Phantoms Fall 6-1 in Preseason Opener

Friday, October 7, 2016
Anthony Stolarz had a rough night in the Phantoms' preseason opener. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Written by: Tony Androckitis, Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms opened their preseason schedule with a 6-1 loss to the Charlotte Checkers in front of 5,542 fans at the PPL Center Friday night.

A second period scoring surge by the Checkers proved to be the difference, as it wasn't a particularly strong performance by Anthony Stolarz in net or defensively in front of the Phantoms goaltender.

Sometimes it's hard to realize that with a lineup of new teammates thrown together in the few days leading up to the preseason there's going to be sloppy play and miscommunication early on. Despite the final score, head coach Scott Gordon was pleased with some of the things the Phantoms were able to improve upon.

"To me, the score isn't really important other than an ego, but we wanted to make sure that everyone was getting their work in," an unconcerned Gordon said after the game." We rolled four lines. They're going to be guys in the lineup that won't be here to start the season. Mistakes are going to happen. We'll be better."

The Phantoms take on Charlotte again Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. ET to conclude their preseason schedule.


Head coach Scott Gordon

On the positives despite the score:
Obviously neither team has a full lineup. The mistakes that we made tonight were because of some of the new things we are asking the players to do. The fans, you guys, don't see the positives of the things that was new for us. One of those things for me is an area I thought as a team we needed to improve upon was our ability of our defensemen to get up into the play and be a better team off the rush. That's one of the things I thought we did really well tonight.
There's pros and cons to it. When you get too anxious to get up in the rush you end up giving up some goals that are not going to be given up because it was a poor read. And then just some sloppy turnovers - not sharp in the neutral zone and not identifying the pressure. 
I thought defensively, even though we gave up six goals, there were a lot of good things we did coming out of our zone and defending in our zone. Most of our problems came off the rush. 
T.J. Brennan
We've had a good week of practice here. We have a bunch of new guys and a new team. I think from a coaching standpoint there's not really any expectations I don't think. Everyone is being thrown together into a game situation, so a lot of new faces and situations.
There was a lot of positives out there. We have a lot of skill out there and guys who want to work hard. Maybe one of the keys is working a little smarter. For our first exhibition there were some positives. Obviously the score wasn't a good end result but it doesn't count towards our record. To me it's all about the process of getting better throughout the season. Wherever you start, make sure you're heading upwards. You have to start somewhere. I have boatloads of confidence in where this team and organization is heading.
Greg Carey
We just spent six days working on a bunch of different things. We had a lot thrown at us really quick. We had some miscommunication out there, some turnovers, it's going to happen in preseason. We are going to try to iron it out, hopefully get a good exhibition game in us tomorrow night and get ready for next weekend.

Although it was a bit of a sluggish start for both teams - as you might expect for a preseason opener - there wasn't a single whistle in the opening 8:04 of play and the pace continued to pick up.

Anthony Stolarz made some sharp saves early after some defensive zone turnovers on Phantoms breakouts, but Lehigh Valley settled in and started to create some offensive pressure.

The Phantoms' second line of Danick Martel, Mark Zengerle and Nicolas Aube-Kubel combined for the first real chance for the home team, as Martel cut into the middle entering the offensive zone and sent a saucer pass to the slot that Aube-Kubel got a stick on and nearly deflected past Checkers netminder Alex Nedeljokovic.

Lehigh Valley continued to presure in the middle part of the first period, but it was the Checkers opening the scoring 10:49 into the contest. Mike Kirkpatrick got open in the left-wing face-off circle and Brody Sutter won a loose puck battle in the corner. Sutter sent a crisp cross ice pass to Kirkpatrick, who fired a quick shot over Stolarz's shoulder high to the blocker side for the game's opening goal.

Charlotte scored in quick transition less than three minutes later to extend their lead to 2-0. After a puck wasn't kept in at the Phantoms offensive blue line, Andrew Poturalski flew down the left wing and scored on the ensuing odd man rush. Valentin Zykov and Dennis Robertson added assists on the play.

The Phantoms got some late first pressure and nearly cut into the Checkers' lead if not for an Erik Karlsson hook of Robert Hagg in the slot as the final seconds were ticking off the first period clock. Lehigh Valley headed to the 1st intermission trailing 2-0, but were awarded the game's first power play to start the middle frame.

Lehigh Valley wasted no time on the man advantage to begin the second period, cutting the deficit to 2-1 just 18 seconds in.

Travis Sanheim took a pass from T.J. Brennan and turned on the jets entering the offensive zone, blowing past the defense and centering a pass to Greg Carey for an easy tap in goal to get the Phantoms on the board.

Unfortunately for Lehigh Valley, that's as close as they would get in the middle period. Charlotte re-gained control - rattling off four goals including three in a span of 3:32 to break the game open to the tune of a 6-1 game.

The Phantoms had plenty of chances to turn the tides in the final frame, but were unable to cash in on any of their four third period power plays to make a game of it.


Anthony Stolarz (20 saves - 26 shots) got the start in net tonight for Lehigh Valley. Alex Lyon served as the team's backup goaltender and will get the start tomorrow night against these same Charlotte Checkers.

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Mark Zengerle - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Steven Swavely - Radel Fazleev - Corban Knight
Derek Mathers - Kevin Sundher - Justin Crandall

Robert Hagg - Travis Sanheim
T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Daniel New - Jesper Pettersson

Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon

Scratches: Sam Morin, Will O'Neill, Cole Bardreau, Tyrell Goulbourne, Colin McDonald, Max Lamarche, Petr Straka and Chris McCarthy


1st Period

10:49: CHA - Kirkpatrick (1) - Sutter
13:32: CHA - Poturalski (1) - Zykov, Robertson
20:00: CHA - (PP) Karlsson, minor (hooking)

2nd Period

0:18: LV - PPG Carey (1) - Sanheim, Brennan
6:14: CHA - Kirkpatrick (2) - Woods
8:04: LV - (PP) Fazleev, minor (tripping)
11:45: LV - (PP) Carey, minor (high-sticking)
13:04: LV - (PP) New, minor (hooking)
13:47: CHA - PPG Tennyson (1) - Kirkpatrick, Sutter
15:42: CHA - Sutter (1) - Chelios
17:19: CHA - Chelios (1) - Bishop, Harris
17:51: CHA - (PP) Heard, minor (slashing)

3rd Period

0:46: LV - (PP) Brennan, minor (high-sticking)
6:47: CHA - (PP) Sutter, minor (interference)
7:51: LV - Martel, minor (roughing)
7:51: LV - (PP) Martel, minor (slashing - served by Crandall)
7:51: CHA - Tennyson, minor (roughing)
8:45: CHA - (PP) Chelios, minor (interference)
9:00: CHA - (PP) Bishop, minor (tripping)
11:14: CHA - (PP) Woods, minor (playing without helmet)


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