For the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 12 is the magic number. That’s the number of points they need to gain or the 5th place team in the Atlantic Division needs to lose to secure a playoff spot in the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. With two wins this past week, they are doing everything to make sure that happens soon.
Greg Carey recorded four points with two two-point games this weekend, earning the First Star on Saturday and Second Star on Friday. Phil Varone continued to widen his AHL points lead with five points in three games. He now has 62 points this season.
Friday, Mar. 9th vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (3-2 loss)
On Friday, the Phantoms played host to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and couldn’t muster up a comeback, losing 3-2.
There was no scoring in the first period, but it didn’t take long for the Sound Tigers to score the first goal of the game in the second period. In fact, it only took 10 seconds. Travis St. Denis took advantage of some mayhem in front of Dustin Tokarski to put the Sound Tigers up, 1-0. Tyrell Goulbourne scored a minute later to tie the game. After Kristers Gudlevskis failed on his clearing attempt, Greg Carey took a shot that rebounded to Phil Varone’s stick. Varone found Goulbourne open in the slot and sent the puck to him for the goal.
After that, the Sound Tigers scored twice in two minutes to take a 3-1 lead going into the third period. Both goals were deflections, with Steve Bernier’s goal coming off a shot from Andre Benoit from the points and Parker Wotherspoon’s goal deflecting off Carey’s stick from the point.
Greg Carey would score early in the third on a rebound, but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback as the Phantoms lost, 3-2. Dustin Tokarski made 30 saves in the losing effort.
Saturday, Mar. 10th at Bridgeport Sound Tigers (4-1 win)
The next night, the Phantoms gave the Sound Tigers a taste of their own medicine with a 4-1 victory in Bridgeport.
The first period saw the Phantoms and Sound Tigers swap goals within two minutes of each other. Danick Martel started the scoring with a goal coming off a defensive breakdown from the Sound Tigers. Mikhail Vorobyev, who has been hot as of late, picked up the puck in the left hashmark before swinging it across to Martel for the open-net goal. Kyle Burroughs tied the game with a slap shot that blew by John Muse to make it 1-1.
The Phantoms took control in the second period. Greg Carey scored on a power play rush that started with a long pass from T.J. Brennan to Vorobyev and ended with Vorobyev’s long-reaching backhand pass that found Carey driving to the net. Carey scored again late in the period off a slap shot from the point that beat Gudlevskis.
The Sound Tigers pulled Gudlveskis in favor of an extra attacker with a minute and a half left, but Cole Bardreau’s empty-netter iced the game for the Phantoms, winning 4-1.
John Muse had a stellar game in net, saving 39 shots and earning the Second Star. The Phantoms only put 17 shots on Gudlevskis.
Sunday, Mar. 11th vs. Binghamton Devils (5-3 win)
Contrary to the first two games of the weekend for the Phantoms, their match against the Binghamton Devils was a shoot-out until the Phantoms were able to take the lead with less than a minute left in the game, winning 5-3.
In the first period, defenseman James De Haas controlled the puck down the left wing on a two-on-one break alongside Cole Bardreau. De Haas flung the puck to Bardreau near the goal line, and Bardreau was able to stuff the puck home to make it 1-0. Nick Lappin tied the game minutes later after deflecting a shot by Steven Santini from the point.
In the second period, the Devils took their turn at scoring first in a period as John Quenneville with a second left in Philippe Myers’ tripping penalty. Bracken Kearns screened Dustin Tokarski, and Quenneville’s shot from the point found the back of the net. Will O’Neill tied the game two minutes later on the power play with a wrist shot that Eddie Lack couldn’t catch.
The game was tied heading into the third. Mikhail Vorobyev scored halfway through the period after he was able to take advantage of a rebound from Reece Willcox’s crashing the net. Lappin scored again with six minutes left to re-tie the game on the man-advantage. He was able to deflect Jacob MacDonald’s shot from the point to beat Tokarski.
With just minutes left in regulation, the game was tied at 3-3. Remember the Philadelphia Flyers’ infamous “#ClutchTime”?
The Phantoms did.
Pressuring the Devils mightily, the Phantoms eventually cycled the puck to Colin McDonald. McDonald was on an extreme angle on top of the goal line in the right corner, but after he spotted Mike Vecchione skating towards the net, he slapped the puck across the crease to Vecchione’s stick. Vecchione made no mistake of the chance as he finished the play and gave the Phantoms the lead for the first time since early in the first period. Phil Varone added an empty-netter, and the Phantoms won, 5-3.
Dustin Tokarski finished the game with 23 saves. Three Phantoms – McDonald, Bardreau, and Willcox – scored two points in the contest.
Stars of the Week
Greg Carey scored and got an assist on Friday, which earned him the Second Star. On Saturday, he scored the game-winning goal and insurance goal, earning him the First Star. He’s gunning for the AHL goal lead with 26 goals this season, tying him Chris Terry and Andreas Johnsson. Valentin Zykov currently has the lead with 30 goals, but he was just called up to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Phil Varone recorded a point in every game this past weeked and now leads the AHL in points by six. His 62nd point on Sunday made this Varone’s best offensive season of his career, surpassing the 61 points he scored in the 2013-14 season with the Rochester Americans. At 27, this is Varone’s first season with the Phantoms after spending the first six with the Americans and Binghamton Senators.
Travis Sanheim was called up by the Philadelphia Flyers on emergency conditions after Robert Hagg and Johnny Oduya were injured earlier last week. This is Sanheim’s second stint with the Flyers.
Now, let’s talk about clinching scenarios. The Phantoms can clinch a spot in the playoffs as early as Sunday. For that to happen, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers will have to lose their three weekend games in regulation while the Phantoms win all of their own. If the Phantoms lose a game in any fashion or the Sound Tigers gain at least a point from any game this week, the Phantoms will have to wait a few more days for an opportunity to clinch.
- Friday, 3/16 at Hartford Wolf Pack
- Saturday, 3/17 vs. Providence Bruins
- Sunday, 3/18 vs. Springfield Thunderbirds
Photo by Casey Liberatore/Sons of Penn