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Phantoms weekly rundown: [Almost] Shutout City

A bit of grumbling to be done.

Casey Liberatore / SB Nation

Where we are

Please note, the Phantoms played one game in Wilkes Barre/Scranton last night, but we’ll be including that one with the weekend’s game in the next rundown.

Week of Feb. 24 thru Mar. 3

GP W L Standing in Division
GP W L Standing in Division
3 1 2 6th

Another three-in-three, and this one started out… less than ideally. They began on Friday in Syracuse, with a first period that was even enough, and saw the Phantoms looking fine enough (especially considering they were playing with 11 forwards, after Nic Aube-Kubel took a spill inside the first minute of play, and left the game), even if they couldn’t get themselves on the board. And then Syracuse took the edge in the final two periods, it was four goals (three at 5-on-5, and then an empty netter) for them while the Phantoms struggled to put together much of anything. And that was all she wrote.

The good news is, back at home on Saturday, the Phantoms were able to get themselves back on track. Two goals for Greg Carey kicked off their scoring in the first period, and Justin Bailey padded their lead further with a goal early in the third. Utica got one back late in the period, but the Phantoms were able to stave off their push and collect a tidy win.

It’s more bad news coming, as they couldn’t hold onto that momentum in their final game of the weekend against Bridgeport, on Sunday. They started off well enough--a low event first period which saw them working to pull momentum in their favor, even if they failed to get on the board (as the Sound Tigers did, as well). So we hit the second period with high hopes. And then Bridgeport scored. And then they scored again. And then the Phantoms failed to convert on a full two minute 5-on-3 power play. And it became pretty clear that they just didn’t have it that evening. Mike Vecchione got them on the board very late in the third period, and kept them from getting shut out again, but that was all they had in them, and an empty netter inside the waning seconds of regulation sealed things off for Bridgeport.


The roster moves never stop! Justin Bailey is a Flyer again! And that’s all we’ve got.



Player GP G A1 A2 P
Player GP G A1 A2 P
Greg Carey 56 25 16 11 52
Chris Conner 54 12 11 15 38
T.J. Brennan 49 9 12 17 38
Mike Vecchione 58 13 12 9 34
Philippe Myers 48 9 12 8 29
Phil Varone 22 11 9 8 28
Mikhail Vorobyev 38 7 12 4 23
Connor Bunnaman 44 14 7 2 23
Colin McDonald 54 7 6 9 22
Nic Aube-Kubel 38 12 5 4 21

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

Reigning team scoring leader. First star of the week. Feels right.

Carey was a (presumably, as far as we’ve heard) healthy scratch on Friday, but he got back into the lineup on Saturday, and he certainly made his presence felt. After the Phantoms were shut out on Friday in Syracuse, Carey made sure that this fate wasn’t going to be repeated back at home. He got them their first goal of the game, on the power play, just over four minutes into the first period. He picked up his second of the night later in the period, and continued his points streak on Sunday, picking up an assist on Mike Vecchione’s goal. Offense was tough to come by, on the whole, this weekend, and with Carey accounting for 40 percent of the goals scored in those three games, he deserves this nod. More of this, please.

2. Mike Vecchione

A peek behind the curtain: as we neared the end of the game on Sunday, and the Phantoms had yet to get themselves on the board, the working title of this article was just “Phantoms weekly rundown: Shutout City,” as the Phantoms looked as they might find themselves failing to score a single goal for the second game of the weekend. We should be thankful, then, that Mike Vecchione was able to dig deep and prevent this, with a goal on the power play, with the goalie pulled, inside the last minute of regulation. That was all the team as a whole was able to muster, but we still commend Vecchione for that good work, and the ability to bring a bit more of that consistent scoring that we’re always talking about, regarding him. Consistently talking about consistency. We’re just going to leave it there.

3. David Kase

He’s back, gang! After missing just about three months with an upper body injury, Kase made his return to the lineup on Saturday, and he looked sharp pretty much from the get go. When a player misses that much time, it’s an open question how quickly he’ll be able to work himself back up to game speed and start to look effective again, and Kase showed little sign of rust. He wasn’t just keeping pace, he looked flat out fast. He was even able to pick up another point for himself, with a primary assist on Carey’s second goal of the night. He didn’t look quite as dynamic on Sunday, but he was still noticeable in a positive way, and remained a threat at both even strength and back on the first power play unit. He’s been able to get the ball rolling right away, and it seems it can only getter better from here, as he gets more games in and gets his conditioning all the way back. But it was a solid return.

Two observations

1. Offensive woes

We made note of it in our three stars section, but it’s worth circling back to. There was a point in time earlier in the season when the Phantoms were towards the top of the rankings in scoring in the league. But now, something’s changed and offense is harder to come by. They’ve slipped to 14th in the league in goals for. They scored five over their last three games, and were almost shut out twice. And maybe we chalk it up to being some sort of weird slump, and assume that they’ll right the ship sooner or later, but with the playoff race tightening and the need for standings points becoming even more critical, that sooner is going to have to be very soon. Scoring goals is critical to winning games, we don’t need to tell you that, but somehow this has gotten to be a difficult task. They’re doing well enough in getting their shot totals up—something Kerry Huffman has been emphasizing—and now it’s just a matter of closing on those chances. Something’s got to give.

2. The power play falters

We would be remiss if we didn’t note, also, that contributing to these offensive woes is the fact that the Phantoms have also hit a bit of a slump in their power play conversion. Over this past weekend, they went 2/13 on the power play, and failed to convert on a full two minute 5-on-3 attempt. They had a very good number of chances to work with this weekend, and they left a lot on the table. They just weren’t executing their passes cleanly, and found themselves chased out for the offensive zone with relative ease.

And we know that power play units, in general, can be streaky. That’s just something that happens. But they’re also finally reached a level of stability with the personnel, a group that was able to find success (in this case, with their goal on Saturday), so now it’s just a question of them being able to do that on a more consistent basis.

Where we’re going

We’ve got three more games this week, but this time there’s a bit more breathing room in between them. The Phantoms kicked things off on Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, facing the Penguins, who have just jumped them in the standings to steal fifth place. It’s all divisional matchups this week, but this one is perhaps the most important, in the need for a regulation win. This would get them back into fifth place and within three points of fourth place Providence. It would be a good start. (Wonder how this one worked out).

And, as we said, we’re sticking in the division this week, and on Friday and Sunday, the Charlotte Checkers come back to town. We saw them last two weeks ago in Charlotte, where they collected wins in both games, but, not to despair, the Phantoms were able to hang with them closer in that second game. So, here’s hoping they learned from their last meetings, and come fully prepared.