PREVIEW: Phantoms at Penguins, Game #56

Wednesday, March 13, 7:05 p.m.
Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Lehigh Valley (25-23-7) vs. Bridgeport Islanders (29-20-8)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-23-7) conclude their March three-game mini-series with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the third game in the last six days between the two rivals. It is also the third game of a five-game road trip.
The Phantoms have won two straight as well as three of the last four games.
Lehigh Valley is holding down sixth place in the Atlantic Division in the battle for the last playoff spot. The Phantoms and Springfield Thunderbirds are tied in points but Lehigh Valley also has two games-in-hand on the T-Birds. Third-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is a potential first-round playoff matchup for the Phantoms as well in a possible 3 vs. 6 series.
The Phantoms are 3-0-0 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season. The away team has won six out of seven encounters so far. This is Game 8 out of 12 in the season series.
Tonight is the 56th game of the season. There are 17 games remaining in the 2023-24 campaign.

Rhett Gardner struck for two more goals to complete a massive six-point weekend as the Phantoms capped off the weekend with a 4-3 win at the Bridgeport Islanders on Sunday afternoon. Adam Karashik scored his first career goal and Louie Belpedio called bank off the back of an Islanders defender for a clutch goal.
Cal Petersen slammed the door on Bridgeport’s comeback efforts in the third period with several clutch denials as the Phantoms slammed the door on the Islanders’ four-game win streak. Gardner’s second multi-goal game of the weekend gives him 10 goals on the season equaling a career-high that he set last year with the Texas Stars.

Phantoms captain Garrett Wilson has been suspended for three games by the American Hockey League as the result of a checking to the head penalty in Saturday’s game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Wilson sat out Sunday’s game at Bridgeport and will also be unavailable this Wednesday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Friday at Providence. Wilson is eligible to return to the lineup on Saturday at the Providence Bruins which is also his 33rd birthday.

Defenseman Adam Ginning has been returned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms from the Philadelphia Flyers. Ginning has played in one game with the Flyers this year and 53 games with the Phantoms scoring 2-11-13

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms continue to thrive on the man advantage at 21.2% which is good for fourth in the AHL and second in the Eastern Conference. The Phantoms have struck for power-play goals in three straight games (3-f0r-10) and four of the last five.
Cooper Marody is tied for the AHL lead in power-play assists (19) and power-play points (24)
A pair of rookie prospects have also helped drive the team’s success on the man advantage.
Emil Andrae has scored 3-15-18 on the power play to rate second among AHL rookies in power-play assists and first among AHL rookie defensemen. He is second among AHL rookie defensemen in power-play points behind Owen Zellweger of San Diego who has 19.
Samu Tuomaala has scored 7-12-19 on the power play. He is tied for third among AHL rookies in power-play points and is fourth in goals and fifth in assists.

Never count out the Phantoms! Lehigh Valley has rallied for victory seven times when trailing after two periods which is the most comeback wins in the AHL ahead of Grand Rapids, Henderson and Manitoba who have six late comeback triumphs. Three of Lehigh Valley’s rallies have been on the road at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where the Phantoms have gone 3-0-0 despite trailing at the second intermission on each visit.

The Phantoms have won five straight games that have been tied after regulation including two overtime wins and three shootout wins. Lehigh Valley is 7-1 in calendar year 2024 in overtimes and shootouts combined.
20-year-old rookie J-R Avon is tied for the AHL lead with five shootout goals on just six attempts this season. Trey Fix-Wolansky of Cleveland is the only other player with five.
The Phantoms are tied for the league lead with four shootout wins. The Cleveland Monsters and Abborstford Canucks also have four. Lehigh Valley is also second in the league with nine total shootout goals trailing only Cleveland who has 11.
The Phantoms have gone to overtime or shootout in 17 games this year which is third-most in the AHL behind Rochester (19) and Cleveland (19). The Phantoms are 6-5 in overtimes and 4-2 in shootouts for a combined mark of 10-7 after regulation.

The Phantoms record when:
– Score 4 or more goals: 17-0-2
– Allow 3 or fewer goals: 18-5-3
– Lead After 1st period: 7-1-2
– Lead After 2nd period: 13-2-1
– One-Goal Games: 18-6-7
– Overtime: 6-5 / Shootout: 4-2

The March mini-series with rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (29-20-8) continues as the Penguins are still hanging on to third place in the Atlantic Division. The Penguins are entering their third consecutive game against the Phantoms after splitting a home-and-home series last weekend.
The Penguins vs. Phantoms matchup is now also a possible playoff preview as the two teams are lined up for a potential 3 vs. 6 series in the first round as the standings are currently situated.
Lehigh Valley is 3-0-0 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with three late rallies in NEPA. In all three Phantoms wins at the Baby Pens, it was Lehigh Valley trailing at the second intermission but coming back for the dramatic triumph including a pair of overtime victories at Mohegan Sun Arena (Samu Tuomaala on January 6 and Cooper Marody on February 21).
The visiting team has won six out of seven games in the season series. This is Game 8 out of 12.
Rookie All-Star goaltender Joel Blomqvist (18-9-5, 2.19, .918) is third in the AHL in GAA. Defenseman Ty Smith (9-25-34) paces the offense. Smith is still with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton even though he was traded by Pittsburgh to Carolina last week. Without an AHL affiliate this season, the Carolina Hurricanes opted to loan him back to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he can remain a member of the team. Sam Poulin (12-12-24) has scored 3-2-5 against the Phantoms. Vinny Hinostroza (11-13-24) has scored 1-6-7 against Lehigh Valley. The former Chicago Blackhawk and Buffalo Sabre has played 374 career NHL games scoring 54 goals.

Lehigh Valley
Rhett Gardner 3-4-7
Cooper Marody 3-4-7
Samu Tuomaala 3-3-6
Brendan Furry 2-3-5
J-R Avon 2-3-5
Parker Gahagen 1-1-0, 2.01, .930

Vinnie Hinostroza 1-6-7
x – Alex Nylander 3-2-5
Sam Poulin 3-2-5
Ty Smith 2-3-5
Jonathan Gruden 1-4-5
Joel Blomqvist 2-1-2, 2.79, .904

Jan. 6 – WIN – Lehigh Valley 4 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 (OT)
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)
Feb. 21 – WIN – Lehigh Valley 3 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2 (OT)
Mar. 8 – LOSS – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 at Lehigh Valley 2
Mar 9 – WIN – Lehigh Valley 4 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 2

Mar. 13 (7:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Mar. 24 (3:05) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley
Mar. 30 (6:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Apr. 7 (3:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Apr. 20 (7:05) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 14-32-46
Samu Tuomaala 14-26-40
Olle Lycksell 18-14-32
Emil Andrae 4-26-30
Tanner Laczynski 8-18-26
x – Ronnie Attard 10-15-25

Penguins Scoring Leaders
Ty Smith 9-25-34
Peter Abbandonato 7-16-23
Sam Poulin 12-12-24
Vinnie Hinostroza 11-13-24
Jonathan Gruden 13-10-23

Lehigh Valley PP, 21.2% (4th)  – Lehigh Valley PK 80.8% (22nd) – Series PP vs. WBS 5/19 (26.3%)
W-B/Scranton PP 16.2% (27th) – W-B/Scranton PK 84.5% (4th) – Series PP vs. LV 4/23 (17.4%)

The Phantoms travel to Providence, Rhode Island for a pair of games on Friday, March 15 and Saturday, March 16 to conclude the team’s five-game road trip. The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Wednesday, March 20 for a critical showdown against the Springfield Thunderbirds.

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Wednesday, March 13 (7:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Friday, March 15 (7:05) at Providence Bruins
Saturday, March 16 (7:05) at Providence Bruins

Wednesday, March 20 (7:05) vs. Springfield Thunderbirds – Joe Watson Book Signing / $1 Pretzels
Saturday, March 23 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders – Margaritaville Night
Sunday, March 24 (3:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Kids Takeover Day / Postgame Autographs Presented by NJM Insurance