PREVIEW: Phantoms at Monsters, Game #38

Saturday, January 20, 7:00 p.m.
Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland, OH
Lehigh Valley (16-15-6) at Cleveland (24-10-2)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms conclude a three-game road trip with a rematch at the first-palce Cleveland Monsters, AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Cleveland took Game 1 of the weekend set in a 4-2 decision on Friday.
The Monsters are tops in the North Division and the Monsters boast a .694 points percentage which is second-best in the AHL behind only Hershey.
The Phantoms are now officially in the second half of the season having played 37 games and now looking at 35 games remaining.
The Monsters will be settled in at their large home for the foreseeable future as this weekend begins a massive 10-game homestand at spacious Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.

The Phantoms scored the first and last goals of the game but the Cleveland Monsters struck for a quartet of lamplighters in-between as the North Division leaders escaped with a 4-2 win on Friday night. Samu Tuomaala (12th) and Jacob Gaucher (4th) registered goals for the Phantoms. Tuomaala’s quick hands late in the first period gave the Phantoms a 1-0 lead but it was short-lived as Cleveland countered just 12 seconds later when Luca Del Bel Belluz countered. Rookie talent James Malatesta scored a pair of goals just over two minutes apart early in the second period to put Cleveland ahead for good.

Jacob Gaucher has solidified himself as the team’s regular fourth-line center and has taken advantage of his increased playing time with increased production. The 22-year-old scored his belated first goal as a Phantom on December 27 against Utica and since then has decided to not let go of he scoring touch. Gaucher now has four goals in the last nine games. Friday’s deflection of a sharp-angle shot from Victor Mete was Gaucher’s first goal on the road. The 6’3″ product of Longueuil, Quebec is in his first season in the AHL but made his pro debut last year with the Reading Royals where he racked up 22 goals. Gaucher, 22, also has received reps as a defensive zone faceoff specialist when the Phantoms are looking at a key draw from their own side and has played a vital role on the penalty kill as well. Jacob is the older brother of Anaheim Ducks first rounder Nathan Gaucher who is also in his debut season in the American Hockey League as a member of the San Diego Gulls.

Tonight is the 800th pro game for Phantoms captain Garrett Wilson. The 32-year-old who is in his 11th season of pro hockey had just played his 200th game as a member of the Phantoms last Wednesday at Rochester.
Wilson has played in 614 games in the AHL with Lehigh Valley, Toronto, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Portland and San Antonio and also 84 games in the NHL with Pittsburgh and Florida. His first two pro seasons in 2011-12 and 2012-13 saw Wilson play 101 games in the ECHL with the Cincinnati Cyclones. Congratulations, Garrett!

– Score 4 or more goals: 11-0-2
– Allow 3 or fewer goals: 12-3-3
– Lead After 1st period: 7-1-2
– Lead After 2nd period: 11-1-1
– Overtime: 4-5 / Shootout: 1-1

Cleveland (24-10-2) is in first place in the North Division led by little speedster Trey Fix-Wolansky (12-21-33) who 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 (7-19-26) and goaltender Jet Greaves (18-5-1, 2.71, .911) are also All-Star bound.
The Monsters’ blueline received 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 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 12-18-30
Olle Lycksell 15-12-27
Tanner Laczynski 8-18-26
Ronnie Attard 7-13-20

Monsters Scoring Leaders
Trey Fix-Wolansky 12-21-33
Jake Christensen 7-19-26
Carson Meyer 14-5-19
Mikael Pyyhtia 6-13-19
James Malatesta 10-7-17
Owen Sillinger 7-10-17

Lehigh Valley PP, 20.4% (9th)
Lehigh Valley PK 80.9% (20th)
Cleveland PP 20.1% (10th)
Cleveland PK 79.4% (23rd)

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.

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