The Lehigh Valley Phantoms keep on rolling with three wins in three games last week, adding onto their already dominating Atlantic Division lead.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel continued his strong season by scoring three points on Friday against the Hershey Bears before being suspended for two games following a hit he delivered on Friday, and Mikhail Vorobyev was instrumental in helping the Phantoms beat the Binghamton Devils on Saturday and Hershey on Sunday.
Friday, Mar. 2nd vs. Hershey Bears (7-6 win)
Well, this one was a wild game. The Phantoms were losing to the Hershey Bears 5-1 before storming back to win, 7-6.
The Bears scored just five minutes into the game off the stick of Dustin Gazley in the slot, but Chris Conner tied the game four minutes later. T.J. Brennan shot a puck that intentionally went wide and caromed off the boards to Conner’s stick for the goal.
After that, Hershey scored four goals in a three-minute span. Lucas Johansen, Jeremy Langlois, and Nathan Walker scored to make it 4-1, and John Muse was pulled after just 14:01 minutes of action. Dustin Tokarski let up a goal to Tyler Graovac as the puck squeezed underneath his pads and over the line.
After the first period, it was 5-1.
In the second period, however, the Phantoms came alive. Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored a beauty of a goal on a two-on-one. He outwaited Vitek Vanecek while faking a shot to the left before finessing the puck over the line on his backhand.
Two minutes later, Philippe Myers stopped the puck from exiting the zone at the point and had Langlois closing down his position. Myers fooled Langlois by having his shoulders facing across the point, and he was able to spin free before wristing a shot through traffic and into the net.
Just when it looked like the Phantoms were about to get right back in the game, Riley Barber scored on a partial breakaway to make it 6-3.
It was all Phantoms after that.
Cole Bardreau scored off a shot that rebounded off the endboards and to his stick to make it 6-4 almost two minutes later, and then Danick Martel scored one of the weirdest goals you’ll ever see. After being shoved and pushed to the ice in the crease by Johansen, Martel had his hands and knees on to ice. Aube-Kubel skated into the slot from the left wing, saw Martel was on the ice, and used him as a redirection towards the goal. The goal was Martel’s, but Aube-Kubel made the play.
In the third, Mike Vecchione tied the game on the power play with a shot that the newly put-in goaltender Pheonix Copley should’ve stopped. Vecchione got his own rebound and swiped in on goal from the goal line, and Copley kicked the puck into the net after not being able to retrieve in from his padding.
Then, with seven minutes remaining in the game, Aube-Kubel put the Phantoms in front after Copley couldn’t control a backhander from Martel in the slot. Aube-Kubel carried the puck into the zone originally, fighting off Tim McGauley before passing it off and heading to the goal.
The goal gave the Phantoms their first lead of the game, and that turned out to be the game-winning goal. The Phantoms somehow stormed all the way back from 5-1 down in the second period to win, 7-6.
Saturday, Mar. 3rd vs. Binghamton Devils (4-0 win)
After fighting back from a huge deficit the previous night against Hershey, the Phantoms picked up right where they left off, scoring four goals in a shutout win against the Binghamton Devils.
The Phantoms got on the board while on the power play with Phil Varone scoring in the second period. Mikhail Vorobyev found him in the far slot and sent a hard pass over to him for the tap-in goal. Chris Conner scored next, also on the power play, by deflecting Greg Carey’s shot from the point into the net.
In the third period, Corban Knight put the Phantoms up 3-0. Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood found himself scrambling in the crease, and Cole Bardreau took advantage of this by sending the puck from behind the net towards Knight’s stick for the goal.
Vorobyev scored the fourth and final goal of the game off a beautiful bit of stickhandling from Radel Fazleev, who worked his way through multiple Devils before getting the puck to Vorobyev. The Phantoms easily took this game, 4-0.
Dustin Tokarski got the start after coming in relief for John Muse the previous night, and he did well with 29 saves for the shutout.
Sunday, Mar. 4th at Hershey Bears (3-2 SO win)
Although the Phantoms and Bears played a high-scoring game on Friday, Sunday’s matchup featured less scoring but no less excitement for either team, and the Phantoms won, 3-2, in a shootout.
Corban Knight open the scoring for the Phantoms in the first period. The goal came while shorthanded after a poor zone entry by the Bears led to Cole Bardreau sending Knight on a breakaway, and he made sure to finish the play. Joe Whitney scored to tie the game late in the first, also on a breakaway. T.J. Brennan didn’t quite cut off the angle of the pass, and Riley Barber was able to find a lane to send the puck through to Whitney.
In the second period, Wayne Simpson scored on the power play after Travis Sanheim and Knight couldn’t quite pick Simpson up on a rush by the Bears. Tim McGauley passed the puck to Simpson from below the goal line, and Knight couldn’t intercept the pass before it got to Simpson’s stick. Mikhail Vorobyev tied the game with six minutes left in the period on a snipe that caught the top-left corner of the net.
No goals were scored in the third period, and overtime wasn’t the solution, but Phil Varone practically had the game on his stick as he had a breakaway with six seconds left in the extra period. He tried to shoot low on Copley’s blocker side, but Varone couldn’t live the shot over Copley’s pads. The teams headed to the shootout, and after Knight tied the shootout in the third round, Vorobyev won the game in the fifth round. The Phantoms won, 3-2.
Stars of the Week
Nicolas Aube-Kubel is a name that many Flyers fans may not be familiar with, but they should familiarize themselves with him after this season. Aube-Kubel has scored 40 points this season, 17 of them coming from goals, and he scored two goals and an assist in the Phantoms’ comeback win against Hershey on Friday.
He was suspended for a hit that same game where he appeared to possibly leave his feet, but he nonetheless caught Hershey Bears defenseman Connor Hobbs in his jaw. Suspended for two games, he played Saturday against Binghamton but was suspended before the game on Sunday at Hershey, so he will miss one more game (Friday versus the Bridgeport Sound Tigers).
Here’s a replay of the hit that led to his suspension.
Mikhail Vorobyev recorded two points on Saturday and scored one goal as well as the shootout-winner on Sunday. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Vorobyev is in the midst of his first season in North America. He played in the KHL with Salavat Yulaev Ufa for parts of the past two seasons and scored 10 points in seven games in the 2017 World Junior Championship. He has 20 points in 44 games with the Phantoms this season.
Earlier last week, Matt Read was called up to the Philadelphia Flyers. He won’t be eligible for the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs and will stay with the Flyers for the remainder of the season. He will most likely not get any playing time there, and with his contract ending this offseason, Read’s last game in the Flyers’ organization could have already happened.
- Friday, 3/9 vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- Saturday, 3/10 at Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- Sunday, 3/11 vs. Binghamton Devils
Photo by Casey Liberatore/Sons of Penn