PREVIEW: Phantoms vs. Penguins, Game #53

Friday, March 8, 7:05 p.m.
PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Lehigh Valley (23-22-7) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (28-19-8)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (23-22-7) conclude a three-game homestand as they host the rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in what is also the first game of a weekend home-and-home series between the two teams. The Phantoms will travel up the turnpike for a rematch in Wilkes-Barre tomorrow at 6:05.
Lehigh Valley is in sixth place in the Atlantic Division by points percentage in the battle for the last playoff spot. The Phantoms are barely ahead of the Springfield Thunderbirds even though Springfield has two more points than Lehigh Valley.
The Phantoms and Penguins are meeting for the sixth time out of 12 meetings this season. Lehigh Valley is 3-2-0 against the Penguins with all three of their series wins coming in overtime or shootout.
Tonight is the 53rd game of the season. There are 20 games remaining in the 2023-24 campaign.

Another hard-fought goaltenders’ battle concluded last weekend with a pair of dueling shutouts on Sunday afternoon at PPL Center ultimately resulting in a 1-0 win against the first-place Hershey Bears. In the first-of-its-kind 0-0 game at PPL Center after 65 minutes, Cal Petersen picked up the win when J-R Avon and Wade Allison both solved Clay Stevenson in the shootout. Stevenson was also credited with a shutout even though he didn’t win the game. A packed house was fired up for meLVin’s Birthday as well as the building drama on the ice as the Phantoms took down their rivals and the top team in the AHL.

Sunday’s game was the first-ever 0-0 result for Lehigh Valley in the regular season through 65 minutes. The only other time Lehigh Valley was involved in a 0-0 game was in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs in Game 1 against Hershey when Alex Lyon and Pheonix Copley matched each other save for save before the Bears finally broke through in overtime.
The last time a Phantoms team played to a 0-0 score through 60 minutes came from the former Adirondack Phantoms one year prior to the team moving to Allentown. On January 3, 2014 the Adirondack Phantoms defeated the Hershey Bears 1-0 on an overtime goal by Jason Akeson as Cal Heeter picked up the shutout win.

Defenseman Adam Ginning was recalled to the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
Additionally, defenseman Will Zmolek has joined the Phantoms from the Reading Royals of the ECHL. And forward Alex Kile has been returned on loan to the Maine Mariners of the ECHL.

Ginning has played in 52 games with the Phantoms this season scoring two goals with 11 assists for 13 points. The second-year pro has played in 120 career games with Lehigh Valley scoring 5-27-32. Ginning played in one career NHL game last year when he made his Flyers debut on April 11, 2023 against Columbus.

Zmolek, 24, has played in three games with the Phantoms this season back in November. He has also played in 44 games with Reading scoring 3-7-10. The Bemidji State product also played in three games with the Phantoms at the end of last season at the beginning of his professional career.

Kile has thrived with the Maine Mariners this season scoring 28-31-49 in just 38 games. He has played in six games with the Phantoms this year and in 52 career games with Lehigh Valley over the last three seasons scoring six goals with five assists for 11 points.

20-year-old rookie J-R Avon is tied for the AHL lead with five shootout goals on just six attempts this season. Trey Fix-Wolansky of Cleveland is the only other player with five.
Wade Allison is tied for the AHL lead with two game-winning goals in the shootout. Allison is 3-for-4 this season.
The Phantoms are tied for the league lead with four shootout wins. The Cleveland Monsters and Abborstford Canucks also have four. Lehigh Valley is also second in the league with nine total shootout goals trailing only Cleveland who has 11.
The Phantoms have gone to overtime or shootout in 17 games this year which is one off the league lead held by Rochester and Cleveland who both have 18. The Phantoms are 6-5 in overtimes and 4-2 in shootouts for a combined mark of 10-7 after regulation.

The Phantoms record when:
– Score 4 or more goals: 14-0-2
– Allow 3 or fewer goals: 16-5-3
– Lead After 1st period: 7-1-2
– Lead After 2nd period: 12-1-1
– One-Goal Games: 16-5-7
– Overtime: 6-5 / Shootout: 4-2

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (28-19-8) is hanging on to third place in the Atlantic Division as they enter a home-and-home weekend series against Lehigh Valley beginning on Friday night in Allentown followed by a Saturday rematch in northeast Pennsylvania.
The Baby Pens actually have a lower points percentage than fourth-place Hartford but still have more total points to hang on to the higher position. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is coming off a weekend split against Charlotte.
Now three times this season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has traded its top scorer. Defenseman Ty Smith (9-23-32) was dealt last night to Carolina as part of a multi-player trade but is also going to stay with the Baby Pens on loan from the Hurricanes. Rem Pitlick was dealt to Chicago in December and, more recently, Alex Nylander was traded to Columbus where he scored a hat trick last week. Sam Poulin (11-12-13) had a Gordie Howe Hat Trick at the Phantoms in January and is now the team’s active leading scorer tied with Peter Abbandonato (7-16-23). Rookie goaltender Joel Blomqvist (17-8-5, 2.13, .919) represented the Penguins at the AHL All-Star Classic and rates third in the AHL in goals-against average and is first among goalies who don’t play for Hershey.
The way the standings look now, a Phantoms vs. Penguins matchup in a 6 vs. 3 series in the first round of the playoffs certainly seems possible. The Phantoms are 3-2-0 against the Penguins this year with all three of their wins coming in overtime or shootout. Cooper Marody had the OT winner the last time the teams met on February 21 at Wilkes-Barre where the Phantoms rallied from a two-goal deficit for an extra-period victory in their second appearance in NEPA this season. The most recent time the Penguins visited Allentown was February 9 when Matt Brown struck for the winner in the fourth round of the shootout.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 14-30-44
Samu Tuomaala 13-24-37
x – Olle Lycksell 18-14-32
Emil Andrae 4-24-28
Tanner Laczynski 8-18-26
x – Ronnie Attard 10-15-25I

Penguins Scoring Leaders
x – Alex Nylander 17-15-32
x – Ty Smith 9-23-32
x – Rem Pitlick 8-16-24
Sam Poulin 11-12-23
Peter Abbandonato 7-16-23
x – Jonathan Gruden 13-10-23

Lehigh Valley PP, 20.7% (6th)  – Lehigh Valley PK 80.7% (23rd) – Series PP vs. WBS 3/11 (27.3%)
WBS PP 15.9% (29th) – WBS PK 84.9% (3rd) – Series PP vs. LV 2/14 (14.3%)

Jan. 6 – WIN – Lehigh Valley 4 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 (OT)
Jan. 26 – LOSS – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4 at Lehigh Valley 3
Feb. 3 – LOSS – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 at Lehigh Valley 1
Feb. 9 – WIN – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4 at Lehigh Valley 5 (SO)
Feb. 21 – WIN – Lehigh Valley 3 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2 (OT)

Mar. 8 (7:05) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley
Mar. 9 (6:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Mar. 13 (7:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Mar. 24 (3:05) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley
Mar. 30 (6:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Apr. 7 (3:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Apr. 20 (7:05) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley
Cooper Marody 3-2-5
Jon-Randall Avon 2-2-4
Samu Tuomaala 2-2-4
x – Bobby Brink 2-1-3
Wade Allison 1-2-3

x – Alex Nylander 3-2-5
x – Jonathan Gruden 1-4-5
Vinnie Hinostroza 1-4-5
Sam Poulin 2-2-4
x – Ty Smith 2-1-3
Joel Blomqvist 1-0-2, 2.59, .909

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Lehigh Valley opens a five-game road swing beginning with a Saturday, March 9 rematch at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at 6:05. The Phantoms also travel to the Bridgeport Islanders for a Sunday afternoon clash at 3:00 p.m.

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Friday, March 8 (7:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Berks Dollar Dog Night. Can we break the hot dog record?!
Saturday, March 9 (6:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, March 10 (3:00) at Bridgeport Islanders

Wednesday, March 13 (7:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Friday, March 15 (7:05) at Providence Bruins
Saturday, March 16 (7:05) at Providence Bruins