Ed. Note: Dan Morency is an Adirondack Phantoms season ticket holder. He periodically checks in with us throughout the season, providing us with an up-close look at his hometown team. We thank him.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is hard to believe that there have been almost 50 days of AHL hockey already. What do the Phantom fans get in this first 50 days? Only 16 games. The Phantoms have played a league low going into this holiday weekend. This little game time may also explain the up and down play of the team as of late. There have been some hints of a very solid team as of late. We've gotten six games in the last 24 days and now will get 12 games in the next 24.
The perfect example of these growing pains was evident last week. I am happy to report that I actually got to three games last week. It is amazing the free time a coach has once their season ends. The Phantoms opened last weekend on Friday versus Binghamton. The Phantoms came out flying and dominated the opening minutes of the game, but then a costly turn over led to a Senators goal, followed by another less than two minutes later. The Sens added another before the period was over, taking a 3-0 lead into the first intermission. From that point on the game lacked all intensity and the Phantoms wereflat and lost 5-0. This might have been one of the worst games I've seen in the past ten years and this includes some bad UHL games.
The next evening Bridgeport came into the Glens Falls Civic Center and an entirely different Phantom team showed up. The Phantoms peppered former Phantom goalie Scott Munroe with 52 shots! Although many were from the point and bad angles, 52 shots is 52 shots. The Phantoms played a physical game but still needed a shootout to defeat the Sound Tigers 3-2. Nic Riopel got his first professional win and Stefan Legein had a great short-handed goal to force overtime. Legein intercepted a pass went the distance and scored on his own rebound. Once again showing just how hard he works on every shift. He really is a pleasure to watch play this game.
The Phantoms effort carried over on Wednesday with a 2-0 defeat of the Toronto Marlies. Johan Backlund got the shutout, in a game that never seemed to be in doubt. Interesting night in Glens Falls to say the least. First of all, former Adirondack Red Wings coach and Philadelphia coach Bill Dineen was on hand for the game. To say Coach Dineen is a local legend is an understatement. He coached the A-Wings to two Calder Cups in the 80s and still calls the area home in the summer. His sons were also in attendance for the game, Gord is an assistant coach for the Marlies and his other son Peter was scouting that night for the Blue Jackets. This was also the first time Christian Hanson played in Glens Falls. Christian's father is Dave Hanson of Slapshot fame. Dave played for the Adirondack Red Wings in the 80s and then returned to the area to run a local ski mountain and later was the GM of the Capital District Islanders. Christian spent a good chunck of his childhood growing up in the Glens Falls area and this was a homecoming of sorts for him.
The Phantoms took their two game winning streak to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday and after playing a solid first period they fell apart in the second. The Penguins scored three goals in the second, including a short-handed goal and the Phantoms could not respond. The Phantoms played a solid third period, but the three goal deficit was too much to overcome. The Phantoms dropped the game 3-1 to the east division rival.
Going into the weekend, the Phantoms are in sixth place with only 17 points. The good news is that they have one game in hand on the Penguins and at least three games in hand on everyone else in the division. Although the power play continues to struggle - now 21st in the league - the penalty kill has been impressive. The Phantoms are killing off 86% of their penalties, good for 9th in league. This includes two 5 vs. 3 kills on Wednesday versus Toronto.
As for the recent call-ups, I was surprised to hear the players chosen. Jared Ross has struggled all season. I don't know if the pressure with the "C" has been too much, but he has not looked good. He hustles, but seems like a small man playing a big man's game. He gets lost in the trees and just seems to disappear on certain shifts. Andreas Nodl was impressive on opening night. He was the one player that came out and played very physical and was involved in a few of the scoring chances. He quickly moved from his spot on the third line to the top line, but as the offense began to struggle, coach Greg Gilbert began to tinker with lines. Nodl has been moved around since that point and at times seemed to be in Gilbert's doghouse, even missing shifts at times. I know both have NHL experience, but both were surprises to see their names called up. Stefan Legein would have been a perfect fit for a third or fourth line guy at the NHL level. Pat Maroon has showed some toughness as of late with two fights in three games and a willingness to throw his body around. I wonder how the CBA fits into who gets called up? This might explain the Flyers choices.