|Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tim Riday - Twitter
ALLENTOWN - There is one word that stands out among all others this season when it comes to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Every night, it seems like another line is responsible for the heavy lifting on the offensive side of the puck. Other lines grind it out and also produce here in there.
It's always a team effort.
And at PPL Center on Wednesday, it was the trio of Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Jordan Weal and Danick Martel that stood out and stole the headlines. The three forwards combined for five goals and four assists as the Phantoms (28-11-2) easily dispatched the Binghamton Senators (18-20-2-1) for the third time this season.
Lehigh Valley is now 11-1-1 against teams from the North Division this season.
After the jump, a full recap of the action complete with post-game reaction from head coach Scott Gordon and video interviews with Jordan Weal, Danick Martel and Anthony Stolarz.
Head coach Scott Gordon
On my colleague Tony Androckitis
Does he always get to ask the first question?
On Danick Martel
I think Danick was destined to get that third goal. He had a lot of opportunites. It was good to see. He felt it tonight and had a great game.
On Martel scoring in bunches
He can be a streaky player and I think he’s been a little bit snakebit since Christmas. It was good to see him get on the board and cash in on some of his chances.
On Anthony Stolarz’s game
You would never say he was probably one of our better players in a 7-2 game but he certainly made some difficult saves. He had that shutout going for a good portion of the game. It wasn’t one of those games were he didn’t have to do anything to keep it at zero.
On Jordan Weal’s production
He’s been pretty consistent all year. The fact that he has a few more points might be indicative of the guys he’s playing with. They’re getting some points and cashing in on the chances. He’s second or third in scoring in the league. I don’t think we can say anything about being more consistent. That production has been there all season long for us. Sometimes it’s just the guys you’re playing with burying quality chances. Every game, 5-on-5 there is something going on when he’s on the ice and it doesn’t matter who he’s playing with. Tonight, Nic scored and Danick got three. Weal had a goal and two assists himself. That line started connecting offensively and they all benefited from it.
It was a relatively even start to the game on Wednesday evening. Neither side really took control in the early going, with both teams exchanging opportunities from non-threatening areas of the ice.
Binghamton eventually earned the first true dangerous scoring chance four minutes in. Sam Morin stumbled at the blue line after a Phantoms offensive-zone faceoff win, which led to a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Travis Sanheim played it well but the Senators tested Anthony Stolarz with a quick shot backdoor on a cross-ice feed. Stolarz came up big to bail out Morin, who hustled admirably on the backcheck.
Then Lehigh Valley got rolling. Mark Zengerle put a sneaky shot on net during a Phantoms power play just before the halfway mark that nearly fooled Matt O'Connor. The puck sat in the crease but the Senators managed to clear it the length of the ice before the Phantoms could attempt to hammer it home.
On the next shift, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, a flashy goal-scorer and set-up man in the QMJHL a season ago, got the crowd going with two huge hits along the boards in the offensive zone. It was nice to see him get engaged in a dirty area that he tended to avoid at the junior level.
The Phantoms noticeably fed off of the energy created by Aube-Kubel. At the 9:58 mark, Danick Martel snapped a three-game pointless drought with his ninth goal of the season. Robert Hagg dished a pass across the blue line to Mark Alt, who sent a hard pass off the back wall to Martel at the opposite corner. Martel, from a seemingly impossible angle, deposited the puck short side.
It's a credit to Lehigh Valley knowing its own rink. The Phantoms have scored quite a few goals this season off of bounce passes that were sent off the boards/glass.
With 6:11 remaining in the first period, Boyd Gordon came to the defense of a teammate after a high hit. Andreas Englund, who stands at 6-foot-4, stepped up in the neutral zone and blasted the much smaller Chris Conner, listed generously at 5-foot-7.
Gordon was assessed a five-minute major for fighting, two-minute minor for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct. Englund was given five minutes for dropping the gloves and two minutes for charging so the penalties essentially equaled out at 5-on-5.
Before there was even time to announce the infractions, Martel struck again with his 10th marker of the season. Jordan Weal got the puck to Martel, who attempted to slam a wraparound past O'Connor. Martel's initial offering went airborne but he showed some stellar hand/eye coordination to bat it out of the air and into the net to give his club a 2-0 lead.
The Senators made a late push, however. Fortunately for the home team, Stolarz shut the door emphatically. The Phantoms' netminder made a nice glove save with a lot of traffic in front of him - and Robert Hagg attempting to clear the porch - to keep it a two-goal game with just over two minutes remaining in the opening period.
Lehigh Valley made sure to quickly put an end to any thoughts of a possible Binghamton comeback at the start of the second frame.
Just one minute and 20 seconds in, Aube-Kubel, all alone with all the time in the world, deposited a puck from the slot to give the Phantoms a 3-0 lead. Martel led a brilliant forecheck, won a puck battle and centered a pass to a wide-open Aube-Kubel, who snapped an eight-game pointless drought with his fifth tally of the year.
Scott Gordon's club spent the rest of the frame toying with the Senators. With 13:08 remaining in the second, the Phantoms held possession in the offensive zone for well over a minute as Martel, Weal and Aube-Kubel dominated the cycle game. Morin and Sanheim did some nifty work across the blue line to keep the shift alive and wound up maneuvering around nicely.
It ultimately and predictably led to a highlight-reel goal from Weal. Sanheim dropped a pass for Morin, who then gave it to Weal behind the net. After wearing down the opposition, Weal made a power move to the front and fired a wicked backhander top shelf past O'Connor to give Lehigh Valley a 4-0 edge. It was, perhaps, the Phantoms best shift of the season.
It wasn't just flashy offense on display at PPL Center on Wednesday, either. Morin and Sanheim were the Phantoms' dynamic duo defensively all evening.
With less than three minutes to go in the second, both Sanheim and Morin made separate pokechecks in their own end to nullify two Senator attacks.
Combine that with some intelligent play out of the Hagg-Alt pair and it wasn’t difficult to figure out how Binghamton couldn’t create many quality scoring chances. For example, Hagg took a big hit on the breakout but still, somehow, got a cross-ice pass off his blade in time to keep the rush alive.
Like I said earlier, the Phantoms were toying with the Senators. They made it look too easy. But really it came down to keeping things simple.
The Phantoms continued their relentless attack at the start of the third period. T.J. Brennan fired a laser for his 13th goal of 2016-17 with just two seconds remaining on a carryover power play. Andy Miele and Conner picked up assists.
Lehigh Valley easily put up a sixth goal - again on the power play - when Weal found a breaking and uncontested Taylor Leier on the left wing. Colin McDonald earned the secondary assist as the Phantoms scored just a minute apart to make it 6-0.
The Senators ended Stolarz's shutout bid, however, with 13:14 remaining in the final frame. Chad Nehring, with Binghamton on a 5-on-3 advantage, was left uncontested to Stolarz's right and banked a rebound home to make it a 6-1 game.
With over eight minutes to go, Binghamton got another one off a quick Nick Paul wrister. Stolarz had traffic in front and it would've been a tough save to make.
Luckily, the Phantoms responded right away. At the 11:50 mark, Martel registered his third goal of the night to complete the hat trick. It was his 11th of the season and Aube-Kubel collected the lone helper on the play.
And that, mercifully, is how the rout would end. The Phantoms ended the game on a four-minute power play but essentially played keep away the entire time.
Don't forget about Stolarz, either. He was a busy man, turning aside 41 shots in the victory.
Jordan Weal extended his point-scoring streak to six games. He has three goals and six assists during that stretch. ... Colin McDonald and Taylor Leier also extended their own point streaks. McDonald has three goals and five assists in his last five and Leier has two markers and four helpers in his last four. ... With three points, Weal jumped into a tie for second place in the AHL in socring with 42 points this season. ... Despite being held out of the goal column, Greg Carey continues to lead the league in goals with 22. ... Perhaps a night off could help Radel Fazleev (pointless in nine straight), Corban Knight (pointless in five straight) and Will O'Neill (pointless in four straight). All three were scratched against Binghamton.
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
Anthony Stolarz (41 saves - 43 shots) got the start in net against Binghamton after sitting out of Saturday's and Sunday's games with a minor lower-body injury suffered Friday during the Phantoms' 5-3 win over Wilkes-Barre.
Will O'Neill was a late scratch on defense as Mark Alt - who sat out Sunday's game in Hershey - and Reece Willcox - often the 7th defenseman - were in the lineup on defense.
Up front, Corban Knight and Radel Fazleev were the healthy scratches for Lehigh Valley. The Phantoms have 14 healthy forwards on the roster and have been rotating their bottom-six in and out of the lineup as of late.
Scratches: Will O'Neill (healthy), Corban Knight (healthy) and Radel Fazleev (healthy)
Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)
Taylor Leier - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald
Danick Martel - Jordan Weal - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Cole Bardreau - Boyd Gordon - Mark Zengerle
T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Robert Hagg - Mark Alt
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon
6:35: BNG - (PP) McCormick, minor (holding the stick)
9:58: LV - Martel (9) - Alt, Hagg
13:49: BNG - Englund - minor (charging)
13:49: BNG - Englund - major (fighting)
13:49: LV - Gordon - minor (instigation)
13:49: LV - Gordon - major (fighting)
13:49: LV - Gordon - ten minute misconduct
13:59: LV - Martel (10) - Weal
1:20: LV - Aube-Kubel (5) - Martel,
6:52: LV - Weal (14) - Morin, Sanheim
19:15: BNG - (PP) Sieloff, minor (interference)
19:15: BNG - Sieloff, minor (roughing)
19:15: LV - Gordon, minor (roughing)
1:14: LV - PPG Brennan (13) - Miele, Conner
1:28: BNG - (PP) Akeson, minor (tripping)
2:14: LV - PPG Leier (9) - Weal, McDonald
4:54: LV - (PP) Sanheim, minor (holding)
6:22: LV - (PP) Willcox, minor (slashing)
6:46: BNG - Nehring (2) - Akeson, Varone
11:41: BNG - Paul (5) - unassisted
11:50: LV - Martel (11) - Aube-Kubel
16:56: BNG - (PP) Englund, double-minor (high-sticking)