PREVIEW: Phantoms at Penguins, Game #47

Wednesday, February 21, 7:05 p.m.
Mohegan Sun Arena, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Lehigh Valley (20-19-7) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (26-17-7)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (20-19-7) open a stretch of four consecutive away games as they travel up the Northeast Extension to tangle with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Game 5 out of 12 in the season series. Lehigh Valley is 2-2-0 against the Penguins this year. There are 26 games remaining in the regular season over the next two months. The Penguins are in third place in the Atlantic Division.
Lehigh Valley currently stands in seventh place but has two or three games-in-hand on Springfield and Charlotte whom the Phantoms are looking to catch for a Calder Cup Playoff spot.
After tonight’s contest, the Phantoms travel to North Carolina for a pair of games at the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday and Sunday.

A Standing Room Only, sellout crowd welcomed the Phantoms back to PPL Center for a tight-checking and tightly played contest against the Syracuse Crunch. The visitors received a pair of beneficial and unusual deflections to post a 2-1 win on Saturday as the Phantoms were unable to acquire a second equalizer before time expired. Rhett Gardner (6th) scored on a tip of a Bobby Brink shot-pass on the power play and Parker Gahagen (24/26) was terrific between the pipes. Cole Koepke had the fortunate winner for Syracuse in the early minutes of the third period. All three goals wee scored on the power play.
The huge turnout of 8,758 filled the seats on meLVin Youth Jersey Night and represented the first time since 2017 that the Phantoms box office went into Standing Room Only status.

J-R Avon continues to lead the AHL with four shootout goals. The 20-year-old rookie has achieved his impressive number in only five shootout attempts. That is also tied for the most shootout goals in a season by any Lehigh Valley Phantoms player having only been accomplished one other time when Taylor Leier was 4-for-8 inm the 2015-16 season. The franchise record is held by Jared Ross who went 7-for-11 in 2008-09 with the Philadelphia Phantoms.

Samu Tuomaala (13-23-36) is third among AHL rookies in points and is fourth in assists. Lehigh Valley’s representative at the AHL All-Star Classic also tops all Finland products in AHL scoring.

Finland Native – AHL Scoring Leaders
Samu Tuomaala (21), LV – 12-23-36
Brad Lambert (20), MTB – 15-15-30
Otto Koivula (25), BRI, 9-18-27
Aatu Räty (22), ABB, 9-18-27

The Phantoms are tied with Cleveland for second in the league with 14 overtime games this season out of 46 games total games played. Only Rochester (15) has more. Lehigh Valley is 4-5 in overtime decisions and 3-2 in games that advance to a shootout for a combined record of 7-7 after regulation.
Samu Tuomaala is the first-ever Lehigh Valley rookie and also the first-ever forward for Lehigh Valley to score two overtime goals in a season. Tuomaala’s two overtime goals is also tied for the AHL Rookie lead along with Brett Berard (Hartford) and Joe Carroll (Syracuse). He’s the first rookie in franchise history to accomplish the feat since Kyle Greentree of the Philadelphia Phantoms had two OT goals in 2007-08.

The Phantoms record when:
– Score 4 or more goals: 13-0-2
– Allow 3 or fewer goals: 14-4-3
– Lead After 1st period: 7-1-2
– Lead After 2nd period: 12-1-1
– One-Goal Games: 13-4-7
– Overtime: 4-5 / Shootout: 3-2

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (26-17-7) is in third place in the Atlantic Division and the Penguins are coming off a 6-3 blowout win against Laval in its last game on Saturday. Lehigh Valley is 2-2-0 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton including a thrilling 5-4 shootout win on February 9 at PPL Center in the last meeting that included a fourth-ruond winner from Matt Brown. This is Game 5 out of 12 in the rivalry series and the two teams will meet seven times in the remaining 26 games of the season. Valtteri Puustinen (5-6-11) was recalled to Pittsburgh but Vinnie Hinostroza (8-9-17) and Jonathan Gruden (11-8-19) have recently returned to Wilkes after a quick stretch with the big club. Former Buffalo and New Jersey first-rounders Alex Nylander (15-16-21) and Ty Smith (9-22-31) lead the scoring. 22-year-old Pittsburgh second-rounder Joel Blomqvist (16-7-4, 2.14, .919) is fourth in the AHL in GAA.

Jan. 6 – Win – Lehigh Valley 4 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 (OT) – Samu Tuomaala winning goal
Jan. 26 – Loss – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4 at Lehigh Valley 3
Feb. 3 – Loss – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 at Lehigh Valley 1
Feb. 9 – Win – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4 at Lehigh Valley 5 (SO) – Matt Brown winner in 4th round

Feb. 21 Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Mar. 8 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley
Mar. 9 Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Mar. 13 Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Mar. 24 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley
Mar. 30 Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Apr. 7 Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Apr. 20 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 10-27-37
Samu Tuomaala 13-22-35
x – Olle Lycksell 16-12-28
Tanner Laczynski 8-18-26
Emil Andrae 4-20-24
Ronnie Attard 9-15-24

Penguins Scoring Leaders
Alex Nylander 16-15-31
Ty Smith 9-22-31
Peter Abbadonato 7-16-23
Jonathan Gruden 11-8-19
Sam Poulin 11-7-18

Lehigh Valley PP, 21.3% (5th) – LV vs. WBS 3/10, 30.0% – Lehigh Valley PK 79.9% (25th)
W-B/Scranton PP 16.0% (28th) – WBS vs. LV 2/13, 15.4% – W-B/Scranton PK 84.1% (10th)

J-R Avon 2-2-4
Samu Tuomaala 2-1-3
Wade Allison 1-2-3
Felix Sandstrom 2-1-0, 3.58, .855

Alex Nylander 2-2-4
Sam Poulin 2-2-4
Jonathan Gruden 1-3-4
Joel Blomqvist 1-0-1, 2.40, .904

The Phantoms head south to play a pair of games at the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Saturday, March 2 against the Bridgeport Islanders on Hockey is for Everyone Night and then host the Hershey Bears on Sunday, March 3 at 3:05 p.m. on meLVin’s Birthday!

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE


Wednesday, February 21 (7:05) – Phantoms at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Saturday, February 24 (4:00) – Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers
Sunday, February 25 (1:00) – Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers

Friday, March 1 (7:05) – Phantoms at Utica Comets
Saturday, March 2 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders—Hockey is for Everyone, SNHL ft. DJ Brad Scott
Sunday, March 3 (3:05) vs. Hershey Bears—meLVin’s Birthday, Post-game skate with players presented by NJM Insurance, Faith Night