Monday's Catch Up & Links 3/27

Monday, March 27, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
The final three weeks of the American Hockey League's (AHL) 2016-17 regular season should provide plenty of exciting matchups as teams continue to battle for postseason contention.

While some teams are looking to clinch a playoff spot this week, other teams are fighting for their playoff lives and feeling the heat of needing a last ditch effort to make the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs a possibility.

After the jump, a look at the Atlantic Division's playoff race as well as updates on all of the injured Phantoms, a look back at last week's games and looking ahead to the team's three games this week.

Atlantic Division Playoff Picture

Standings through 3/27's games

1. W-B/Scranton: 9 games remaining, 46-18-3, 95 points (.709 PCT)
2. Phantoms: 9 games remaining, 43-20-4, 90 points (.672 PCT)
3. Providence: 9 games remaining, 39-19-5-4, 87 points (.649 PCT)
4. Hershey: 8 games remaining, 38-19-8-3, 87 points (.640 PCT)
5. Bridgeport: 9 games remaining, 39-24-3-1, 82 points (.612 PCT)

6. Springfield: 9 games remaining, 27-29-9-2, 65 points (.485 PCT)
7. Hartford: 9 games remaining, 22-39-4-2, 50 points (.373 PCT)

Phantoms' Playoff Update - The Phantoms' overtime win combined with Bridgeport's overtime loss Sunday lowered Lehigh Valley's magic number by three points with a chance to drop that number another four with a regulation win on Friday in the rematch against Bridgeport.

There wasn't any help elsewhere in the division Sunday, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Providence and Hershey all won their games.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' magic number to clinch a berth in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs is currently at 11 points. You can also keep track of the playoff races in the AHL's daily Playoff Primer.

Phantoms' Team Report

Injuries are starting to catch up to the Phantoms, who had seemingly escaped the injury bug through the first 50 games of the season.

Greg Carey missed Sunday's game due to an undisclosed injury he sustained Saturday night against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Carey left the game early in the third period after an awkward collision with a teammate. Carey did not return and head coach Scott Gordon didn't have an update on his status moving forward.

Carey's absence allowed Mark Zengerle to slot back into the lineup after missing the previous three games as a healthy scratch.

Taylor Leier returned to the lineup March 18th in Wilkes-Barre after missing the previous 19 games with lingering symptoms of a concussion he suffered back in late January. We debuted Leier's story in our new 'Friday Feature' weekly series.

Chris Conner did not travel with the team to St. John's and also missed last weekend's games with an injury per head coach Scott Gordon. As per usual, no further details were provided on Conner's status moving forward.

Defenseman Will O'Neill left early in the 1st period of Saturday's 4-1 win against Utica on March 11th after an apparent upper body injury he sustained jamming his left hand/wrist after a fall into the boards.

Boyd Gordon, who left in a Wednesday home game against Binghamton after a sliding BSens' forward crunched into his legs in the corner boards, was initially expected to miss a few weeks with a knee injury. He was seen at last Friday night's game in Allentown walking with a knee brace over his suit pants.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed their 2014-3rd round draft pick, defenseman Mark Friedman, to an entry level contract beginning in the 2017-18 season. The former Bowling Green State Univeristy product, who tallied 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 40 games this season in the WCHA, will join the Phantoms this weekend on a tryout contract for the remainder of the season. He participated in his first on-ice practice with the Phantoms Friday in Whitehall.

Injured list: Will O'Neill (upper body since 3/11 vs. UTI), Greg Carey (undisclosed since 3/25 vs. WBS), Chris Conner (undisclosed since 3/17 vs. WBS) and Boyd Gordon (lower body since 2/8)

Lines from Sunday's Game

Cole Bardreau - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Taylor Leier (A)  - Andy Miele (A) - Mark Zengerle
Danick Martel - Corban Knight - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Tyrell Goulbourne - Radel Fazleev - Chris McCarthy

T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Travis Sanheim - Max Lamarche

Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon

Weekly Wrap Up

Last Week

Tuesday, March 21st: Lehigh Valley - 5 at St. John's - 4 (OT) (GAME STORY)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (41-19-4) pulled off the unthinkable Tuesday night in Newfoundland, Canada at the Mile One Centre in St. John's - the eastern most point on the North American continent.

Down 4-0 to the St. John's IceCaps (31-25-8-1) late in the second period, Travis Sanheim nudged a puck from the left-wing to the inside of the left-wing face-off circle to Cole Bardreau for a quick shot past IceCaps goaltender Charlie Lindgren with 1:00 left before the second intermission.

Not only did Bardreau's 9th of the season break snap the shutout, but it gave the Phantoms life heading into the final frame. Though it wasn't known at the time in a 4-1 game, Bardreau's goal proved to be the turning point.

The Phantoms went on to tally five unanswered goals - scoring three in the third period and one in overtime to complete the comeback and defeat the IceCaps 5-4.

Wednesday, March 22nd: Lehigh Valley - 3 at St. John's - 2 (SO) (GAME STORY)

The story of the 2016-17 season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms continued to ring ever true this week for the team's pair of games in St. John's, Newfoundland.

In back-to-back nights, the Phantoms found themselves trailing late in regulation. On Tuesday night, it was a 4-0 deficit late in the second period turned into a 5-4 overtime win. Wednesday night, the Phantoms trailed 2-1 into the final 90 seconds of regulation.

It doesn't seem to matter the score or circumstances. The Phantoms simply find ways to win games and at this time of year, that's all that matters.

A big part of the reason why Lehigh Valley earned two points tonight was the play in net by Anthony Stolarz, earning starts in back-to-back nights - stopping 42 of the 44 shots he faced plus all four shooters he saw in the shootout.

Corban Knight tallied the lone shootout goal in the bottom half of the fourth round to give the Phantoms the 3-2 win in the shootout.
Saturday, March 25th: W-B/Scranton - 4 at Lehigh Valley - 0 (GAME STORY)

On a night where the Lehigh Valley Phantoms had an opportunity to solidify their standing in the Atlantic Division and close in on the first place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, they were shutout for the first time all season in a 4-0 loss to their in-state rival.

Call it a missed opportunity. Call it running into a hot goaltender (Tristan Jarry stopped all 35 Phantoms shots). Call it Penguins puck luck. Call it a bad night on the power play (0-for-9).

The bottom line is that Lehigh Valley squandered an opportunity to pick up two points in the standings and has an equally important game Sunday evening when the 5th place Bridgeport Sound Tigers come to town.
Sunday, March 26th: Bridgeport - 3 at Lehigh Valley - 4 (OT) (GAME STORY)

While things were looking pretty grim as the final seconds of the second period ticked off the scoreboard with the score reading 3-1 Bridgeport, tonight's game was another case of this year's Lehigh Valley Phantoms team never saying never.

Mark Zengerle made things interesting midway through the third period, catching a pass from Max Lamarche in stride entering the offensive zone and picking a corner on Stephon Williams from the left wing to make it a one-goal game.

Still, the clock continued to tick down with Lehigh Valley trailing 3-2. Then, the Phantoms' big break came with 2:58 left in regulation. A Phantoms' power play unit that was, up until that point, 0-for-14 on the weekend seemingly had one final chance to even things up.

Andy Miele wasted no time, taking a pass from T.J. Brennan in the neutral zone and flying down the right wing before picking a corner on Williams with 2:42 left in regulation to even the score at 3-3.

Miele wasn't done there either, finishing it off in the 3-on-3 overtime session in the final seconds - crashing the crease and stuffing home Taylor Leier's attempt with just over 30 seconds left to complete the thrilling comeback in front of another sellout crowd at PPL Center.

The Week Ahead

Friday, March 31st: Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET

Saturday, April 1st: Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET

Sunday, April 2nd: Lehigh Valley at Hershey - 5:00 p.m. ET


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