Allentown, PA – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (11-11-4) are North Carolina bound before a quick break for the holidays. A pair of rematch games at a motivated Charlotte Checkers team on Thursday and Friday awaits the Phantoms after Lehigh Valley won a pair of games against Charlotte (13-10-2) a week ago at PPL Center.
Following this Friday’s game, the players mostly head in separate directions to celebrate a quick break before returning for a Tuesday afternoon practice in Allentown followed by a home game on Wednesday, December 27 against the Utica Comets.
WEEKLY RECAP Wednesday, December 13, 2023 Phantoms 3 – Charlotte 2 (OT)
The Phantoms finished a sweep of two games against Charlotte in dramatic fashion via Ronnie Attard’s overtime goal. Samu Tuomaala’s power-play blast with 4:09 remaining forced overtime. Cooper Marody assisted on all three goals including Emil Andrae’s strike just 58 seconds into the contest, the fastest goal of the season for the Phantoms. Lehigh Valley won its second overtime game this season and Ronnie Attard scored his second career overtime winner including an extra-time goal against Belleville last year.
Friday, December 15, 2023 Rocket 4 – Phantoms 3 The Phantoms appeared to dominate virtually every aspect of the game but Laval Rocket goaltender Jakub Dobes kept his team competitive to ultimately set up the stunning end-result when Riley Kidney’s goal from center-point with 1:07 left provided a 4-3 win for the visiting Rocket. Lehigh Valley took its first loss when holding the lead after two periods. The Phantoms out shot the Rocket 45-24 in the game and 16-4 in the third period but the Phantoms went without a goal in the final 20 minutes while the Rocket struck twice. Samu Tuomaala, Wade Allison and Emil Andrae all scored goals for Lehigh Valley.
Saturday, December 16, 2023 Thunderbirds 4 – Phantoms 2
Cooper Marody (6th) staked “Los Fantasmas” to an early lead on Hockey Fiesta Night but Springfield goaltender Vadim Zherenko would shut down the Phantoms almost the entire rest of the way as the Thunderbirds posted a 4-2 victory at PPL Center. Former Washington Capital and Detroit Red Wing Jakub Vrana had a pair of assists for the T-Birds while Adam Gaudette scored his league-leading 15th goal of the season. J.R. Avon scored with just 20.1 seconds remaining when the result was already decided.
Dec 19 – Olle Lycksell (F) – Returned to Phantoms from Philadelphia
Dec 19 – Parker Gahagen (G) – Recalled to Phantoms from Reading Royals
Dec 19 – Rhett Gardner (F) – Recalled to Philadelphia
Dec 19 – Cal Petersen (G) – Recalled to Philadelphia
Dec 17 – Mason Millman (D) – Recalled to Phantoms from Reading Royals
Dec 15 – Louie Belpedio (D) – Return to Phantoms from Philadelphia
WELCOME BACK, LOUIE!
Defenseman Louie Belpedio has been returned on loan to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms from the Philadelphia Flyers. He jumped into the Phantoms’ lineup for the first time in almost two months in Friday’s game against Laval. The 27-year alternate captain of the Phantoms enjoyed his longest career NHL stretch playing in 12 games with Philadelphia beginning on October 26 while scoring two goals including his first career NHL goal on November 3 at Buffalo. Prior to this stint, Belpedio had not played in the NHL in two-and-a-half years and only had four career games, all with Minnesota. Belpedio scored 8-19-27 in 70 games with the Phantoms last year and has played in 310 career AHL games with Iowa and Lehigh Valley scoring 33-75-108.
Lehigh Valley’s power play continues to thrive and is first in the AHL at 24.3%. The Phantoms have scored a power-play goal in 13 of the last 14 games going 17-for-52 (32.7%) since November 12. Cooper Marody has moved into the AHL lead for most power-play points (3-10-13) while Olle Lycksell (6-6-12) and Samu Tuomaala (5-7-12) are both one behind the league lead for most power-play points while Lycksell is also one off the league-pace in power-play goals.
Tuomaala had power-play goals in consecutive games last week on Wednesday vs. Charlotte and Friday vs. Laval.
Tanner Laczynski (3-5-8), Emil Andrae (2-6-8), J.R. Avon (2-1-3) and Wade Allison (2-1-3) also have multiple power-play goals.
Philadelphia’s Round 2 selection in the 2021 NHL Draft is having a massive season in his first full pro campaign in North America. 20-year-old Samu Tuomaala appears to be gaining more and more confidence by the minute and has moved into a tie for the team in scoring along with Cooper Marody at 23 points apiece. With power-play goals in consecutive games last week, Tuomaala now has five power-play tallies this season to move into a tie for the league lead among rookies and his 11 points on the power play is one off the league lead for rookies.
Overall, Tuomaala has scored 7-16-23 to rate third among AHL rookies in points and second in assists.
Samu Tuomaala has moved into a tie for the team scoring lead with Cooper Marody at 23 points apiece. Among AHL rookies, Tuomaala is 1st in power-play goals (5), third in points (23) and second in assists (16)
Marody scored 1-5-6 in three games last week. Mardoy leads the AHL with 13 points on the power play. Lycksell and Tuomaala are just one behind with 12 points each
The Phantoms are:
7-3-3 when scoring first
10-2-2 when scoring three or more goals
9-1-0 when leading after two periods
9-2-2 when allowing three goals or fewer
UPCOMING Thursday, December 21, 2023 (7:00 p.m.)
and Friday, December 22, 2023 (6:00 p.m.) Bojangles’ Coliseum Charlotte, NC Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers
Lehigh Valley and Charlotte (13-10-2) meet for two more games in North Carolina before the holiday break. The Phantoms defeated the Checkers twice last week including a 4-1 win on December 9 when Zayde Wisdom brought 10, 869 raining teddy bears inside PPL Center and also a 3-2 overtime win on December 13 with Ronnie Attard striking for the game-winner.
It’s the first visit for the Phantoms to Charlotte since falling in the Best-of-3 Calder Cup Playoff series last April.
The Checkers opened their homestand by taking three of four points from the last-place Bridgeport Islanders but let a lead slip away in a 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday.
The AHL affiliate of the Florida Panthers is led by hard-shooting defenseman Lucas Carlsson (8-12-20) who scored the double-overtime goal in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Playoffs against the Phantoms last year. Carlsson was also second-team All-AHL scoring 20-34-54 in 61 games finishing tied for first among blueliners in goals and second in points.
Rookie first-rounder Mackie Samoskevich (6-11-17) has been heating up recently including a two-goal game at Hershey on December 10 and a goal at Lehigh Valley on December 13. He scored a gigantic goal at PPL Center with his overtime winner for the University of Michigan against Penn State in the NCAA Regional Final in Allentown last March.
Former Phantom Gerry Mayhew (4-9-13) is in his second season with the Checkers after splitting time between the Philadelphia Flyers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2021-22. He scored nine goals in 24 games in his time with Lehigh Valley.
Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Samu Tuomaala 7-16-23
Cooper Marody 6-17-23
Olle Lycksell 12-7-19
Tanner Laczynski 6-12-18
Ronnie Attard 5-9-14
UPCOMING Thursday, December 21 (7:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers
Friday, December 22 (6:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers
Wednesday, December 27 (7:05) – Utica Comets at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Pregame $2 Beers
Saturday, December 30 (7:05) – Hershey Bears at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Phantoms Knit Caps
Sunday, December 31 (7:05) – Charlotte Checkers at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – World’s Largest Puck Drop!