Friday, January 19, 7:00 p.m.
Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland, OH
Lehigh Valley (16-14-6) at Cleveland (23-10-2)
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms officially begin the second half of the season with the first of two weekend showdowns in snowy Cleveland, Ohio against the first-place Cleveland Monsters, AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Cleveland is tops in the North Division and the Monsters boast a .686 points percentage which is second-best in the AHL behind only Hershey.
Entering tonight’s game, the Phantoms have played 36 games and have 36 remaining in the regular season. Tonight is also the second game of a three-game road trip for Lehigh Valley.
The Monsters will be settled in at their large home for the foreseeable future as tonight is the first game of a massive 10-game homestand for the North Division leaders.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms couldn’t find a way to break goaltender Eric Comrie and then the Rochester Americans tacked on three goals in the closing minutes of a 6-0 result on Wednesday night in western New York. Comrie’s 32 saves represented Rochester’s first shutout win of the season. Lehigh Valley sustained its first regulation loss of 2024 ending a four-game point streak while also suffering its worst margin of defeat of the season. It was also the first regulation loss on the road for the Phantom since December 3. Brandon Biro had a goal and an assist in the first period against Felix Sandstrom to stake the Amerks to the early lead.
WELCOME BACK, GRANZY
Phantoms defenseman Helge Grans returned to the lineup on Wednesday at Rochester following an absence of over six weeks with an upper-body injury. The 21-year-old blueliner had not played since December 3. The 6’4″ prospect was a Round 2 selection of the Los Angeles Kings in 2020 and is in his third season in the American Hockey League and his first with the Phantoms following two seasons with the Ontario (Cal.) Reign. He was acquired by the Flyers last July in a three-team trade involving Ivan Provorov going to Columbus. From Los Angeles, the Flyers received Grans along with Cal Petersen and Sean Walker.
PHANTOMS MILESTONE FOR GARRETT
Wednesday night was captain Garrett Wilson’s 200th game with the Phantoms. He becomes the 11th player to achieve the feat with Lehigh Valley as well as the 28th all-time in Phantoms franchise history.
Wilson has scored 42 goals with 59 assists for 101 points through four seasons with the Phantoms. He has played in 613 career games in the AHL via stays with San Antonio, Portland, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Toronto and Lehigh Valley scoring 136-170-306 with 1,033 penalty minutes. Wilson has also played in 84 NHL games with Pittsburgh and Florida scoring 2-4-6.
NEW YEAR, HOT START
Phantoms scoring leaders in January:
Cooper Marody 1-4-5
Olle Lycksell 3-2-5
Samu Tuomaala 3-1-4
Ronnie Attard 2-2-4
PHANTOMS AND MONSTERS!
Cleveland (23-10-2) is in first place in the North Division but dropped two straight last week in a 5-4 loss at Utica followed by a 3-2 shootout loss at Syracuse. Leading scorer Trey Fix-Wolansky (12-21-33) is one of three Cleveland players who will take the trip to San Jose for the AHL All-str Classic along with head coach Trent Vogelhuber. Defenseman Jake Christensen (6-18-24) and goaltender Jet Greaves (17-5-1, 2.75, .91) are also All-Star bound.
The Monsters’ blueline receives a boost this weekend with the arrival of highly touted David Jiricek. The #6 overall pick in the 2022 draft has spent almost the entire season with the Columbus Blue Jackets scoring 1-8-9 in 36 games but the 20-year-old was the odd-man out when Boone Jenner was activated from injured reserve with the big club. Cleveland is sixth in the AHL and third in the Eastern Conference at 3.4 goals per game.
The AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets bested the Phantoms on Opening Night at PPL Center in a 5-2 decision on October 14 on a four-point effort (2G, 2A) by the undersized speedster, Fix-Wolansky, and a pair of goals by 2017 sixth-rounder from Ohio Carson Meyer.
Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 9-23-32
Samu Tuomaala 11-18-29
Tanner Laczynski 8-18-26
Olle Lycksell 15-11-26
Ronnie Attard 7-13-20
Monsters Scoring Leaders
Trey Fix-Wolansky 12-21-33
Jake Christensen 6-18-24
Carson Meyer 14-5-19
Mikael Pyyhtia 6-13-19
Owen Sillinger 7-10-17
Lehigh Valley PP, 21.0% (5th)
Lehigh Valley PK 81.6% (15th)
Cleveland PP 19.2% (13th)
Cleveland PK 78.8% (24th)
Lehigh Valley and Cleveland will rematch on Saturday night.
The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Friday, January 26 and Saturday, January 27 hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Toronto Marlies. January 27 has an auto-racing theme on Racing Night and also includes a Youth Knit Hat Giveaway for the first 2,500 kids age 14 and younger.
Friday, January 19 (7:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Cleveland Monsters
Saturday, January 20 (7:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Cleveland Monsters
Friday, January 26 (7:05) – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley
Saturday, January 27 (7:05) – Toronto at Lehigh Valley – Racing Night and Youth Winter Hats from Reilly Children’s Hospital of Lehigh Valley
Friday, February 2 (7:05) – Hershey at Lehigh Valley – 10th Anniversary Celebration Weekend
Saturday, February 3 (7:05) – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley – 10th Anniversary Celebration Weekend