PREVIEW: Phantoms vs. Bruins, Game #66

Friday, April 5, 7:05 p.m.
PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Lehigh Valley (28-27-9) vs. Providence (38-19-7)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (28-27-9) return to PPL Center as they conclude the season series with the Providence Bruins in what is also the first game of a busy three-game weekend.
The Phantoms occupy the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division and hold a two-point lead over the Springfield Thunderbirds with eight games remaining. Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a playoff position is at 13 points.
The Providence Bruins have already clinched a playoff berth and are solidly in second place in the division. They have a six-point lead over third-place Charlotte for a coveted first-round bye in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Phantoms took three out of four points in a well-played weekend series at Providence on March 15-16 but Lehigh Valley is 1-2-2 against Providence overall this season. Lehigh Valley won the most recent meeting on March 16 with Tanner Laczynski’s hat-trick and Adam Brooks’ five-point performance leading a 5-2 victory.
The Phantoms went 1-1-1 on their recent three-game road swing.

Cal Petersen turned aside 32 Hershey Bears shots in a strong performance as he kept the Phantoms within striking distance but Lehigh Valley was unable to break through against Hunter Shepard in a 1-0 loss at GIANT Center on Tuesday night. It was Lehigh Valley’s second consecutive 1-0 final in games against the Hershey Bears including a 1-0 shootout win for Cal Petersen against Clay Stevenson at PPL Center on March 3.
Pierrck Dube’s 27th goal of the season early in the first period just as a power play had expired was the only goal of the game for either side.
The Phantoms almost equalized with just 40 seconds to go in the third period after a Garrett Wilson blast in the slot sent the Bears scrambling and tying up sticks. Jacob Gaucher and Wilson got in there to dig for the loose puck but Hershey’s defense tied up enough sticks to squash that opportunity and hang on from there.

Goaltender Alexei Kolosov, 22, has joined the Phantoms from the Minsk Dinamo of the KHL. Philadelphia’s Round 3 selection in the 2021 NHL Draft was 22-21-3, 2.39, .907 for his hometown team in Minsk, Belarus.
Right wing Matt 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 lead the Springfield Thunderbirds by two points in the battle for the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with just eight games remaining in the regular season. Lehigh Valley also trails Hartford by just five points for a possible five-seed.
Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a playoff spot is 13 points.
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 Charlotte Checkers in a 6 vs. 3 matchup in late April which would also be a rematch of last year’s postseason clash in which the Checkers rallied from behind to steal a 2-1 series win. The possible rematch is hardly a guarantee though. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is only two points behind Charlotte for the 3 spot and the Penguins also have one game in hand.
Lehigh Valley’s second-round matchup would be against first-place Hershey in a Best of 5 series.
Upcoming Games to Watch

Springfield at Belleville / Cleveland at W-B/Scranton
Springfield at Laval (3:00) / Hartford at Charlotte (4:00) / W-B/Scranton at Bridgeport (5:00)

Tonight is the 300th pro game for forwards Rhett Gardner and Evan Polei.
Gardner, 28, has tied a career-high with 10 goals this season and has played in 258 career AHL games scoring 40-67-107. The Moose Jaw, SASK native who prides himself on his all-around 200-foot game and faceoff abilities has also played in 41 career NHL games including 40 with the Dallas Stars and one with Philadelphia.
Polei, 28, is playing in his 268th career AHL game tonight and has also played in 32 ECHL games. The rugged and hard-working winger from Wetaskiwin, ALTA has enjoyed AHL stints with Bakersfield, San Antonio, Cleveland and Manitoba.

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. Brooks fell one short of the Lehigh Valley record six-game goal streak by Danick Martel in the 2017-18 season. Brooks is also on a seven-game point streak since March 15 which is tied for the longest by a Phantom this season (also Olle Lycksell Nov 12 – Dec 1). Brooks has scored 6-7-13 over his last seven games.
The Lehigh Valley record for longest point streak is 10 games by Jason Akeson in the inaugural 2014-15 season.

The Phantoms record when:
– Score 4 or more goals: 19-0-2
– Allow 3 or fewer goals: 18-6-3
– Lead After 1st period: 8-1-2
– Lead After 2nd period: 15-2-1
– One-Goal Games: 18-8-8
– Overtime: 6-5 / Shootout: 4-3

Providence (38-19-7) is mostly locked in for the two-seed in the Atlantic Division although the Charlotte Checkers are still within striking distance at a six-point deficit. The Phantoms took three of four points in Rhode Island last March in a weekend series that saw Tanner Laczynski record a hat trick and Adam Brooks a five-point game in a 5-2 victory on March 16. But that was Lehigh Valley’s first win against the Baby Bruins this season. The Phantoms are 1-2-2 against Providence.
Goaltender Brandon Bussi is 3-0-0, 1.92, .943 against Lehigh Valley this season and all-time is 7-1-1, 2.04, .942 including a 41-save performance at PPL Center in November and a 43-save gem last year. Second-year pro Georgii Merkulov (25-33-58) is sixth in the AHL in scoring and second in the Eastern Conference behind only Springfield’s Adam Gaudette and he also has scored 3-4-7 against the Phantoms this season. First-rounder Fabian Lysell (15-35-50) had an overtime winner at PPL Center on November 24 and veteran Jayson Megna (17-31-48) leads the AHL with five shorthanded goals. The high-flying Bruins are third in the AHL at 3.4 goals per game.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 18-32-50
Samu Tuomaala 15-27-42
x – Olle Lycksell 19-19-38
Tanner Laczynski 13-24-37
Emil Andrae 5-27-32

Bruins Scoring Leaders
Georgii Merkulov 25-33-58
Fabian Lysell 15-35-50
Anthony Richard 24-24-48
Jayson Megna 17-31-48
John Farinacci 12-22-34

Lehigh Valley PP, 19.1% (12th)  – Lehigh Valley PK 80.5% (22nd) – LV vs. PRO PP 2/18 (11.1%)
Providence PP 18.7% (17th) – Providence PK 81.2% (18th) – PRO vs. LV PP 6/24 (25.0%)

Nov 24 – OTL – Providence 2 at Lehigh Valley 1 (OT)
Dec 3 – Loss – Providence 3 at Lehigh Valley 2
Dec 8 – Loss – Providence 2 at Lehigh Valley 0
Mar 15 – OTL – Lehigh Valley 3 at Providence 4 (OT)
Mar 16 – Win – Lehigh Valley 5 at Providence 2
Apr 5 – Providence at Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley
Adam Brooks 2-5-7
x Olle Lycksell 2-5-7
Tanner Laczynski 4-2-6
J-R Avon 1-0-1
Elliot Desnoyers 1-0-1
Cal Petersen 0-1-2, 2.60, .905

Georgii Merkulov 3-4-7
Fabian Lysell 1-5-6
Jayson Megna 1-3-4
Reilly Walsh 3-0-3
Alec Regula 1-2-3
Brandon Bussi 3-0-0, 1.92, .943

Saturday night will see the Phantoms host the Cleveland Monsters on Star Wars Night.
The Phantoms then travel to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for a Sunday 3:05 p.m. clash with the rival Penguins.

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Friday, April 5 (7:05) vs. Providence Bruins – Berks $1 Hot Dog Night
Saturday, April 6 (7:05) vs. Cleveland Monsters – Star Wars Night
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