Even in the best of seasons, teams will go through losing streaks occasionally, but for the Phantoms and Royals, their streaks happened at a critical point in the season, and they will have to be sure not to extend those losing streaks this week.
The Phantoms are still sitting in a great spot in the standings, likely well on their way to a playoff berth as they sit at third overall in the Eastern Conference of the AHL, but the Royals are going to have to get it together if they wish to make the playoffs, as they play in what has been a very competitive division this season. Although well above .500, the Royals currently sit at fourth place in the North Division, and tied for sixth place overall in the Eastern Conference of the ECHL.
Let’s take a look at last week’s action:
LEHIGH VALLEY PHANTOMS (34-17-3)
Date: Friday, February 24, 2017
Score: Phantoms 3 | Thunderbirds 5
SPRINGFIELD, MA: The Phantoms kicked off their week last Friday with a road trip to face the Springfield Thunderbirds in Springfield, and came away with a 5-3 loss.
It was an exciting game for the Phantoms at times, however. Greg Carey got the goal scoring started late in the first with a power play tally to give the Phantoms a 1-0 lead, but a crazy second period would follow, featuring six total goals, four of which came from the Thunderbirds.
Chris Conner and Radel Fazleev scored the two goals for the Phantoms in the second period, and Conner’s goal would even put the Phantoms back up 3-2 briefly, but the Thunderbirds scored two more goals in the second period, and an empty-netter late in the third to win the game.
Corban Knight led the way for the Phantoms on the score sheet, posting two assists, and Anthony Stolarz stopped 30 of the 34 shots he faced in net. The Phantoms converted two of their five power play chances in the game, but could not get the scoring going at even strength.
Date: Saturday, February 25, 2017
Score: Penguins 4 | Phantoms 3 (OT)
ALLENTOWN, PA: The Phantoms returned home for an exciting tilt with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the PPL Center, at the same time that the Flyers were facing the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stadium Series Game, but they dropped the contest 4-3 in overtime.
The Phantoms overcame two different deficits in the game, and even briefly took the lead in regulation at one point, but ultimately gave up the goal with just 15 seconds remaining in overtime for the loss.
The Phantoms did show up to play, out-shooting the Penguins by a 37-32 margin, and converting two of their three power play chances on the night, but ultimately it was not enough, as their opponent, the AHL’s best team, did what they do best, and took over the game.
Carey scored another power play goal, and added an assist in this game to help lead the way for the Phantoms on offense. Andy Miele chipped in with a pair of assists, as well.
Danick Martel and Knight scored the other goals for the Phantoms, and Alex Lyon stopped 28 of the 32 shots he faced in net.
Game highlights courtesy of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms:
- Jordan Weal (15 G, 32 A for 47 points in 43 games)
- T.J. Brennan (17 G, 28 A for 45 points in 54 games)
- Chris Conner (17 G, 27 A for 44 points in 54 games)
The Phantoms will look to rebound this weekend, as they play a tough three-in-three weekend this weekend, with each game being on the road.
They will face the Thunderbirds in Springfield again on Friday night, and then travel to Hartford to face the Hartford Wolf Pack on Saturday afternoon, followed by a trip to Providence to face the Providence Bruins on Sunday afternoon.
This will be a big weekend for the Phantoms to regain the momentum they have had for most of the season, if they are able to come away with some wins.
READING ROYALS (31-20-3)
Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Score: Swamp Rabbits 5 | Royals 3
READING, PA: The Royals kicked off their week last week on Wednesday, hosting the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for the first of two contests that the teams would play last week, and lost by a score of 5-3.
Former Royal, Brandon Alderson, and the Swamp Rabbits jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first period, with Alderson himself scoring twice in the first three minutes of the game. The Royals would make it a contest in the second, however, as Ian Watters scored two goals in the stanza. Jesper Pettersson also scored a goal in the third period, and added an assist to one of Watters’ goals in the second, to contribute with a multi-point night.
Although the Royals brought it to a one-goal game two different times, they were unable to tie it up, and the Swamp Rabbits held on for the win.
Mark Dekanich started in net for the Royals, but after stopping just 14 of the 17 shots that the Swamp Rabbits put on net in the first period, he was replaced by Martin Ouellette, who stopped 14 of the 15 shots he faced over the final two periods of the game.
Game highlights courtesy of the Reading Royals:
Date: Friday, February 24, 2017
Score: Royals 2 | Thunder 4
GLENS FALLS, NY: The Royals traveled back up north in upstate New York to face the Adirondack Thunder on Friday night, and lost by two goals again, this time 4-2.
The Royals did out-shoot the Thunder by a close 32-31 margin in this game, but found themselves on the penalty kill six different times.
Matt Willows led the way for the Royals, dishing out a pair of assists, and Watters and Ryan Penny were the goal scorers for the Royals in this one, with their back to back goals in the second and third periods giving the Royals a 2-1 lead at one point, before the Thunder ran away with the game late. Ouellette received the start in net, and stopped 27 of the 30 shots he faced.
Game highlights courtesy of the Adirondack Thunder:
Date: Sunday, February 26, 2017
Score: Swamp Rabbits 6 | Royals 3
READING, PA: The Royals looked to get back on track on Sunday night, with their second game of the week against the Swamp Rabbits, but this outing proved to be their worst of the week (on the scoreboard), as they were handed a 6-3 defeat by the visitors.
Former Royal, Alderson, lit them up again, scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist for the Swamp Rabbits.
The Swamp Rabbits converted three of their seven power play chances, while the Royals converted one of their five, which proved to be a major difference in this game. The Royals did get a whopping 52 shots on goal in this game, including 23 in the first period alone, but the Swamp Rabbits were bailed out by their goaltender, and the Royals were put in a tough spot by several penalties being committed.
Mike Pereira led the way for the Royals with a goal and an assist, and Olivier Labelle and Mike Marcou contributed goals as well.
Ouellette had a rough outing in net, stopping just 21 of the 27 shots he faced.
Game highlights courtesy of the Reading Royals:
- Chris McCarthy (19 G, 28 A for 47 points in 43 games)
- Robbie Czarnik (19 G, 28 A for 47 points in 49 games)
- Justin Crandall (16 G, 30 A for 46 points in 49 games)
Much like the Phantoms, the Royals will be looking to rebound with a busy week ahead. They face the Elmira Jackals tonight in Elmira to finish the game that was postponed due to ice conditions two weeks ago. The Royals lead that game 2-0 with 6:07 remaining in the first period when action resumes tonight, and will hopefully finish off the contest with a win.
They will then return to home ice for a three-in-three weekend, hosting the Manchester Monarchs on Friday and Saturday nights, and then the Norfolk Admirals on Sunday afternoon. The Monarchs are one of the teams just barely ahead of the Royals in the standings, so those two games will be very important, while the Admirals are near the bottom of the ECHL, so hopefully that game will end in victory.
A couple of pieces of news have been reported this week so far, for the Royals. It was reported today that head coach Larry Courville will not return to the team at the conclusion of this season. Jason Guarante of the Reading Eagle wrote this piece that describes Courville’s tenure with the team, as well as his life outside of hockey, and what his next steps will be. Coach Courville will certainly be missed in Reading. The Royals also released a statement on this today, as well.
In other news, it appears that defenseman Jesper Pettersson may be headed back overseas to play professional hockey.
— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) February 27, 2017
Pettersson has spent a majority of his career in North America in the ECHL, behind a deep pool of defensive prospects in the organization, so he may be looking to play in a league with tougher competition.