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Phantoms weekly rundown: Man, do we love three-in-threes

Doing All Of That Hockey

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Week of Feb. 11 - Feb. 17

GP W L SOL Standing in Division
GP W L SOL Standing in Division
3 1 1 1 5th

Would you look at that! Another three-in-three! Let’s get right to it. The weekend kicked off with the Sound Tigers coming to Allentown and it was a ride. Bridgeport took a two goal lead late in the first period and we started to get a little nervous. But two goals from Greg Carey got them back into the mix before Colin McDonald got them the lead. And they were almost in the clear when Bridgeport tied things up on the power play late in the third, and we got some bonus hockey! And then, thanks to T.J. Brennan, after a bit of back and forth and a chance for the Sound Tigers, the win.

They hoped to carry some of that momentum with them into Saturday’s game in Hershey, but it didn’t quite go their way. A goal from Corban Knight got them on the board early in the first and then a second helped them force overtime with just over a minute to go in the third period. They had a couple of looks in overtime but couldn’t close on anything, and to the shootout they went. And in the shootout they were unsuccessful. So it goes.

We came into Sunday’s game a little exited, because somehow the Phantoms have been playing some of their best hockey on the third game of the three-in-three (because everything is weird and nothing makes sense) and we were hoping they could keep that up, but no luck. They came out a little flat and did strike first (Tyrell Goulbourne, hello) but they also got themselves into a pretty deep hole, giving up four goals between the middle of the first and second. Goals from Nic Aube-Kubel and Mikhail Vorobyev helped them almost pull their way out of it, but their late game push ended there.

News

Just a couple of quick roster news items, after the longest ever roster news update last week. Brian Elliott was recalled to the Flyers this week, Mike McKenna and Mikhail Vorobyev were both assigned to the Phantoms, and Branden Komm was returned to the Royals. Good talk.

Leaderboards

Points

Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Greg Carey 52 23 16 10 49
Chris Conner 50 12 11 14 37
T.J. Brennan 44 9 11 17 37
Mike Vecchione 53 11 12 8 31
Philippe Myers 48 9 12 8 29
Phil Varone 22 11 9 8 28
Mikhail Vorobyev 33 7 12 4 23
Connor Bunnaman 39 14 6 2 22
Colin McDonald 51 6 6 9 21
Nic Aube-Kubel 35 11 5 4 20

[Please note, these advanced metrics are just for the first 50 games]

Advanced Stats

Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Player GP 5v5 iCF 5v5 CF% Avg GS
Jori Lehtera 2 4 70.31 1.55
Phil Varone 22 46 51.52 1.17
Nic Aube-Kubel 32 68 51.27 0.52
T.J. Brennan 41 122 49.39 0.7
Greg Carey 49 121 48.85 0.81
Justin Bailey 10 33 48.58 0.66
Mikhail Vorobyev 32 41 48.1 0.5
Philip Samuelsson 49 106 48.07 0.22
Philippe Myers 48 192 48.03 0.56
Colin McDonald 49 118 46.76 0.35

Three Stars

1. Greg Carey

Oh, would you look at that. We’re giving a nod for consistency again. I guess we’re being consistent too. (Sorry, sorry, trying to delete).

Anyway, we’re nearing the home stretch of the regular season and getting any and all points is important. And the Phantoms only managed to come out of this past weekend with three. And the key to them getting two of those points was our pal Greg Carey. The Phantoms were trailing early in Friday’s game, and Carey did with that what he’s been doing all season—seeing his team needing a boost and delivering it. He picked up two goals to jump start the Phantoms’ offense, and that was what helped them get to overtime, and ultimately the win. He’s one of their, if not the most, consistent scorer on the season, and he’s been able to still keep that rolling, fortunately for the sometimes slumping team.

Also we should drop a first star honorable mention to Corban Knight, who did this same sort of “fine, I’ll do it myself” work in Saturday’s game in Hershey, and was able to drag his team to one point in the shootout loss. It was some very solid work, but we’re limited in our space in this section.

2. Nic Aube-Kubel

Last week we talked about how the Phantoms *gesturing vaguely* should have some of their injured players coming back sometime in the relatively near future. And, well would you look at that, for one of them, that future was very, very near. Aube-Kubel got back into the lineup on Friday after missing a couple of weeks with a lower body injury, and seemed to hit the ground running well enough. We almost expected to see him healthy scratched in one of the two later weekend games, given the time he had missed, but this didn’t wind up being the case. Kerry Huffman had him on the fourth line on Friday to ease him back in, presumably, and from there it was more or less smooth sailing. He got his legs going and kept up with the pace of the games, and even got a bit of offense going on Sunday (a goal and an assist) while the Phantoms were struggling to do much of anything. And that seems, if nothing else, an effective re-entrance into the lineup.

3. Samuel Morin

This is probably the most extreme example of sometimes these star designations being awarded on a curve. But we’ve got to talk about Morin. Friday was his first game back since he had knee surgery back in May, and he came back and did just fine. He was held off the board, but we’re not too upset about that—a point in his first game back would have been nice, but getting back to game speed is the first step. He dealt with some cramping at the end of the game, and that kept him out on Saturday and Sunday, but

And maybe he didn’t come out and light the world on fire, but at a certain point, when you have his injury history, and then miss about nine months after surgery, you want to see him come back and still be able to play hockey. And he did that. And now the test is how well he can work himself back into it.

Two Observations

1. Shots and all

And we’re back again to talking about the Phantoms’ shot totals, because we were told that they would or should be coming up soon (or, Huffman at least said they wanted them to), and it still hasn’t quite happened.

Curiously, the one game this weekend where the Phantoms did outshoot their opponent was on Sunday, when they extracted zero points. But, before we get too deep into defending only goal based results, we should note that what allowed them to outshoot Hershey on Sunday was their third period push which saw them register 13 shots and three goals, to Hershey’s two shots and zero goals. And, while that margin isn’t exactly sustainable, it’s the kind of work we could stand to see more of.

It likely hurts them some, missing Phil Myers, who has served as one of their volume shooters, but they’re going to have to have some new or other faces step up. They tapped into something late on Sunday, and, had they not already been in a deep hole, it might have been enough to get them at least another point. And they need to find a way to keep that rolling.

2. Time for worry?

So we’re well into February, and the playoffs are drawing nearer, and the Phantoms are still doing a bit of struggling. They’ve slipped to fifth in their division, and out of what would be a playoff spot. So, we want to take a step back and ask, are we worried?

Not necessarily. Not yet. There’s still time left and this is when they should be picking up some ground. They’re coming out of the “everybody’s hurt, we have a whole line of ECHL guys and we’re doing our best” stretch, and now they have an excess of AHL talent. It complicates things, as players will have to rotated in and out of the lineup, and they’ll have to work to find some consistency in the face of all that. But this is the big test ahead of them. As we said, this is when they should be pulling it together—they just need to find a way to get that done.

Where we’re going

We love to talk about litmus test games, and oh boy are the Phantoms staring down a couple of these this weekend. They’re headed South to face off against the Checkers tonight and Saturday in Charlotte. The Checkers have sort of run away with the division, at this point, and this will be a big test for them, to see if they can hang with a powerhouse like Charlotte. Here’s hoping.

All stats via Phancy Stats and theAHL.com

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