Opening Weekend Gameday Preview

Cleveland Monsters (2-1-0) at Lehigh Valley Phantoms (1-1-0)

It’s Opening Weekend at PPL Center as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms host the Cleveland Monsters on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

The Monsters are the AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Lehigh Valley is 5-3-0 all-time in home openers and the Phantoms franchise is 18-7-1 in debuts on home ice since the beginning of the Philadelphia Phantoms in 1996.


Last Time

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms started the season in exciting, buzzer-beater fashion with an overtime win at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last Saturday, Louie Belpedio scored with just 1.4 seconds left for the win to set a new record for latest overtime goal by the Phantoms in the regular season. Newcomer Elliot Desnoyers scored the first goal of the season in his pro debut and veteran goalie Troy Grosenick was terrific with 38 saves in his first-ever game with the Phantoms.

Lehigh Valley couldn’t repeat the magic the next day as they dropped a tight 2-1 decision at Hershey. Desnoyers made it back-to-back as he scored for a second game in a row to begin his pro career.


Phantoms Outlook

There’s a lot to like about this year’s Phantoms squad and opening roster. Ian Laperriere is especially pleased with the added depth that Lehigh Valley has along with some increased speed.

Veteran leaders and captains Cal O’Reilly and Garrett Wilson lead the group that also includes familiar names such as Hayden Hodgson, Isaac Ratcliffe, Max Willman who all made their NHL debuts on recalls to the Flyers last season. O’Reilly is the AHL’s active career scoring leader and his 535 career assists places him 8th all-time. The veteran 36-year-old of over 1,000 pro games set a personal best with 21 goals last year.

Young prospects Tyson Foerster and Cam York are a pair of exciting first-rounders who have spent parts of the last two seasons with Lehigh Valley. Foerster recently won the Gold Medal at the World Juniors with Canada this past August. York won it the previous year as the captain for the USA team.

Elliot Desnoyers is also considered an exciting prospect as the talented 20-year-old and fifth-round selection in 2020 enters his rookie professional season following an 88-point campaign in the QMJHL that included a whopping 42 goals with the Halifax Mooseheads and he already has goals in each of his first two pro games.

32-year-old defenseman Kevin Connauton brings 360 games of NHL experience to the team while big Ronnie Attard at 6’4″ contributes extra muscle on the blueline in his first looks with the Phantoms following 15 games with the Flyers at the end of last year.

The goaltending tandem of Troy Grosenick and Sam Ersson will be tough to beat.

33-year-old Grosenick was a 2nd Team AHL All-Star last year with the Providence Bruins when he led the circuit in GAA (2.00) and Save Percentage (.933). He won the league’s Baz Bastien Memorial Award as Goaltender of the Year in 2017 with the San Jose Barracuda in a season that included a stop at PPL Center in the AHL All-Star Classic.

22-year-old prospect Ersson is looking especially strong following an injury-plagued season that limited him to only five games last year. The Falun, Sweden product made the Philadelphia Flyers’ Opening Night roster after a .947 save percentage in the preseason and then came to the Phantoms to get more opportunities in the crease.



The Monsters took their first loss of the season in a 3-2 decision at the Utica Comets on Friday night after they had swept a pair of high-scoring shootout wins over the Syracuse Crunch last week in their home openers with 6-5 and 5-4 triumphs on consecutive days.  Round 2 pick in 2018 Kirill Marchenko is tied for the league lead with four goals.
Jet Greaves picked up both wins in the crease. He is former teammates with Tyson Foerster on the Barrie Colts in the OHL. Trent Vogelhuber is the new head coach of the Monsters. They opened the weekend with an away game at the Utica Comets on Friday before traveling to Allentown for the Saturday and Sunday contests. The Phantoms will return the favor with a two-game set in Northeast Ohio in January.


Lehigh Valley Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Zack MacEwen 1-2-3
Elliot Desnoyers 2-0-2
Louie Belpedio 1-0-1


Cleveland Monsters Scoring Leaders
Kirill Marchenko 4-1-5
Trey Fix-Wolansky 1-3-4
Brendan Gaunce 1-3-4
Emil Bemstrom 2-2-4


Special Teams

Lehigh Valley Power Play – 1/5, 20.5%
Lehigh Valley Penalty Kill – 8/10, 80%
Cleveland Power Play – 0/4, 0%
Cleveland Penalty Kill – 3/7, 42.9%


Who Will Score the First Phantoms Goal at PPL Center This Season?

Somebody will add their name to this list:
2014-15 – Scott Laughton
2015-16 – Aaron Palushaj
2016-17 – Mark Zengerle
2017-18 – Danick Martel
2018-19 – Greg Carey
2019-20 – Kurtis Gabriel
2020-21 – Zayde Wisdom
2021-22 – Max Willman

2022-23 – ???


Opening Night History:

How the Phantoms have done in past PPL Center Debuts
10/11/2014 – 4-3 Win (OT) vs. Adirondack Flames
10/10/2015 – 4-3 Loss vs. Syracuse Crunch
10/15/2016 – 4-2 Win vs. Springfield Thunderbirds
10/7/2017 – 7-2 Win vs. Hershey Bears (Danick Martel Hat Trick)
10/6/2018 – 6-3 Win vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (Pro Debut of Carter Hart)
10/5/2019 – 0-3 Loss vs. Providence Bruins
2/20/2021 – 3-0 Win vs. Binghamton Devils
10/23/2021 – 3-1 Loss vs. Hartford Wolf Pack


Opening Weekend at PPL Center is Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23 with a weekend series against the Cleveland Monsters featuring a Rally Towel Giveaway.
T-Shirt Throwing Sensation Cameron Hughes will perform at the game on Saturday, October 22. And fan-interaction activities return on Sunday, October 23 with a postgame photo session with the players on the ice.

Haunted on Hamilton with a special Halloween-style Orange and Black theme takes place with a pair of games on Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Bridgeport Islanders.
Kids in costume get to participate in a Halloween Parade with meLVin on the ice during the first intermission of the October 29 game.

Phantoms individual game tickets are on sale now. Secure your seats for your favorite promotional nights and big rivalry matchups! PHANTOMS GAME TICKETS


Upcoming Schedule
Saturday, October 22 (7:05) vs. Cleveland Monsters – OPENING NIGHT! Rally Towels and Cam Hughes with T-Shirts
Sunday, October 23 (3:05) vs. Cleveland Monsters – OPENING WEEKEND! Postgame Photos with Players

Friday, October 28 (7:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – HAUNTED ON HAMILTON!
Saturday, October 29 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders – HAUNTED ON HAMILTON! SNHL Returns
Sunday, October 30 (5:00) at Hershey Bears

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