PREVIEW: Phantoms at Penguins, Game #67

Sunday, April 7, 3:05 p.m.
Mohegan Sun Arena, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Lehigh Valley (29-28-9) at W-B/Scranton (35-22-9)

The  Lehigh Valley Phantoms (29-28-9) continue their Push for the Playoffs as they conclude a busy weekend with an important Sunday matinee showdown at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Approximately 350 Phantoms fans are expected to join is northeast Pennsylvania to cheer for the Orange and Black. Phantoms Premier Members will make the trek via multiple fan busses and also their own individual transportation. We’re going to turn the Wyoming Valley into Lehigh Valley North right there in the heart of Luzerne County!

The Magic Number to clinch a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs is down to seven points with six games remaining as the Phantoms have opened their margin over the Springfield Thunderbirds to four points in the battle for the final playoff position in the Atlantic.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has won four straight, including the first two games of this weekend. The Penguins have also won the last three encounters in the head-to-head series against the Phantoms. The Baby Pens have moved back into third place in the Atlantic in a tie with the Charlotte Checkers. But the Penguins hold the tiebreaker and would currently be the first-round playoff match for Lehigh Valley.

The Force was with the Cleveland Monsters, and goaltender Pavel Cajan, who made 31 saves on Saturday night in shutting down the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-0 on Star Wars Night. First-period goals just 19 seconds apart by Stefan Matteau and Cole Clayton capped a fast start for the Monsters who raced out to a 10-0 shots advantage and also a 2-0 lead they would hold the rest of the way.
Tanner Lacznyski hit the post in the second period and Elliot Desnoyers was robbed at the net-front on a dazzling denial off the pad of Cajan and later it was Cooper Marody who found the post in the third period. But the Cajan-esque forcefield held tough through a couple rough extra-attacker scrambles at the end before a long empty-netter sealed it.

Right wing Matt Miller arrived to Allentown just 48 hours earlier and quickly found himself making his pro debut on Friday night against tthe Providence Bruins. Miller made it a memorable evening with a goal in the second period to spark Lehigh Valley’s comeback victory. Miller has signed an AHL contract for the 2024-25 season and has joined the Phantoms on a Professional Try Out contract for the remainder of the 2023-24 season. The 6’3″ forward from Leo, Indiana completed his four-year collegiate career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and scored 7-13-20 in 37 games in his senior season in helping lead the Mavericks no the NCAA Tournament.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms now lead the slumping Springfield Thunderbirds by four points in the battle for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with just six games remaining in the regular season. Lehigh Valley also trails Hartford by just three points for a possible five-seed.
Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a playoff spot is seven points. The Phantoms are also just three points back of slumping Hartford in their efforts to move up to the five-seed.
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 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a 6 vs. 3 rivalry matchup in late April. The Penguins moved into a tie for third with the Charlotte Checkers but the Penguins hold the tiebreaker advantage over Charlotte.
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 and he also had his seven-game point streak snapped on Tuesday in a 1-0 loss at Hershey. But Brooks got back into the goal column on Friday for his seventh goal in the last eight games. He has scored 7-7-14 in his last eight games in total dating back to March 15.

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

W-B/Scranton (35-22-9) is playing some of its best hockey of the season and has won four straight entering today’s rivalry battle while also going 6-2-1 in its last nine. The Phantoms are 4-5-1 against the Baby Pens but have dropped the last three contests against their northeast Pennsylvania rivals. Four out of the ten meetings have gone to overtime. The Baby Pens have moved into a tie for third with the Charlotte Checkers and hold the tiebreaker advantage setting up the possibility of a 3 vs. 6 playoff matchup against the Phantoms in a Best of 3 series.
Big center Radim Zohorna scored an overtime winner against Cleveland on Friday and Austin Rueschoff registered a hat trick at Bridgeport on Saturday in a 6-3 win.
Princeton product Corey Andonovski scored the backhand beauty in overtime to propel the Penguins past the Phantoms 4-3 the last time the two teams met last on March 30 in Wilkes-Barre.
Defenseman Ty Smith (9-34-43) leads the Baby Pens in scoring and has five assists on the weekend. He stayed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton even after he was traded by Pittsburgh to Carolina (who loaned him back to the team he was already playing for). Second-rounder Joel Blomqvist (23-10-6, 2.15, .919) continues to thrive in his rookie season and is third in the AHL in GAA. Against the Phantoms, Blomqvist has gone 5-1-2, 2.24, .922 including his first career shutout on March 13.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 18-34-52
Samu Tuomaala 15-27-42
x – Olle Lycksell 19-19-38
Tanner Laczynski 14-24-38
Emil Andrae 5-27-32

Penguins Scoring Leaders
Ty Smith 9-34-43
x Alex Nylander 17-15-32
Vinnie Hinostroza 14-17-31
x Sam Poulin 13-14-27
Corey Andonovski 6-21-27

Lehigh Valley PP, 19.0% (15th)  – Lehigh Valley PK 80.4% (24th) – LV vs. WBS PP 5/28, 17.9%
W-B/Scranton PP 17.0% (25th) – W-B/Scranton PK 85.2% (3rd) – WBS vs. LV PP 6/32, 18.8%

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 – LOSS – Lehigh Valley 0 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3
Mar. 24 – LOSS – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3 at Lehigh Valley 1
Mar. 30 – OTL – Lehigh Valley 3 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 4 (OT)

Apr. 7 (3:05) Lehigh Valley at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
Apr. 20 (7:05) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley
Rhett Gardner 3-6-9
Samu Tuomaala 4-3-7
Cooper Marody 3-4-7
Adam Brooks 3-3-6
Felix Sandstrom 3-1-1, 3.32, .874

Vinnie Hinostroza 2-7-9
x Sam Poulin 3-4-7
Corey Andonovski 2-5-7
Radim Zohorna 1-6-7
Austin Rueschhoff 2-4-6
Joel Blomqvist 5-1-2, 2.24, .922

The Phantoms head to Chocolatetown next Friday, April 12 to take on the first-place and defending Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears.
The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Saturday, April 13 against the Bridgeport Islanders on Los Fantasmas Night

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

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

Friday, April 19 (7:00) at Bridgeport Islanders
Saturday, April 20 (7:05) vs. W-B/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, April 21 (3:05) vs. Charlotte Checkers – Our Valley, Our Home Day – End of Regular Season!