting a good forecheck going. We turned pucks over, we were soft in battles and lost alot of them. When you're on the wrong side of those battles you're never going to end up on the right side of the scoreboard.

Some early game penalties slowed the Phantoms tonight against Portland. After an interference minor on Dalton Smith for finishing a check along the team benches on the game's opening shift, the Pirates cashed in to take an early 1-0 lead.

Jason LaBarbera made an impressive sliding stop on a Shane Harper one-timer, but the Phantoms were unable to get the puck out of their zone and Portland continued to press. From the left wing, Kyle Rau sent a puck to the front of the net where Shane Harper re-directed it past LaBarbera 2:57 into the game to put Portland in front.

A second penalty on Lehigh Valley, though Portland was unable to capitalize, further gave Portland the decided edge in play. After a defensive zone turnover by the Phantoms near the midway point of the period, Wayne Simpson was on the receiving end of a nice passing display before beating LaBarbera to the blocker side with a quick forehand to backhand move. That goal, Simpson's fourth of the season, put the Pirates ahead 2-0 just 9:02 into the contest.

From there, it seemed the Phantoms were simply going through the motions and playing uninspired hockey. Portland regularly won the race to loose pucks and puck battles, out shooting the Phantoms 8-4. Besides a late period Lehigh Valley power play, where Petr Straka nearly set up Danick Martel on the doorstep, the Phantoms found themselves out-worked and out-played through 20 minutes.

The Phantoms brought forth a much better effort in the middle frame, but not before Portland made it a 3-0 game 1:17 into the 2nd frame. Rocco Grimaldi took a pass from Harper and flew down the right-wing, firing a snipe of a shot high to the short side on LaBarbera to extend the Pirates' lead.

Lehigh Valley had a golden opportunity to get on the board 6:42 into the period after a pair of penalties on Corban Knight and Brent Regner gave the Phantoms a full two minutes of five-on-three power play time. After failing to convert on the man advantage, it seemed as though the Phantoms would slip away quietly into the night.

Instead, a point shot by Adam Comrie with 7:44 left before the second intermission broke Pirates goaltender Mike McKenna's shutout bid and gave Lehigh Valley some momentum. They ended up out-shooting Portland 15-7 in the middle frame after managing just four shots in the first stanza.

Things got interesting in the final moments of regulation as with the goaltender pulled, the Phantoms made it a one-goal game after a point shot missed the net and took a friendly bounce off the back boards. The puck bounced right onto Chris Conner's stick, who from behind the goal line to the left of McKenna banked one in off the Pirates goalie to cut the deficit to 3-2 with 1:29 left to play.

A misguided pass out of the zone, however, ended any chances the Phantoms had of making the comeback. Wayne Simpson tallied an empty net goal, his second tally of the game, with 1:07 left to seal the deal for Portland in the 4-2 win.


Jason LaBarbera (20 saves - 24 shots) got the start in net tonight for Lehigh Valley tonight, with Martin Ouellette serving as the team's backup.

Anthony Stolarz was called up to Philadelphia today with the news that Michael Neuvirth will miss three weeks with a lower body injury.

Colin McDonald and Max Lamarche both remained out with their upper body injuries. Both are considered day-to-day at this point, though there was no official update from head coach Scott Gordon on their statuses moving forward.

Joe Rehkamp returned to the Phantoms' lineup after sitting out the last three games as a healthy scratch. Rehkamp replaced Aaron Palushaj, who was banged up in Friday's game in Toronto although he did finish that contest.

Scratches: Colin McDonald (upper body), Michael Parks (upper body - out for season), Aaron Palushaj (undisclosed), Max Lamarche (upper body since 3/12) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics):

Petr Straka - Tim Brent - Danick Martel
Taylor Leier - Cole Bardreau - Chris Conner
Tyrell Goulbourne - Phil DeSimone - Dalton Smith
Jay Rosehill - Steven Swavely - Joe Rehkamp

Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Davis Drewiske - Christian Marti
Adam Comrie - Robert Hagg

Jason LaBarbera - Martin Ouellette


1st Period

1:09: LV - (PP) Smith, minor (interference)
2:57: POR - PPG Harper (9) - Rau, Matheson
5:53: LV - (PP) Rosehill, minor (interference)
9:02: POR - Simpson (4) - Knight, Schremp
18:00: POR - (PP) Matheson, minor (delay of game)

2nd Period

1:17: POR - Grimaldi (16) - Harper
6:42: POR - (PP) Knight, minor (hooking)
6:42: POR - (PP) Regner, minor (high-sticking)
12:16: LV - Comrie (5) - DeSimone, Alt
19:18: POR - (PP) Regner, minor (hooking)

3rd Period

7:04: LV - (PP) Comrie, minor (slashing)
18:31: LV - Conner (14) - Martel
18:53: POR - ENG Simpson (5) - unassisted
19:43: LV - (PP) Rosehill, minor (roughing)


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