By Dan Fremuth | AHL On The Beat
Entering the week, there have been 41 hat tricks during the 2015-2016 American Hockey League campaign.
And while 12 teams have yet to produce a hat trick this season, there have been seven clubs to date who have recorded three or more hat tricks this year. But few squads have enjoyed the kind of hat trick success recently experienced by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
“When you think about it, it doesn’t happen very often so it’s pretty cool,” Phantoms winger Taylor Leier said upon reflecting on the team’s recent surge. “In juniors in Portland [Western Hockey League] we were one of the highest scoring teams and I don’t think we had hat tricks this close together.”
During a two-week stretch from January 27 to February 10, the Phantoms enjoyed a hat trick of hat tricks.
First, as part of a season-high five-point night, captain Colin McDonald registered three tallies in a 6-3 win over the Binghamton Senators at PPL Center. And shortly thereafter, a pair of Phantoms recorded their first career professional hat tricks. After Danick Martel scored all three of Lehigh Valley’s goals in a 6-3 setback at the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on February 5, Leier converted three times in the team’s 7-2 triumph over the Binghamton Senators in downtown Allentown just five days later.
In all, the Phantoms enjoyed three hat tricks across six games over a span of just 14 days.
Martel, who finished third among all Quebec Major Junior Hockey League skaters with 48 goals a season ago and currently leads all Lehigh Valley skaters with 18 conversions, is certainly no stranger to scoring goals. But even he’s surprised by his team’s recent goal-producing prowess.
“For here in the AHL, it’s pretty awesome to have three players that are able to have hat tricks,” Martel said. “I don’t know what’s happening with goals but it’s pretty fun to see that for our players.”
And it hasn’t just been one player leading the charge, which is part of what makes the Phantoms recent surge so unique. Only five teams within the 30-team AHL have enjoyed hat tricks from three different players this season and only Bridgeport has produced three unique hatties in a two-week window like Lehigh Valley.
“It’s been balanced scoring,” Leier said. “It’s really nice to see. And whoever is scoring, it gives the other lines some jump too.”
“Since the beginning of the year we knew we had a lot of players who could score goals,” Martel noted. “It’s a team effort and everyone has been able to contribute to our success.”
And team success is exactly what’s come from Lehigh Valley’s recent individual success. McDonald’s hat trick came amidst a season-high five-game winning streak for the Phantoms while Leier’s three-goal night helped seal the team’s sixth victory over an eight-game stretch.
“Usually when you see individual success it all starts with wins and how the team is playing,” Leier said. “I think that’s been the case for us.”
“The team is producing,” Martel agreed. “So we just need to continue in the right direction.”