Monday's Catch Up & Links 2/22

Monday, February 22, 2016
Colin McDonald is hoping to be back for this weekend's games. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-25-2-2) showed their resiliency over the weekend, twice coming back from 4-2 third period deficits in route to getting a much-needed five out of six points in the standings in their three-game set.

The 2-0-1 weekend keeps the Phantoms' playoff hopes alive and well heading into an even more crucial three-game weekend starting Friday night at home against the Hartford Wolf Pack, who enter the week two points ahead of the Phantoms for 6th place in the Atlantic Division.

It certainly appears that the Atlantic Division will enter five teams into the postseason as current fifth place Bridgeport (61 points) has a better record than fourth in the North Division Rochester (56 points). While it would be wise of the Phantoms to make their push for fourth in the Atlantic to avoid crossing over into the North to face the league's best team Toronto in the first round, fifth place would still likely get them into the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs where anything can happen.

ROSTER MOVE: The Phantoms have signed forward Dalton Smith to a professional tryout contract (PTO). Smith appeared in 17 games (1G-0A, Even, 24 PIM) with the Providence Bruins this season, with his last appearance coming on January 23rd. The 23-yr-old Smith is in his 4th pro season & is a former 2010-2nd rd pick of Columbus. He brings 215 AHL games of experience (22G-18A, 381 PIM) to the Phantoms. Smith been best described as a physical bottom six forward that is hard on the fore-check and strong in the dirty areas of the ice.

All the regular news, notes and links to start off your work week after the jump.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-25-2-2)

Last Week

Friday 2/19, Springfield - 1 at Lehigh Valley - 2

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms entered the weekend needing wins and points in the standings. Despite going down 1-0 halfway through the first period, the Phantoms tallied two unanswered goals in the middle frame and held on in the third behind 37 saves from Anthony Stolarz in route to a big 2-1 win over the Springfield Falcons Friday night.

Cole Bardreau got things started in the second period for Lehigh Valley, stuffing home a loose puck in the crease 2:19 into the middle frame to even the score. Aaron Palushaj finished off his breakaway set up by Petr Straka with 2:46 left before the second intermission to put the Phantoms in front heading into the third - a lead that Stolarz and the Phantoms would hold onto for the 2-1 win.

Saturday 2/20, Bridgeport - 5 at Lehigh Valley - 4 (SO)

With 8:00 left in the third period and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms trailing 4-2, another disappointing loss appeared to be in the making. Instead, two goals by Taylor Leier off two setups from Chris Conner - the second of which came with 1:54 left in regulation - forced overtime and gave the Phantoms a chance to steal two points from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Unfortunately, the Sound Tigers were able to prevail in a shootout but the Phantoms earned a valuable point in a game where losing two points in the standings to a Bridgeport team they're chasing for a playoff spot would have been detrimental to their chances of making a push towards the postseason.

Sunday 2/21, Springfield - 4 at Lehigh Valley - 5

For the second straight night, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms were staring down a 4-2 third period deficit. Unlike Saturday versus Bridgeport where the Phantoms tied things up only to lose in the shootout, Lehigh Valley posted a thrilling third period comeback and stole a 5-4 regulation win in Springfield Sunday to take five out of a possible six points on their three-game weekend.

Phil DeSimone tied things up with 4:06 left in regulation, before holding a puck in at the offensive zone blue line in the final seconds before setting up Mark Alt with a point blast goal with 2.8 seconds left to lift the Phantoms to the thrilling come-from-behind win.

The Week Ahead

Friday 2/26, Hartford at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday 2/27, Utica at Lehigh Valley - 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday 2/28, Lehigh Valley at Hartford - 5:00 p.m. ET


  • Anthony Stolarz started all three games last weekend, which begs the question of whether or not Jason LaBarbera was 100%. During Saturday's warm up in particular, he appeared slowed in his side to side movement and left the ice even before scheduled starter Stolarz did.
  • Taylor Leier is playing on a whole other level right now. Sunday's one assist performance gave him 18 points (8G-10A) in his last 13 games.
  • Leier has formed quite a duo with Chris Conner, who also has been on a tear of late with 20 points (5G-15A) in his last 13 appearances.
  • Jay Rosehill appeared in back to back games for the first time since his back to back performances just after Christmas on December 26th and 27th. It's been a struggle for him to get into the lineup, albeit with the veteran issues the team had and then an injury in practice a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how often Scott Gordon gets Rosehill in the lineup down the stretch.
  • Newcomer Phil DeSimone quietly has seven points (3G-4A) in his last six games. He tallied the game-tying goal Sunday in addition to keeping a puck in the offensive zone in the waning seconds to eventually set up Mark Alt's game winning goal with 2.8 seconds left.
  • Colin McDonald missed all three games last weekend with an undisclosed upper body injury, but it expected to return to game action this weekend.
  • Tim Brent, who had surgery on his hand/wrist, is hoping for a mid-March return. It's good news that Brent isn't expected to miss the rest of the season.
Weekly Links

Last week at The Home News, my Phantoms feature on the team's playoff window closing and Andrew MacDonald's recall to Philadelphia - another leader lost in the Lehigh Valley locker room. Stay tuned for this week's Phantoms print story in the next edition of The Home News.

Over the weekend, I posted my weekly look around the AHL's Eastern Conference in Saturday's Morning Skate (2/20). There are only eight weeks left in the season and the playoff races are already heating up.

On Thursday, I posted my 1-on-1 interview with Flyers prospect and second year Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg. Hagg has struggled this season and I also talked to head coach Scott Gordon about where Hagg is at in terms of his development.

My latest at Hockey's Future takes a look at the AHL's Eastern Conference's playoff picture with only eight weeks left in the regular season. Atlantic Division thoroughly discussed in my February Eastern Conference Notebook.

Take a look at this week's Future Flyers Report by's Tim Riday, which provides a nice look at the organization's prospects.


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