The Lehigh Valley Phantoms have been inspired by the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory (as have the Flyers and Sixers) and have swept the week with three wins against Charlotte, Hershey, and Rochester with a combined advantage of seven goals. Travis Sanheim led the team with six points over the last three games and now has eight points since being sent to Lehigh Valley in January. He was awarded the First Star on Saturday against Rochester.
Thursday, Feb. 7th vs. Charlotte Checkers (4-3 win)
The Phantoms started the week with a rare Thursday home game against Charlotte, and they wasted no time getting on the board as Will O’Neill opened the scoring two minutes into the first period on a three-on-two. Nicolas Aube-Kubel got the primary assist on the goal, and in the second period, he added another primary assist on a blast from Greg Carey from the point that rocketed past Charlotte goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic. It was Carey’s 20th goal of the season, and it was a beauty.
He leaned into the shot perfectly, and his follow-through lifted the puck in the air to go over Nedeljkovic’s shoulder.
The Checkers would cut the Phantoms’ lead in half on a fluke goal just under three minutes later. A breakdown in defense from the Phantoms led to Julian Gauthier getting an open shot on Alex Lyon with Nicolas Roy standing in front of Lyon. Gauthier’s shot hit Roy and redirected in the net.
Maxim Lamarche and Colin McDonald combined to score Lamarche’s first goal of the season 24 seconds after Charlotte scored to put the Phantoms back up by two, and then McDonald scored one for himself in the third to put the Phantoms up, 4-1. On McDonald’s goal, he opened up his forehand on the rush and cut inside for a low shot that slid right by Nedeljkovic.
After that, Callum Booth came in to relieve Nedeljkovic’s duties, and the Checkers started pressuring. They scored twice in the final 2:30 minutes of the game, but it wasn’t enough, and the Phantoms won, 4-3.
Alex Lyon had a flurry of strong saves and finished with 21 saves on 24 shots. Aube-Kuble, McDonald, and Corban Knight all had two points each.
Saturday, Feb. 9th vs. Hershey Bears (5-1 win)
This game wasn’t even close.
The Phantoms played the Hershey Bears, who have been languishing at the bottom of the Atlantic for most of the season, and didn’t handle them lightly. After a late first period goal by Nicolas Aube-Kubel that was made possible by Corban Knight’s strength, the Phantoms went onto score four goals in the second period.
Travis Sanheim started the second period rout with a blast from the middle point that went over the shoulder of Vitek Vanecek. Two minutes later, Corban Knight scored on an error by Vanecek, whose attempt to play the puck from behind the net ended up with a giveaway to Cole Bardreau who passed it to Knight for the easy goal. Chris Conner scored the fourth goal of the game on a breakaway, and Corban Knight scored his second goal of the game off a great behind the back feed from Colin McDonald to make it 5-0.
The Bears did get on the board via Dustin Gazely, but even Travis Boyd’s spin-o-rama secondary assist wasn’t enough to even touch the Phantoms mastery in this game, as Lehigh Valley won, 5-1.
The Phantoms only managed 25 shots to the Bears’ 31, and Lyon was great in saving 30 shots. Corban Knight was awarded the First Star for his three-point night.
Sunday, Feb. 10th vs. Rochester Americans (5-3 win)
Even though the score from this game may indicate a closer-than-thought match-up, the Phantoms got off to a flying start, scoring the first three goals of the game.
T.J. Brennan scored the first goal of the game for the Phantoms with two minutes left in the first period. Corban Knight sent the puck across from the right wing to the left circle to Brennan, and Brennan’s quick release sent the puck by Linus Ullmark.
Greg Carey scored on the power play midway through the second period with a one-time blast from the the right circle, and Colin McDonald scored just over two minutes later on a snap shot below the left circle.
The third period is where it got nerve-wracking. After Matt Tennyson and Mikhail Vorobyev exchanged goals to make it 4-1, the Americans scored two straight goals to cut the Phantoms’ lead to one. With Rochester pressuring mightily, the Phantoms were on their heels and in need of a momentum-swinger. They got one a minute after Rochester made it 4-3.
Travis Sanheim took the puck from Dustin Tokarski and looked up to see Cole Bardreau breaking towards the Rochester net. From behind his own goal line, Sanheim sent a saucer pass that reached Bardreau’s stick 140-something feet away at the Americans’ blue line. Bardreau scored on the breakaway to put the game away at 5-3.
Dustin Tokarski saved 24 of 27 shots he faced. Travis Sanheim finished the game with three assists and the First Star award.
Star of the Week
Travis Sanheim was undoubtedly the shining star in a lineup of stars this weekend for the Phantoms. After Hextall sent Sanheim down to get playing time with the Phantoms, the young defenseman seems to have rediscovered his confidence with points in three straight games this weekend, including a three-assist effort versus Rochester on Saturday. Who can forget his beauty of a pass to Cole Bardreau for his third assist?
This recent stretch of offensive prowess now points Sanheim at a point per game in eight games so far in the AHL. He played just over six minutes of hockey from the end of December until the end of January before being sent down, so it’s nice to see Sanheim not losing a step. With the Flyers playing great hockey as of late, it looks like the only way Sanheim will get playing time in the NHL will be if there is an injury. If Sanheim can continue to improve his defensive game and continue gaining confidence, there’s no way he doesn’t stick in the NHL next year.
While Alex Krushelnyski and Steven Swavely were sent down and brought back up from Reading in a span of two days, James De Haas was recalled and played in the last two games of the Phantoms’ week, recording a plus-three rating against Rochester. Also, following Brian Elliott’s injury against Arizona, the Flyers called up Alex Lyon from the Phantoms, forcing Lehigh Valley to call up John Muse. Muse’s last start for the Phantoms was February 2nd against Charlotte, where he recorded 38 saves for the 3-2 win.
- Tuesday, 2/13 at Bridgeport Sound Tigers
- Friday, 2/16 at Springfield Thunderbirds
- Saturday, 2/17 vs. Hartford Wolf Pack
- Sunday, 2/18 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins