Phantoms Enjoy 5th PPL Center Standing Room-Only Sellout
January 12, 2018
Lehigh Valley, PA – Phil Varone netted an historic goal Friday evening as he converted his 100th career AHL marker and a raucous standing room-only sellout crowd of 8,486 fans were on hand inside PPL Center to help celebrate. Varone’s goal was his 11th of the season as the 27-year-old center continues to lead all Phantoms and is now third among all AHL skaters in total scoring with 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists).
Nic Aube-Kubel (10th) also found the back of the net Friday evening as part of a 6-2 setback to the visiting Springfield Thunderbirds. Friday’s decision moved Lehigh Valley to 21-12-2-3 overall this season as the Phantoms are now locked in a three-way tie for the most standings points (47) in the tightly-contested Atlantic Division alongside the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Providence Bruins.
Aube-Kubel’s goal established a new career high for the 21-year-old winger as he eclipsed the nine conversions posted a season ago. What’s more, in just 38 games this year, Aube-Kubel has already established a new career-high in points with 23 total points (10 goal, 13 assists).
The Phantoms are now 3-1 against the Thunderbirds this season with the two sides set to meet again on Friday, February 16 at MassMutual Center in Springfield.
Friday’s game marked the welcome return of two skaters to Lehigh Valley’s talented forward corps as Matt Read returned to the lineup after a six-game absence due to injury while Cole Bardreau appeared in his first game since November 5 after missing 24 games with an injury.
Friday’s game also marked the fifth standing room-only sellout this season for Lehigh Valley and the 67th regular season capacity crowd since PPL Center opened its doors in the Fall of 2014.
Springfield opened the scoring just past the midway point of the first period when, while on the power play, Anthony Greco’s left point shot deflected off Jayce Hawryluk atop the Lehigh Valley goal crease before settling in the Phantoms cage for Hawryluk’s eighth goal of the season. Greco and Ludwig Bystrom assisted on the man-advantage marker netted 11:49 into the opening frame.
The Phantoms bounced right back though and leveled the contest less than seven minutes later when Aube-Kubel broke in down the left wing before rifling home his 10th goal of the season. Mark Alt and Phil Myers collected the assists on the equalizing tally converted 18:32 into the first period.
The Thunderbirds regained the lead just over five minutes into the second period when Rob Hamilton and Ed Wittchow converted a two-on-one transition rush for Wittchow’s third goal of the year. Hamilton claimed the only assist on the five-on-five conversion scored 5:03 into the middle frame.
The resilient Phantoms responded once again though as Lehigh Valley was able to tie the contest at two apiece just past the midway point of regulation when Varone converted his 11th goal of the season and his historic 100th career AHL marker. Greg Carey and Oskar Lindblom assisted on the five-on-five tally netted 12:22 into the second period as Lindblom continued his recent torrid scoring stretch with his 13th point (7 goals, 6 assists) over his last 13 games.
Springfield was able to pull away from the Phantoms though with a trio of goals just over three minutes apart in the latter stages of the second period. First, Dryden Hunt converted on the power play for his eighth goal of the season with assists from Hawryluk and Greco 13:26 into the period. Then, less than a minute later, Mark Fayne’s left point offering deflected off a Lehigh Valley stick en route to the net that altered the puck into the back of the cage for Fayne’s second goal of the year. Ryan Horvat and Greco grabbed assists on the even-strength strike landed 14:17 into the middle frame. Finally, Chase Balisy capped Springfield’s scoring surge with a five-on-five tally 16:29 into the second period. Horvat and Thomas Schemitsch assisted on Balisy’s sixth goal of the season.
The Thunderbirds then landed the game’s final conversion 7:44 into the third period when Balisy notched his second goal of the game and seventh of the year.
The Phantoms are back in action on Saturday when they kick off a home-and-home weekend series with the rival Hershey Bears with a 7:05 p.m. clash at PPL Center. Saturday’s game will mark the debut of Lehigh Valley’s Color Rush uniforms before the team dons them next Saturday during the 2018 Capital BlueCross Outdoor Classic at Hersheypark Stadium. A limited number of tickets remain for Saturday’s highly-anticipated showdown and are available for purchase HERE.