Where we are
Week of Feb. 18 - Feb. 24
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|GP||W||L||Standing in Division|
That was two games against the Atlantic division kings in the Charlotte Checkers, and it … did not go over too well for the Phantoms. Their first game on Friday started with a bang, with Mike Vecchione getting them on the board with a goal on a shorthanded breakaway. And this should have been a tone setter, right? They came out swinging and that should have given them some momentum, right? Not quite. The Checkers had the Phantoms on their heels through most of the game, and with two goals for themselves and quite a bit of offensive pressure, they had effectively run away with the win.
Saturday saw the Phantoms looking a bit more settled, and a little bit more ready to hang with the Checkers. They came out of the night just about even with them in shots (trailing 30 to 31 at the end of the night), but couldn’t seem to beat Alex Nedeljkovic more than twice. After dropping the first goal early in the first, Nicolas Aube-Kubel tied things up for them. But it was three more goals for the Checkers before Mike Huntebrinker was able to get one back, but that was all the Phantoms had in them. They surged in the third but couldn’t put anything more away. And with another goal for Julien Gauthier, it was all over. 5-2. Sigh.
Not a whole lot of news happenings this week. The Phantoms trimmed their roster down a bit, as Corban Knight was recalled to the Flyers, and they sent Alex Krushelnyski and Mike Huntebrinker back down to Reading. Krushelnyski was later traded to Binghamton for future considerations.
But we do have a bit more news! It’s the most important news! You guessed it, it’s dogs!
|Player||GP||5v5 iCF||5v5 CF%||Avg GS|
|Player||GP||5v5 iCF||5v5 CF%||Avg GS|
1. Mike Vecchione
The Phantoms had some trouble generating much in the way of offense this weekend, so our stars of the week are going to be, chiefly, players who were able to break through and get themselves on the board. Yes, it’s a low bar, but this is what we’ve been left with. We’re doing our best. Anyway. First up, we’re giving a nod to Mike Vecchione.
The Phantoms scored one (1) goal on Friday, and it was pretty exciting—a shorthanded goal by Vecchione to get themselves on the board. And, after killing the remainder of that penalty, they hit 5-on-5 with exactly the kind of momentum that could push them into taking over the game. Giving up a shorthanded goal should be a big deflator for the opposition, and that gives you some space to work with. The Phantoms weren’t able to capitalize on that space, but Vecchione did a big thing in getting it for them, in the first place.
2. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Our offensive star of Saturday’s game, then, is Aube-Kubel. As we noted in the recaps section, the Phantoms were able to bring a bit more in terms of offense on Saturday, but hockey goals were still hard to come by. All of this considered, Aube-Kubel performed well, across the board. He up four shots on the night, tying him for first among forwards, and second among all skaters, and, then of course, there was the goal.
We appreciate this burst of offense in a vacuum, in the context of the game, for the fact that this was a game tying goal that got the Phantoms back in it, even if they couldn’t actually bring themselves all the way back. And, as his second goal (and third point) in the five games since his return from injury, we also acknowledge the bit of consistency he’s been building towards. He’s getting back into the swing of things, and the points are starting to come.
3. Alex Lyon
It’s a small sample for stardom, as Lyon only played the one game, on Friday, but he was very solid in that one showing.
Friday’s was the game where you could say that the Phantoms were most “in it,” where they stood the best chance of coming back and extracting at least a point out of the evening (even if it didn’t end up happening), and key in this was Lyon’s performance. He stopped 32 of the 34 shots he faced for a .941 save percentage on the night, and stood on his head when the Phantoms got themselves hemmed into their own zone for extended stretches of time. He did all he could for them, the team in front just didn’t have enough juice.
1. Control an entry, ya jerks
Something that proved elusive for the Phantoms this weekend was consistent, sustained zone time. This is something we might have expected, to a degree, against such an aggressive team as the Checkers, but the Phantoms also did a bit of shooting themselves in the foot. The Checkers were aggressive in their entry defense, and more often than not, the Phantoms resorted to just dumping the puck into the zone and trying to go after it. And this, for the (generally speaking) just as fast, if not faster, Checkers was just what they wanted. The Phantoms were dumping the puck into the zone and then losing the races to those loose pucks, and while that did take Charlotte out of the offensive zone for a bit, it didn’t offer them much of a chance to generate much offense of their own. It’s a smaller detail, relatively speaking, but it’s something that could use cleaning up.
2. Trimming down
We’ve talked a bit over the last few weeks about the state of the roster, and how the Phantoms have somehow gone from having not enough forwards, at times, to having a distinct excess. This excess was culled a bit with the departure for Krushelnyski and Huntebrinker, but this still leaves the Phantoms with 13 healthy forwards. The veteran limit still has Huffman needing to get a little creative with his lineups from night to night, but this number, at least, is more manageable.
And this is good news, as this team is going to need to find a bit of continuity as they head down the stretch, and having more or less stable lines should help this. Chemistry can build and players can start getting into a rhythm, which has been a bit difficult to come by, up to this point. Things may well be finally stabilizing, and this offers space for optimism.
Where we’re going
We hope you enjoyed the lighter, two-game weekend last week, because we’ve got another three-in-three on deck. The Phantoms kick things off tonight in Syracuse against the second in the North Crunch. Last time we saw them back in December, it was an even enough game, ending in a shootout win for the Crunch. So it goes.
The Phantoms are back at home on Saturday, and meet another North division team in Utica for their second matchup of the season. Utica’s fallen in the standings, but they still present as a tough opponent—they took their first game a few weeks back handily with a 5-2 win.
And, finally, it’s a divisional matchup (four-point game, hello) on Sunday when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers come to Allentown. The Phantoms currently hold a 3-2 edge in the season series, and are looking to cushion that lead a bit more, while also picking up some much needed standings points, in the process. The Sound Tigers have been on something of a tear, sitting at second in the division, but these games have tended to be close, this season, so we’ll see what the Phantoms can do in this last game of the weekend.