ALLENTOWN— The Phantoms can win fights, but they can't win games.
Wednesday the Phantoms (29-28-6-1) were trounced on home ice by third-place Syracuse (39-18-8) in a 6-1 setback for their fourth consecutive loss in the last six days. With an important two points on the line, veteran Brandon Manning worked with his fists more than his stick to motivate a failing bench, but with little to show for it.
Manning dropped the gloves twice in the loss, with his first altercation coming in defense of a teammate who was blindsided by a dirty hit on the boards in the second period. His second fight came late in the game when the score was out of hand at 6-1. Tanner Richards hopped over the boards with two minutes remaining in the game, skated right towards Manning and dropped the gloves. Manning, however, held his own, putting Richards' back on the ice after a wild bout and received a standing ovation from the crowd as he was escorted off the ice.
Rob Zepp allowed four goals on 20 shots before being relieved by Anthony Stolarz early in the third period. Stolarz saved 10 of 12.
Kristers Gudlevskis nearly earned his third shutout of the season, but with 10:38 remaining Blair Jones sent a slapshot from center-point, spoiling any shutout hopes for the 22-year-old goaltender. But he still got the win, saving 27-of-28.
Before Jones' goal, the Phantoms had not scored in more than 124 minutes of hockey.
- With 2:28 remaining in the second period Mark Alt was ambushed by Cole Kunyk and slammed head first into the boards behind Zepp. Kunyk took strides to increase his force in the hit, and blatantly saw Alt’s back was towards him. Unhappy with the dirty hit, Manning immediately came to Alt’s aid, pounding Kunyk in one of the most spirited bouts on Phantoms home ice. Officials had a hard time separating the two, and Manning even chased the center to the penalty box. Kunyk received a five minute boarding major, five minutes for fighting and a game misconduct, with a potential suspension from the AHL forthcoming. No report on Alt’s progress after the game.
- If you ask any player or coach if the playoffs are still a possibility, you'll get the same answer: "They're always a possibility until they're mathematically not." But according to Sports Club Stats, the Phantoms changes are almost mathematically zero. Twelve games left in the regular season, and according to SCS, the way the league stands right now, the Phantoms must win-out the remainder of the season to have a 39% chance of making the final cut. Lehigh Valley is currently 10 points behind eighth-place Springfield with two games in-hand.
- Phantoms veteran center Darroll Powe left Lehigh Valley’s 3-0 loss to the Penguins early Sunday evening after suffering an undisclosed injury, and did not attend practice Tuesday. Powe suffered an "upper body injury" (likely his second concussion of the season) off a bad hit late in the first period, Sunday. The center recently missed 17 games from Dec. 31 to Feb. 8 with a concussion. The 29-year-old has suffered from multiple head injuries in the past, including two with the New York Rangers in 2013.
- Yesterday, the Phantoms announced the signing of defenseman Nick Luukko, the son of former Flyers president Peter Luukko, to an amateur try out for the remainder of the season. Luukko finished up his final season at the University of Vermont with 14 points in 41 games, 35 points in 131 total games with Catamounts. With two classes remaining, the d-man is completing his degree while with the Phantoms via online classes and plans to graduate in May with a degree in applied economics and management, according to The Morning Call’s Gary Blockus. Luukko was a healthy scratch Wednesday night.