ED. NOTE: We're excited to welcome Lindsey Smith to Broad Street Hockey. Lindsey will be covering the Phantoms live this season for BSH.
Besides a handful of concerts and ribbon cutting ceremonies, the newly constructed PPL Center in Allentown had yet to open its doors to Philadelphia hockey fans, but the state of the art center welcomed them in a big way, Saturday in its inaugural game between the Phantoms and Flyers where Team Orange beat Team White 5-3.
The sold-out event welcomed 8,500 fans in both Flyers and Phantoms sweaters.
The intra-squad scrimmage titled Battle on Hamilton (because of the PPL Center's prime location on Hamilton St. in Allentown) was not much of a battle. The low-intensity game saw little hitting and just one penalty in 60 minutes of play.
"This part of the training camp it's the evaluation time for all of the players," Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. "But at the same time we know the intensity level is going to be a bit lower... We all want to get through on the healthy side for sure."
Zac Rinaldo said the low intensity was a nice break from the highly physical games and the mental stress it sometimes causes.
"It's actually kind of nice to go to a game and I don't have to get too psyched up for and dial in like really, really hard mentally," Rinaldo said. "You just show up and have a good time... it's a lot of stress off your shoulders."
Team Orange, coached by Terry Murray and Riley Cote had an early advantage on paper, with Michael Raffl, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Jay Rosehill, Jason Akeson and Scott Laughton bringing NHL experience to the men in orange. Prospects Samuel Morin and Shayne Gostisbehere also donned orange.
The Orange team was also equipped with two goaltenders. Anthony Stolarz, the 6'6" net minder from Jackson, NJ who was cut by a skate in January during a game with the London Knights and has been unable to practice this summer, was the only goaltender on the roster for the White team.
Flyers head coach Craig Berube, who coached Team White, had Rinaldo and Brayden Schenn in white sweaters, along with a handful of Phantoms players.
"The teams were lined up to be entertaining and I think it was," Murray said. "I think the fans enjoyed the game, there was a lot of good puck movement, individual skills and some pretty goals were scored."
Murray stated that the lineups were finalized at Flyers SkateZone in Voorhees.
The "Battle" opened with the White team taking the lead early with a goal by Phantoms d-man Brett Flemming, assisted by Rinaldo. The remainder of the first period tested Team White's defensive power, which stopped every orange sweater in its path. Stolarz had 11 saves in the first period.
Early in the second, however, Orange used its Flyers talent on the roster to net two goals just seconds apart. Raffl and Akeson scored back-to-back goals just over two minutes into the second -- Akeson assisting Raffl, and Laughton and Del Zotto with the helpers for Akeson's goal.
Orange would strike once more in the period as momentum began to intensify. Phantoms forward Taylor Leier scored the final goal in the second for team Orange, sending the team to the locker room with a two goal lead.
Phantoms forward Brandon Alderson opened the third netting a rebound past Stolarz, giving Orange a 4-1 lead. After a goaltending change for Orange, Martin Ouellette let in a high shot off the stick of Peter Straka, assisted by Flyers' Brayden Schenn and Rinaldo cutting the Orange Team's lead to two.
White would have one more shot at the net with under two minutes remaining, as Flemming notches in his second goal of the night. But an open netter from the Orange Team's Chris VandeVelde with 10 seconds left inked in the Orange Team's 5-3 victory.
Stolarz, playing in just his second full game since his injury in January, had 31 saves for the White in 58 minutes of ice time.
Flyers top prospect Shayne Gostisbehere had an empty stat sheet, but said his time on the ice was an important step to making the Flyers final roster.
"Everyone's goal is to make the Flyers of course, but I mean if I'm here, this isn't a bad place to be," Gostisbehere said. "There is always pressure but to be down to the last couple defensemen it's a tremendous honor to be in that situation."
Gostisbehere netted his first goal in a Flyers jersey on Thursday against the New Jersey Devils with a wicked wrist shot on the teams' third power play of the game and said he continued that momentum and excitement onto the ice at the PPL Center, regardless of the "pick-up game" intensity.
"It's exciting any time you put on a Flyers uniform," Gostisbehere said. "All of the fans were great; it was a great turnout and the new building of course. It was definitely a lot of fun being out there."
The Flyers returned to Philadelphia to prepare for its next preseason game against the Devils in New Jersey tomorrow, while the Phantoms take a short break, with their next preseason game scheduled for Wednesday.