Monday's Catch Up & Links 4/11

Monday, April 11, 2016
Taylor Leier tallied his 20th of the season Sunday in Bridgeport. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
Entering the final week of the American Hockey League's (AHL) 2015-16 regular season, seven of the eight playoff positions in the Eastern Conference have been filled with only a battle for the final playoff spot remaining between the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Hartford Wolf Pack. Hartford sits four points behind Bridgeport for the final spot, and needs to not only win their own games but also have Bridgeport lose theirs - two points are all the Sound Tigers need to lock up a berth into the postseason.

Although the playoff teams are all but decided, the final week will still be meaningful in determining the match ups for the first round in the East. Most important will be the battle for fourth place in the Atlantic Division, as the fifth place team will crossover into the North Division for the postseason and have to face either the top team in the league in the Toronto Marlies, or the second best team in the conference in the Albany Devils.

The North Division's title is already decided as the Marlies have run away with the league's best record, and the Albany Devils are locked into the 2nd seed in the North. All that's left to decide is whether third place Utica enters the postseason as the third or fourth seed in the North Division playoff. Entering the week, fifth place Bridgeport (Atlantic) has one more point than third place Utica (Utica).

As for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who are out of postseason contention, the final weeks gives the latest additions to the roster - Travis Sanheim, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Oskar Lindblom - three more games to get a better feel for pro hockey in the AHL before heading into the off-season. It gives guys who are up for free agency this summer a final weekend to leave an impression with both the Phantoms and the rest of the league's scouts that they can fit the bill, while returning players have a chance to leave a final impression on head coach Scott Gordon for more playing time next season.

After the jump, the regularly formatted Monday feature with a look at last week, a look ahead to this week and several exclusive Phantoms features on guys like Travis Sanheim, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Oskar Lindblom and Anthony Stolarz among others.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms (33-33-4-3)

Last Week

Friday 4/8, Lehigh Valley - 4 at W-B/Scranton - 0

For the second time this season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have won five straight games. It wasn't the best performance of the year, as the Phantoms were out-shot by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins by a wide margin of 40-22 and largely out-chanced, but the Phantoms scored some timely goals and rode their hot goaltender Martin Ouellette to the finish line in a 4-0 win.

Ouellette posted his second consecutive shutout with his 40-save effort, his fifth straight win with the Phantoms and has extended his shutout streak to 145 minutes and 10 seconds without allowing a goal dating back to April 1st's game up in St. John's. To say he's playing with confidence is an understatement, especially early on when the Penguins were really dominating.

In fact, the Phantoms did not get their first shot on goal until midway through the first period. Their first goal didn't come until their 10th shot of the contest with 2:35 left in the second period, but Adam Comrie's 7th of the season gave Lehigh Valley a 1-0 lead thanks to Ouellette's 28 saves through 40 minutes of regulation.

Comrie tallied twice more in the third period, sandwiched between a hard-working rebound goal by Tim Brent, to complete the hat trick - his first as a pro - and while the Penguins power play went 0-for-8 tonight the Phantoms were able to cash in for two power play goals of their own. Special teams play changed the outcome of the game.

Saturday 4/9, Bridgeport - 6 at Lehigh Valley - 4

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms saw their season-high five-game win streak come to an end Saturday night against Bridgeport, but a valiant third period effort to turn a 5-2 deficit with 9:05 left in regulation into a winnable game further speaks to the no-quit mentality this team has.

It isn't always easy to close out a game, let alone a season, when there doesn't seem to be anything going the right way. The Phantoms have been mathematically eliminated since the beginning of the month, but it didn't stop them from continuing to put in the effort. The first 40 minutes of regulation weren't properly executed by Lehigh Valley, but they found a way to climb back into the game and make things interesting in the closing minutes.

Oskar Lindblom is really emerging as a talented hockey player with tremendous potential and upside. In just his fourth game in the AHL, he nearly took control of the game with two third period tallies - his first two goals in North America. Once he got the first one, his confidence and drive kicked up another gear from his already impressive start to his AHL tenure. Lindblom now has five points (two goals, three assists) in four games following a three-point night.

Sunday 4/10, Lehigh Valley - 4 at Bridgeport - 1

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms carried the momentum from the third period of Saturday night's game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and came into Webster Bank Arena with a dominant performance in a 4-1 win - out shooting the Sound Tigers by as much as a 31-9 margin after two periods.

The incoming prospects continue to shine, as Travis Sanheim picked up his first career pro point on a power play assist on Robert Hagg's opening goal of the game while promising forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel sniped one to the top shelf from the left-wing circle in the third period for his first pro goal.

Anthony Stolarz rebounded well from last night's game where he allowed five goals, stopping all but one of the 28 shots he faced. In fact, Stolarz was less than 20 seconds away from his first shutout of the season before Tyler Barnes got one in past him with 18.7 seconds left in the contest.

Only three more games left on the season for Lehigh Valley, who have a week of practice ahead of themselves before one final three-game weekend beginning Friday night at home against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Week Ahead

Friday 4/15, W-B/Scranton at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday 4/16, Lehigh Valley at Hershey - 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday 4/17, Syracuse at Lehigh Valley - 5:05 p.m. ET

  • The big news coming out of Allentown is that the American Hockey League (AHL) announced Saturday that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have been selected to host the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic, which will take place on January 28-30th.
  • Anthony Stolarz has returned to the Phantoms and after a rocky performance Saturday night at home in which he surrendered five goals, he rebounded well on Sunday in Bridgeport - stopping 27 of 28 and nearly recording his first shutout of the season before surrending a last-minute third period goal.
  • The plethora of incoming prospects that have joined the Phantoms in recent weeks are all performing well. Oskar Lindlom (5GP, 2G-3A), Reece Willcox (4GP, 1G-1A), Nicolas Aube-Kubel (3GP, 1G-1A) and Travis Sanheim (2GP, 0G-1A) have all recorded at least their first pro points while all but Sanheim have gotten their first career AHL goals out of the way.
  • Forward prospects Radel Fazleev and Travis Konecny will not play with the Phantoms this spring due to their injuries. Fazleev is with the team in Allentown, and told me he's looking forward to turning pro in the fall.
  • Taylor Leier tallied his 20th goal of the season Sunday in Bridgeport, giving him five points (two goals, three assists) in five games in April.
Weekly Links


Last week at The Home News, my weekly Phantoms feature talked about the team getting back on track after the blowout loss to Hershey and the new arrivals to the team from the Canadian junior hockey leagues. Stay tuned for this week's story for a special 1-on-1 interview with AHL President/CEO David Andrews talking about how bringing the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic to the Lehigh Valley came to fruition.

On Friday, I caught up with goaltender Anthony Stolarz to talk about another stint in the NHL with the Flyers that came and went without a chance to make his NHL debut. Stolarz isn't showing frustration, but seven times up in the NHL without any action has to be deflating.

On Wednesday, I spoke to Travis Sanheim and Nicolas Aube-Kubel after their first practice with the Phantoms where head coach Scott Gordon later confirmed that both would make their pro debuts Friday in Wilkes-Barre. I also spoke to both Sanheim and Aube-Kubel in exclusive 1-on-1 interviews right after their pro debuts.


A well-written tribute to Flyers' owner Ed Snider by's Bill Meltzer. Snider passed away early Monday morning at the age of 83.

Though only briefly with the Phantoms, Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi reports Sam Gagner is getting his first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Flyers battle the Washington Capitals in the first round this week.

Michael Raffl finished as the only member of the Flyers to play in all 82 games according to Courier-Post's Dave Isaac. Sam Morin is the only eligible 'ironman' for the Phantoms on an injury riddled team most of the season that has claimed several victims.


Post a Comment