Lehigh Valley Trims Magic Number Down to 3
March 18, 2018
Lehigh Valley, Pa. – John Muse turned in a strong 23-save performance Sunday afternoon as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms posted their second straight shutout with a 3-0 victory over the Springfield Thunderbirds in front of 8,425 fans inside PPL Center. Sunday’s blanking comes on the heels of Lehigh Valley’s 3-0 triumph over the Providence Bruins Saturday evening in downtown Allentown.
With Sunday’s triumph, the Phantoms improved to 42-16-3-5 overall this season and continued their scorching hot play of late. Lehigh Valley has now captured 15 of its last 19 games overall (15-2-2) and has claimed standings points in 15 of its last 16 outings at PPL Center (13-1-2).
The Phantoms now lead the entire 30-team AHL with 92 standings points and are second in the league 42 total victories.
Sunday’s win coupled with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ 4-1 setback at the Providence Bruins trimmed the Phantoms’ magic number to clinch a berth in the 2018 Calder Cup down to just three standings points. With that, Lehigh Valley can clinch a postseason berth as early as next Friday when the Phantoms face off against the Bruins in Providence.
This weekend’s shutouts mark the first time ever that the Phantoms have posted back-to-back shutouts at PPL Center. Lehigh Valley is now an impressive 23-6-5 overall at home this season.
Greg Carey (27th), Danick Martel (22nd) and Chris Conner (16th) provided the offense for the Phantoms in front of Muse who improved to 10-1-1 overall this season. The 29-year-old goaltender has now allowed two goals against or fewer in nine of 13 appearances this season.
Carey’s goal was his team-leading 27th conversion of the year as he moved into a tie for second among all AHL forwards in goals scored this season. Meanwhile, Martel matched a career high with his 22nd goal of the season as he notched his 65th career conversion in 190 games with Lehigh Valley.
Special teams played a big part in the victory as Lehigh Valley went 1-for-5 on the power play in addition to defending each of Springfield’s four man-advantages on the afternoon. The Phantoms have now allowed just four power play goals across the team’s last 13 outings going an impressive 41-for-45 when skating shorthanded over that stretch.
Sunday’s game was skated in front of an impressive standing room-only sellout crowd of 8,425 raucous, orange-clad supporters. That marked Lehigh Valley’s 13th capacity crowd this year and the 75th regular season standing room-only sellout since PPL Center opened its doors in the Fall of 2014.
Sunday’s game capped the 2017-18 regular season series between the Phantoms and Thunderbirds as Lehigh Valley finished the year 5-1 against their Atlantic Division foes.
For the second time in as many nights, the Phantoms skated to a scoreless opening period. Muse denied each of Springfield’s six first period shots on goal while Thunderbirds’ netminder Harri Sateri answered all seven of Lehigh Valley’s first period offerings as well.
The Phantoms broke the scoreless deadlock with just under five minutes remaining in the second period when Martel came darting down the right wing before snapping home his 22nd goal of the season. Mikhail Vorobyev grabbed the only assist on the even-strength strike netted 15:30 into the middle stanza as Lehigh Valley landed the game’s opening goal for the 35th time this season. The Phantoms are now an impressive 27-3-5 when scoring first this year.
Lehigh Valley then doubled its lead less than three minutes into the third period when, while on the power play, Phil Varone slipped a perfect pass to Conner in the slot who promptly slammed in his 16th goal of the season. Varone and Muse assisted on the man-advantage marker notched 2:55 into the final period.
The Phantoms then landed the game’s final strike with just under four minutes left in regulation when Will O’Neill authored a shot from the slot that deflected off Carey’s back side before settling in the Thunderbirds net. Alex Krushelnyski earned the secondary assist on the even-strength strike netted 16:21 into the third period.
The Phantoms hit the road for a pair of games in Providence next weekend as the team’s push towards the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs continues with a weekend series against the Bruins.
Family 3-Packs are available for select games in March and April including three tickets, three hot dogs and three sodas. The package is available for $67.50 and fans can add extra tickets to their group for $22.50 each. The Family 3-Packs are valid for games on March 30th and April 13th. Secure your Family 3-Pack by calling the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at (610) 224-GOAL .