Saturday's Morning Skate 3/26

Saturday, March 26, 2016
Martin Ouellette bounced back in a big way Friday night for Lehigh Valley. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
As the weather in the northeast gets warmer, everyone knows that each game becomes increasingly more important and highly contested. The calendar is approaching April, which means a last ditch effort to earn a playoff berth or continued success to solidify a better playoff seed.

Entering today's games, only the Toronto Marlies have clinched a spot in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. While the Albany Devils are three points away from a playoff berth, the Atlantic Division is much more congested. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears continue to flip flop between first and second place while it's a four team race for what appears to be three playoff spots between Providence, Bridgeport, Portland and Hartford.

Atlantic Division Standings (through 3/25's games)

1. W-B/Scranton: 66 games played, 40-21-4-1 = 85 points (.644 PCT)
2. Hershey: 66 games played, 37-18-4-7 = 85 points (.644 PCT)
3. Providence: 66 games played, 34-20-9-3 = 80 points (.606 PCT)
4. Bridgeport: 67 games played, 36-24-4-3 = 79 points (.590 PCT)
5. Portland: 65 games played, 34-24-5-2 = 75 points (.577 PCT)
6. Hartford: 66 games played, 36-27-3-0 = 75 points (.568 PCT)
7. Lehigh Valley: 67 games played, 28-32-4-3 = 63 points (.470 PCT)
8. Springfield: 65 games played, 23-34-3-5 = 54 points .(415 PCT)

Around The Atlantic

Providence - 3 at Lehigh Valley - 4

For the first time since March 2nd, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (28-32-4-3) came away from a game with two points. A fast start by the home team two nights after an 8-0 drubbing to the Hershey Bears propelled the Phantoms to a 4-3 win over the Providence Bruins Friday night at the PPL Center - snapping an eight-game winless streak and perhaps instilling some confidence and morale in the locker room.

Chris Conner tallied three points (two goals, one assist) to lead the way for Lehigh Valley in a game where the veteran players really stepped up and stood out. Tim Brent and Davis Drewiske each tallied first period goals sandwiched in between Conner's tallies, and captain Colin McDonald set the tone early with his physical play while also drawing his team the early power play that netted them their 2-0 lead.

While the Phantoms are all but out of mathematical contention for the postseason - 12 points out of the final spot with nine games left - the win tonight gives Lehigh Valley life heading down the stretch and an increased motivation to continue playing for each other and their fan base, which sold out the PPL Center for the 21st time this season including 10 in a row.

The Phantoms conclude their four-game homestand Saturday against the Hartford Wolf Pack, while Providence continues their road trip with a visit to Mohegan Sun Arena to take on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Springfield - 3 at Portland - 4

In a back-and-forth game, the lowly Springfield Falcons gave the Portland Pirates trouble and it wasn't until a late third period power play that Connor Brickley was able to give the Pirates their first lead of the night, which held up as the game-winning goal in a 4-3 win in Maine.

Cameron Gaunce led the Pirates' balanced scoring attack with two assists, while Rob Schremp, Chase Balisy and Wade Megan all tallied goals in the win behind 35 saves on 38 shots from veteran goaltender Mike McKenna.

The Falcons jumped out to an early lead and actually led for most of the contest, getting goals from Dylan Reese, Derek Smith and Stefan Fournier in loss. Nicklas Truetle was also under seige in net for Springfield, stopping 40 of the 44 shots the Pirates sent his way.

The Falcons and Pirates rematch again in Portland tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET

Bridgeport - 1 at Hartford - 2 (OT)

In a battle of rivals and more importantly two playoff teams in the Atlantic Division, the Sound Tigers and Wolf Pack played a pretty even game that needed overtime to settle the score.

In the extra session, Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg played a puck to leading scorer Chad Nehring and he did the rest, tallying his 20th of the season and the game-winner to lift Hartford to two points on home ice. Marek Hrivik opened the scoring with a late 1st period power play goal.

Scott Mayfield tied the game for Bridgeport late in the second period and rookie Stephon Williams stopped 23 of 25 shots but it wasn't enough to get the Sound Tigers the win. In the other net, Hellberg stopped all but one of the 31 shots he faced to pick up his 27th win of the season.

Bridgeport enjoys a Saturday night off heading into Easter, while Hartford heads to Allentown, Pa. to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Friday's Eastern Conference Scores

Albany - 1 at Syracuse - 3
Hershey - 2 at Utica - 1 (OT)
W-B/Scranton - 3 at Binghamton - 2 (OT)
St. John's - 5 at Rochester - 3

Saturday's Eastern Conference Schedule

St. John's at Toronto - 1:30 p.m. ET
Albany at Hershey - 7:00 p.m. ET
Springfield at Portland - 7:00 p.m. ET
Rochester at Syracuse - 7:00 p.m. ET
Utica at Binghamton - 7:05 p.m. ET
Hartford at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Providence at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET


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