Saturday's Morning Skate 3/19

Saturday, March 19, 2016
The Phantoms are leaning on Anthony Stolarz down the stretch. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
With less than a month to go in the 2015-16 regular season, the games are becoming increasingly more contested. Last night, all four games in the Eastern Conference needed overtime to produce a winner.

At this time of year, teams are basically in one of three groups. There are those trying to solidify their playoff position, those fighting to stay alive in the playoff race and those trying to play the role of spoiler to teams trying to contend for the postseason.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are teetering between those final two groups of teams after last night's blown third period lead saw them leave a point on the table in Toronto. With just 12 games left on their regular season schedule, they trail the final playoff spot by seven points. Furthermore, the Phantoms are trying to chase down two teams who are tied with seven more points than them and both of those teams have games in hand on Lehigh Valley.

The Portland Pirates have three games in hand on the Phantoms entering today's games, and will make up one of those three games tonight when they take on Bridgeport. The Hartford Wolf Pack will make up one of their two games in hand on the Phantoms tonight when they take on Springfield.

The Phantoms aren't in action tonight, but they return home after an unsuccessful five-game road trip (0-3-2) to host Portland on Sunday in a game that could end the Phantoms' playoff hopes. A Pirates win tonight and tomorrow would make it an 11 point deficit with 11 games left. On the other hand, if the Pirates drop the next two games the Phantoms could potentially close the gap to five points depending on the outcome of Hartford's games this weekend in a home and home series with Springfield.

Atlantic Division Standings (through 3/18's games)

1. Hershey: 62 games played, 35-17-3-7 = 80 points (.645 PCT)
2. W-B/Scranton: 62 games played, 36-21-4-1 = 77 points (.621 PCT)
3. Providence: 62 games played, 31-19-9-3 = 74 points (.597 PCT)
4. Bridgeport: 63 games played, 34-23-3-3 = 74 points (.587 PCT)
5. Portland: 61 games played, 31-24-4-2 = 68 points (.557 PCT)
6. Hartford: 62 games played, 33-27-2-0 = 68 points (.548 PCT)
7. Lehigh Valley: 64 games played, 27-30-4-3 = 61 points (.477 PCT)
8. Springfield: 61 games played, 23-31-3-4 = 53 points .434 PCT)

Around The Atlantic

Lehigh Valley - 2 at Toronto - 3 (OT)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (27-30-4-3) appeared again to be well on their way to a regulation win up 2-0 on the Toronto Marlies with under six minutes left in the third period. Instead, as has often happened during the team's five-game road trip, the Phantoms surrendered the lead before ultimately falling in overtime to the American Hockey League's top team.

Tim Brent and Petr Straka gave the Phantoms the lead and Anthony Stolarz stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced, but it simply wasn't enough to hold off the Marlies. Sam Carrick started the comeback, while Brendan Leipsic forced overtime before Colin Smith finished the game in the extra session.

The Phantoms enjoy a rare Saturday night off before an important match up with Portland Sunday, while Toronto remains home to host Providence this afternoon.

Portland - 3 at Hartford - 4 (OT)

In a back-and-forth game at the XL Center in Hartford, the Wolf Pack finished things off in overtime as Nicklas Jensen completed his hat trick after tying the game midway through the third period. The win moved Hartford into a tie with Portland for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Marek Hrivik tallied three assists, while Raphael Diaz recorded two helpers to help Hartford to a big two points. Magnus Hellberg stopped 27 of 30 in net, edging out Mike McKenna's 35-save performance for the Pirates.

Connor Brickley tallied a goal and an assist to lead Portland in a losing effort. The Pirates have now gone seven games without a win (0-4-2-1) and need to turn things around immediately starting tonight against Bridgeport. Hartford begins a home and home series with Springfield to finish the weekend.

Other Eastern Conference Scores

St. John's - 2 at Utica - 1 (OT)
Syracuse - 3 at Binghamton - 4 (OT)

Saturday's Eastern Conference Schedule

Providence at Toronto - 3:00 p.m. ET
Portland at Bridegport - 7:00 p.m. ET
Springfield at Hartford - 7:00 p.m. ET
St. John's at Syracuse - 7:00 p.m. ET
Albany at Utica - 7:00 p.m. ET
Rochester at Binghamton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Hershey at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET


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