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Phantoms weekly rundown: Wins, baby!

Doing the thing

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Jan. 14 - Jan. 21

GP W L OTL Standing in Division
GP W L OTL Standing in Division
4 2 0 2 3rd

We had four whole games happen since we last spoke, folks! That’s a lot of happenings! We started out last Wednesday at home against Springfield, for a game that saw the Phantoms make a push in the first half, with goals for Taylor Leier, Connor Bunnaman, and Mike Vecchione, establishing a lead that they were able to hold onto for the duration of the game. They let the Thunderbirds get one back, but that was all, and they pulled out a nice regulation win to start the week off on a high note.

Things would get a little dicier from there, and their next game on Friday in Hartford saw them score All Of The Goals (five in total, care of Mark Friedman, Bunnaman, Greg Carey, Colin McDonald, and Mikhail Vorobyev), but also give up All Of The Goals, including five in regulation to make the need for that late tally by Vorobyev to push them to overtime. They got a point out of it, but a four minute high sticking penalty dealt in the last minute of regulation had them down in overtime, and made for a relatively easy win for the Wolf Pack.

Saturday’s game back at home saw fewer goals (one each from Bunnaman and Carey again) and many, many more penalty minutes (14 in total for the Phantoms), but they were still able to hold on for another overtime. And then they held on through overtime and got to the shootout. Michael Huntebrinker got the nod for the first attempt, on which he scored, and he would turn out to be the only one who could do so, and that makes for another win, friends.

And finally, they closed out the long weekend up in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for another meeting against the Penguins. Less chippy than their last meetings, it also featured fewer of those old combatants. And also fewer players period. We found out late that Carey, Vorobyev, and Tyrell Gouldbourne had been dinged up in their last game and would sit for this one, leaving the Phantoms to ice 10F/7D. Yes, really. And it went okay, all told, as they buckled down and just played a clean and simple bit of road hockey. What that meant was not a lot of scoring, but a regulation goal from Huntebrinker kept the Phantoms in it and we got one more taste of bonus hockey. They lost this one in overtime too, but hey, a point’s not too bad, all things considered.

News

What a week it’s been! Since we last spoke, we had some new additions! In a trade late last week, we saw Taylor Leier head off to the Sabres organization, and in return we got one Justin Bailey. The Phantoms also recalled Frank Hora from Reading, and signed Josh MacDonald to a PTO.

Why the need for all of the additions, you ask? The injury bug is unforgiving, that’s why. We missed Greg Carey, Mikhail Vorobyev, and Tyrell Goulbourne on Monday, but those three are being considered day to day, and shouldn’t miss an extended period of time. Nic Aube-Kubel isn’t so lucky. We don’t have a timeline on him, but per Kerry Huffman, he’ll be out for a bit with a lower body injury.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Greg Carey 41 19 14 8 41
T.J. Brennan 37 7 10 16 33
Chris Conner 41 11 7 12 30
Phil Varone 22 11 9 8 28
Philippe Myers 42 7 11 8 26
Mike Vecchione 42 10 10 4 24
Taylor Leier 34 10 5 4 19
Colin McDonald 41 4 6 8 18
Mikhail Vorobyev 29 5 10 3 18
Nic Aube-Kubel 32 10 5 3 18
Connor Bunnaman 32 12 4 2 18

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Phil Varone 22 46 51.52 1.17
Nic Aube-Kubel 32 68 51.27 0.52
Taylor Leier 34 83 50.63 0.61
Justin Bailey 3 7 50.54 0.72
T.J. Brennan 37 113 50.29 0.76
Greg Carey 41 99 49.62 0.89
Mikhail Vorobyev 29 39 48.42 0.46
Philippe Myers 42 167 47.33 0.54
Philip Samuelsson 41 90 47.2 0.18
Colin McDonald 41 91 46.01 0.36

Three Stars

1. Alex Lyon

We’re not going to pull any punches in this one—if it weren’t for Alex Lyon, this past week would have gone much worse for the Phantoms. He played two games, and made 75 saves on 78 shots, allowing only three goals. And approximating some math, if we split that down the middle, that sounds like Lyon had his work cut out for him, period. But it’s actually much worse. Lyon faced 51 shots in total on Saturday’s game, only allowed the two goals, and got his team to overtime, then the shootout, and held on for the win, and quite frankly, that in and of itself is enough to call for stardom on the week. Lyon was incredibly solid while the team in front was bleeding a ton of shots, and he’s a big reason, if not the reason why they were able to come away with two points in two of these games.

2. Justin Bailey

Hey, it’s the new guy! And he’s doing things already! He came in this week, and he’s been something of an unknown for us, as, you know, new players tend to be when they come into a new organization. And we want to be careful about making judgements about too small of a sample, but we want to note that Bailey’s come in and has been making an impact right off the bat. He put up two assists on Friday in Hartford, has been giving us some smaller pieces of his game to like—a bit of speed, a bit of physicality—and seems to be fitting in well so far. With all of the injuries the Phantoms have been hit with, he’ll have a chance to play a significant role already, and signs are pointing to him being able to produce there. So far, so good.

3. Mikhail Vorobyev

We haven’t been talking too much about Vorobyev, of late, and largely that’s been because, since he’s come back from injury, he hasn’t exactly been dominating in the way that we might have expected him to. But, not to worry, friends, this week saw Vorobyev looking like he might be getting himself on track.

It started on Wednesday when he flashed some more offense, putting up two shots on the rush and flexing a bit of speed, while also picking up an assist on Leier’s goal. He also registered a goal of his own on Friday, and continued to pick up steam as we continued on. It hasn’t been the flashiest of change—even though he had brought a bit of that—but it’s encouraging to see him starting to right the ship. Rough patches happen to everybody, but it’s important to see how and how we’ll they’re able to pull themselves out of them. And Vorobyev seemed to be taking steps in the right direction, before he got hurt, that is.

Two Observations

1. Killing penalties

A bit more good news coming out of this stretch, despite how depleted the lineup is, the penalty kill is still doing its thing! They had a lot of chances to get themselves burned this weekend—particularly on Saturday when they had to kill 14 penalty minutes—but they came out on top, going 13 for 15 in their last four games, and helping themselves hold onto their first in the league PK% rank. And this is good to see, for the surface level of you want your team to have an effective penalty kill, but also for the fact that, with how many chances the Phantoms are giving up at 5-on-5, they can’t really afford to be giving up a ton while a man down, either. So a balance is being struck, just not in the way that we might normally expect it to.

2. A moment to contextualize

Our last observation was more in the nitty gritty department, as these tend to be, but we want to use this last point as an opportunity to pull back and do a bit of contextualizing. We’ve been talking a lot about how things are getting pretty rough and aren’t really going exactly how we’d like to see, and it’s easy to get lost in all that. That’s natural. But, that said, the Phantoms still collected six points in their last four games, including a point in a game in which they only had 10 forwards available. And, as we keep heading down the stretch and banking points becomes more and more important, this period where they were able to get anything while being as beat up as they are, it means a lot. So we’ll take anything we can get out of this one, until things start to turn around again.

Where we’re going

Oh boy are we busy this week, guys! Lots to touch on so let’s go to the quick hits:

After sweeping their first two meetings of the calendar year in a home-and-home series, the Hershey Bears are back in Allentown tonight, and we’re looking for a rematch. They’ve clawed their way out of the basement of the Atlantic division, but still sit in seventh place. Not that this really means anything, these matchups have been tough of late, no matter the standings situation.

And we’ve got another home game on Friday, this time against the Laval Rocket. Remember those guys? They play that super aggressive smothering defensive style that has you wondering if you might never see another goal again in your life? Just me? Anyway, they’re back on Friday and that should be fun or something.

After all that, the Phantoms travel up to Bridgeport for another meeting against the Sound Tigers, who currently sit three points ahead of the Phantoms in the standings (but Lehigh Valley also has two games in hand) at second. This might make for the toughest matchup of the weekend, on paper at least, but none of these games figure to be easy. So we’re hoping for the best.

All stats via Phancy Stats and theAHL.com