Lehigh Valley Phantoms (4-1-1) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scr. Penguins (3-2-1)
Saturday, February 27, 2021 at 7:05 p.m. – PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Today’s Game – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms return to PPL Center for their second home game of the season in the finale of a home-and-home weekend set against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Tonight is the seventh game of the season for the Phantoms and the opener of a two-game homestand. It is Game 2 out of 10 between the Phantoms and Penguins this season.
Last Time Out – Zayde Wisdom scored his team-leading fifth goal of the season in spectacular fashion while being hauled down and Max Willman extended his goal-streak to three games with his fourth goal of the year but the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins benefitted from a goal and an assist by Jan Drozg and Jon Lizotte to double-up the Phantoms 4-2. It is the first regulation loss of the season for Lehigh Valley.
Hot Start – The Phantoms five-game point streak to begin the season equaled the longest in franchise history which initially happened in the 2007-08 season when the Philadelphia Phantoms began at 5-0-0. The Phantoms have never recorded points in the first six games of the season in the 25-year history of the franchise. The Chicago Wolves (7-1-0) lost last night as well and were the only other unbeaten remaining in the AHL.
Night of Firsts – Wednesday’s win vs. Binghamton established several firsts for new Phantoms players. Tanner Laczynski recorded a pair of assists, his first points as a pro. Egor Zamula also had his first point as a pro with an assist. Linus Sandin notched his first goal in North America. Brennan Saulnier landed his first point at the AHL level. And Max Willman had his first two-goal game and first overtime goal.
Picking Up the Pace – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms grew into the season gradually with just four games in the first 17 days from February 6 through February 23. But the team better be ready for plenty of games because they won’t have nearly as much time off coming up. The Phantoms are in the midst of a stretch of three games in four days. That also begins a sequence of seven games in 15 days and even 15 games in 32 days almost to the end of March.
Words to the Wisdom – The youngest player in Phantoms franchise history is showing tremendous ability and wisdom beyond his years in his first-ever professional games. Zayde Wisdom scored two goals in consecutive games on February 14 and February 20 and leads the Phantoms in scoring with five goals and one assist in six games. His five goals places second among AHL rookies trailing only Seth Jarvis of the Chicago Wolves. The fourth-round selection of the Flyers from the Kingston Frontenacs on the OHL became the youngest player in franchise history when he debuted on February 6 at 18 years, 6 months and 30 days old beating the record by just 20 days previously held by Derek Mathers of the Adirondack Phantoms. Wisdom would normally be playing in the Ontario Hockey League currently but while that circuit remains on hiatus the contracted players are allowed to gain experience…and wisdom…with games in the professional ranks.
AHL Rookie Leaders – Goals:
1. Seth Jarvis, CHI – 6
2. Zayde Wisdom, LV – 5
3. Max Willman, LV – 4
3. Trevor Zegras, SD – 4
3. Connor McMichael, HER – 4
3. Nathan Todd, MTB – 4
(Note: Max Willman qualifies as a rookie because he played fewer than 25 AHL games last year)
Seeing a Pattern Here – The Phantoms played to overtime in each of their first four away games this season. And in their three overtime wins, the Phantoms rallied from a third-period deficit before prevailing in the extra period. The last two games have been eerily similar; On February 14 at Hershey and on February 24 at Binghamton the Phantoms raced out to a 3-1 lead only to see the opponents score three straight for a 4-3 advantage which was followed by the Phantoms tying the game at 4-4 in the third period and then winning it in the overtime 5-4.
Ryan Fitzgerald, David Kase and Max Willman have all posted overtime winners for the Phantoms this season.
Special Teams – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms surrendered a power-play goal on Wednesday breaking their perfect penalty kill this season. The Phantoms are 17/18 on the PK at 94.4% which rates second in the league only behind Hartford which stands at 11/11, 100%. However, the team’s power play has been off to a sluggish start despite the team’s overall success at 5-on-5. Lehigh Valley is 1-for-25 on the power for just 4.0%.
Welcome Back – Maksim Sushko has been assigned to the Phantoms on loan on Friday after playing two games for the Flyers last week. He became the eighth Belarus-born player in the NHL and the 14th all-time Belarus citizen.
Isaac Ratcliffe has also been assigned to the Phantoms as he continues his recovery from surgery following a fractured rib and punctured lung.
Four players were loaned to Lehigh Valley from the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday; David Kase, Derek Pouliot, Felix Sandstrom and Matt Strome. This helps boost a team that had been running a little short on extra players. Kase played for the Flyers last Thursday against the New York Rangers. Pouliot, Sandstrom and Strome have all spent varying amounts of time on the Flyers taxi squad but have not gotten into games with Philadelphia. Pouliot has not played since the Phantoms season-opener on February 6 and Sandstrom has not played since his shutout of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the preseason game on February 4.
Scouting the Penguins – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 3-2-1 mark following back-to-back wins by identical 4-2 scores over Hershey and Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and Friday. In both games, the Penguins pinned the first regulation loss of the season on its Pennsylvania rival. Former Bridgeport Sound Tiger and Charlotte Checker Nick Schilkey leads the team with six points including five assists. Radim Zohorna had two goals and an assist in Wilkes-Barre’s first home victory of the campaign on Wednesday. The 6’6” winger from the Czech Republic signed at 24 years old as a free agent. Veteran Max Lagace was good in Friday’s win against the Phantoms with 23 saves on 25 shots.
30-year-old forward Tim Schaller has over 250 games NHL experience while former Milwaukee Admiral leader 27-year-old Frederick Gaudreau and 30-year-old defenseman Kevin Czuczman bring a veteran presence to the team. Josh Currie and Jordy Bellerive as well as Anthony Angello all recently went up to the Pittsburgh taxi squad.
J.D. Forrest is in his first season as head coach of the Baby Pens after serving as an assistant coach for five seasons.
Upcoming – The Phantoms will host Hershey on Wednesday night and then will travel to Hershey next Saturday afternoon.
Provident Bank Pennsylvania Cup:
Bears 2-1-2 = 6
Phantoms 2-1-0 = 4
Penguins 2-2-0 = 4
Pennsylvania Cup Results and Upcoming:
Feb 26: Penguins 4 – Phantoms 2
Feb 27: Penguins at Phantoms
Mar 3: Bears at Phantoms