PREVIEW: Phantoms at Bears, Game #65

Tuesday, April 2, 7:00 p.m.
GIANT Center, Hershey, PA
Lehigh Valley (28-26-9) at Hershey (47-12-5)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (28-26-9) enter the final month of the regular season with the finale of a three-game road trip as they travel to Chocolatetown for a showdown against the first-place Hershey Bears.
The Phantoms occupy the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and hold a two-point lead over the Springfield Thunderbirds with nine games remaining. Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a playoff position is at 15 points.
The Hershey Bears are tops in the AHL and are one point away from clinching the Atlantic Division and also securing the sixth 100-point season in team history.
The Phantoms are 4-4-2 against Hershey and have the best mark in the AHL against the defending Calder Cup Champs. Lehigh Valley has won three of the last four meetings in the season series and is 3-1-1 against Hershey in calendar year 2024.

Lehigh Valley rallied from behind in the third period on consecutive goals by Samu Tuomaala and Emil Andrae but the Penguins weren’t finished and tied the game with 3:30 left before Corey Andonovki’s winner in overtime as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton prevailed on home ice 4-3. Lehigh Valley secured a valuable standings point with the overtime loss and finished the weekend with three out of four points.
The Phantoms were clinging to a 1-0 lead after Ethan Samson’s second career goal and Felix Sandstrom made a number of strong saves in his first game with the Phantoms in over a month before Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finally turned the tables with two goals at the end of the second period.

Mar 29 – Felix Sandstrom (G) loaned to Phantoms from Philadelphia
Mar 30 – Parker Gahagen (G) loaned by Phantoms to Reading (ECHL)
Apr 1 – Mason Millman (D) reassigned by Philadelphia to Reading (ECHL)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms have pushed ahead of the Springfield Thunderbirds for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with just 9 games remaining.
Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a playoff spot is at 15 points.
The top six teams in the Atlantic qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. The first round is a Best of 3 series and right now would see the Phantoms take on the Charlotte Checkers in a 6 vs. 3 matchup in late April which would also be a rematch of last year’s postseason clash in which the Checkers rallied from behind to steal a 2-1 series win. The possible rematch is hardly a guarantee though. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is only two points behind Charlotte for the 3 spot and the Penguins also have one game in hand.
Lehigh Valley’s second-round matchup would be against first-place Hershey in a Best of 5 series.

Adam Brooks had his five-game goal streak snapped on Saturday despite several strong chances at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Brooks fell one short of the Lehigh Valley record six-game goal streak by Danick Martel in the 2017-18 season. Brooks is also on a seven-game point streak since March 15 which is tied for the longest by a Phantom this season (also Olle Lycksell Nov 12 – Dec 1). Brooks has scored 6-7-13 over his last seven games.
The Lehigh Valley record for longest point streak is 10 games by Jason Akeson in the inaugural 2014-15 season.

Rookie defenseman Hunter McDonald played his first full pro game on Friday at Syracuse and instantly impressed. McDonald was physical and active and finished with a +4 rating in Lehigh Valley’s 6-4 win at Syracuse. The Fairport, NY native used to play in the very same arena as a kid with the youth Syracuse Stars. The 21-year-old checks in at 6’4″ and was a Round 6 selection of the Flyers in 2021 before playing two seasons at Northeastern University. All of this after his official debut at PPL Center on March 23 was cut short due to injury after just two shifts. But McDonald was cleared to return to play quickly and thrived in central New York.

The Phantoms record when:
– Score 4 or more goals: 19-0-2
– Allow 3 or fewer goals: 18-6-3
– Lead After 1st period: 8-1-2
– Lead After 2nd period: 15-2-1
– One-Goal Games: 18-7-8
– Overtime: 6-5 / Shootout: 4-3

Hershey (47-12-5) is running away with the Atlantic Division and is in pursuit of the all-time AHL record for best points percentage in a full season. The defending Calder Cup Champs also sit at 99 standings points as they look to become the first team this season to reach the Century mark. But Lehigh Valley has done well against the crew from Chocolatetown. In fact, better than any other team. The Phantoms are 4-4-2 against Hershey including an unusual 1-0 shootout win against the Bears in their last meeting on March 3 at PPL Center when Cal Petersen’s shutout earned the win over Clay Stevenson’s shutout. In fact, the Phantoms have gone 3-1-1 against Hershey in the last five matchups, all in 2024. Four out of the ten games have gone to overtime.
Joe Snively (11-38-49) and Alex Limoges (21-24-45) pace the offense. Pierrick Dube (26-16-42) and Ethen Frank (25-16-41) are also in the 20+ goal department and Dube has scored five of his goals against the Phantoms. The stingy Bears allow less than 2.1 goals and under 26 shots per contest, both tops in the AHL. Goaltenders Hunter Shepard (24-3-3, 1.86, .925) and Clay Stevenson (21-9-2, 1.97, .925) are first and second in the AHL in goals-against average.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 18-32-50
Samu Tuomaala 15-27-42
x – Olle Lycksell 19-19-38
Tanner Laczynski 13-24-37
Emil Andrae 5-27-32

Bears Scoring Leaders
Joe Snively 11-38-49
Alex Limoges 21-24-45
x – Mike Sgarbossa 7-36-43
Pierrick Dube 26-16-42
Ethen Frank 25-16-41

Lehigh Valley PP, 19.6% (12th)  – Lehigh Valley PK 80.2% (22nd) – LV vs. HER PP 4/39 (10.3%)
Hershey PP 20.6% (6th) – Hershey PK 88.2% (1st) – HER vs. LV PP 4/41 (9.8%)

Oct. 28 – Loss – Lehigh Valley 0 at Hershey 4
Nov. 1 – OTL – Lehigh Valley 3 at Hershey 4 (OT)
Nov. 11 – Loss – Hershey 2 at Lehigh Valley 0
Nov. 12 – Win – Lehigh Valley 4 at Hershey 1
Dec. 30 – Loss – Hershey 4 at Lehigh Valley 0
Jan. 7 – OTL – Lehigh Valley 2 at Hershey 3 (OT)
Jan. 13 – Win – Hershey 3 at Lehigh Valley 4 (SO)
Jan. 31 – Loss – Hershey 4 at Lehigh Valley 2
Feb. 2 – Win – Hershey 1 at Lehigh Valley 4
Mar. 3 – SOW – Hershey 0 at Lehigh Valley 1 (SO)

Apr. 2 Lehigh Valley at Hershey
Apr. 12 Lehigh Valley at Hershey

Lehigh Valley
Cooper Marody 2-4-6
x Olle Lycksell 2-2-4
x Adam Ginning 1-3-4
Garrett Wilson 1-3-4
Emil Andrae 0-4-4
Cal Petersen 2-2-1, 2.50, .895

Pierrick Dubé 5-2-7
x Ivan Miroshnichenko 1-5-6
x Mike Sgarbossa 1-5-6
Bogdan Trineyev 2-3-5
Mike Vecchione 4-0-4
Clay Stevenson 4-2-1, 1.42 .948

Lehigh Valley returns to PPL Center on Friday, April 5 against the Providence Bruins on Berks $1 Hot Dog Night and Saturday, April 6 against the Cleveland Monsters on Star Wars Night.

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Tuesday, April 2 (7:00) at Hershey Bears

Friday, April 5 (7:05) vs. Providence Bruins – Berks $1 Hot Dog Night
Saturday, April 6 (7:05) vs. Cleveland Monsters – Star Wars Night
Sunday, April 7 (3:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Friday, April 12 (7:00) at Hershey Bears
Saturday, April 13 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders