GAMEDAY! Phantoms vs. Springfield Thunderbirds, Feb 20 2022

February 20, 2022

It’s a GAMEDAY at PPL Center presented by MassMutual as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms host the first place Springfield Thunderbirds at 3:05 p.m. Lehigh Valley (17-18-9) is 2-2-1 so far in its current six-game homestand which concludes today. Springfield (25-14-7) is the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues and remains atop the Atlantic Division. It is meLVin’s Big Birthday Bash at PPL Center featuring appearances by Gritty and other mascot friends!
Today is Game 45 of the 2021-22 regular season. There are 32 games remaining.

Kirill Ustimenko was tremendous in a relief effort if injured Felix Sandstrom with 20 saves on 21 shots which included five saves in overtime but the Utica Comets finally scored in the fourth round of the shootout in a 3-2 decision. Lehigh Valley secured a valuable standings point thanks to Hayden Hodgson’s game-tying goal in the third period. Hodgson’s team-leading 14th of theyear with less than 14 minutes remaining came on a deflection of an Egor Zamula point shot. Charlie Gerard (4th) scored on a breakaway for the Phantoms in the first period.
Sandstrom left the game with an injury with 3:31 remaining in the first period and Ustimenko took the crease the rest of the way.

Morgan Frost was called back up to the Flyers after scoring the pivotal goal in his last game with the Phantoms on Sunday.
Maksim Sushko went up to the Flyers to make his NHL season debut on Thursday against Washington. Sushko has returned to the Phantoms as has center Jackson Cates.

Tanner Laczynski has been actived from Philadelphia’s injured reserve and loaned to the Phantoms and made his season debut in Saturday’s game against Utica. The talented center out of Ohio State had hip surgery in September during Flyers’ Training Camp and has been rehabbing and regaining his strength ever since. Laczynski scored 6-4-10 in 14 games with the Phantoms last season and also made his NHL debut with the Flyers in a five-game stint in April.

Forward Adam Johnson has been acquired in a trade with the Ontario (Cal.) Reign in exchange for future considerations. Johnson is expected to make his Phantoms’ debut this afternoon. The Minnesota-Duluth product has played in 227 career AHL games scoring 46-79-125. Johnson spent three seasons with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from 2017-20 where he played in 185 games scoring 39 goals. He also has played in 13 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins scoring one goal.

Springfield lost in a shootout at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, 3-2. NHL veteran James Neal scored his third goal in three games since joining the team. The 34-year-old is a three-time NHL All Star with 350 career goals in the NHL, mostly with Pittsburgh and Nasvhille. Neal was waived by St. Louis in January and joined the Thunderbirds last week to play his first AHL games in over 13 years.
2020 Hobey Baker winner Scott Perunovich is back from St. Louis on a conditioning loan. Before his recall in November, the Minnesota-Duluth product’s most recent game in the AHL saw him assist on an overtime winner by Hugh McGing against the Phantoms on November 13 at PPL Center. Native Australian Nathan Walker had a natural hat trick against the Phantoms on Janaury 29 as part ofa  6-2 win. Walker had an NHL hattie with St. Louis earlier this season and is tied for the Springfield lead with 17 goals.

News and Notes:
– Lehigh Valley has gone 14-7-4 in its last 25 games after a beginning that saw just three wins in the first 19 games at 3-11-5.
– Captain Cal O’Reilly leads the Phantoms with 33 points (12-21-33) and had a recent three-game goal streak. O’Reilly rates 9th in AHL history with 524 career assists.
– The Phantoms have points in 11 of their last 14 home games (8-3-3)
– The Phantoms are 2nd out of 15 in the Eastern Conference on the penalty kill at 83.8%. Lehigh Valley’s home penalty kill is even better at 86.8% and has allowed just 2 of 16 in the last 6 home games.

Upcoming Schedule:
Saturday, February 20 vs. Springfield Thunderbirds (3:05) – meLVin’s Birthday Celebration!
Wednesday, February 23 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (7:05)
Friday, February 25 at Cleveland Monsters (7:00)
Saturday, February 26 at Cleveland Monsters (1:00)
Wednesday, March 2 vs. Providence Bruins (7:05)
Friday, March 4 vs. Charlotte Checkers (7:05) – 25th Anniversary Celebration
Saturday, March 5 vs. Charlotte Checkers (7:05) – 25th Anniversary Celebration

Broadcast coverage of all Phantoms games, home and away, is available on the Phantoms 365 app and on 1470-WSAN. Fans can watch on and can listen on their Smart Speakers at: “Play Phantoms Radio 24/7.” Join Voice of the Phantoms, Bob Rotruck, for all the action!