PREVIEW: Phantoms vs. Islanders, Game #51

Saturday, March 2, 7:05 p.m.
PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Lehigh Valley (22-21-7) at Bridgeport (16-29-7)

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (22-21-7) return to PPL Center to open a three-game homestand as they faceoff against the Bridgeport Islanders, AHL affiliate of the New York Islanders.
Lehigh Valley is tied by points percentage with Springfield for the sixth playoff position in the Atlantic Division heading into the stretch-run of the season. The Phantoms are actually two points behind the T-Birds in total points but Lehigh Valley also has two games-in-hand thus creating the deadlock.
Tonight is Hockey is For Everyone Night, including SNHL D.J. Brad Scott. This evening’s game celebrates inclusivity and diversity in hockey.
Tonight is the 51st game of the season. There are 22 games remaining in the 2023-24 campaign.

The Phantoms generated several tremendous chances on goal, especially in the third period, but goaltender Erik Kallgren stood on his head for the Utica Comets in acquiring a 28-save shutout as Utica prevailed 3-0. Most of the game was a 1-0 goaltenders’ duel before Utica scored a pair of goals in the final 4:33 to put it away.
Lehigh Valley got the puck past and around Kallgren two times in the third period but somehow the puck stayed almost right on the line and wouldn’t go in. Jacob Gaucher had a breakaway while Garrett Wilson and Rhett Gardner created some of the team’s best point-blank chances as well.
Two former Phantoms provided primary assists on key goals as Tyler Wotherspoon and Max Willman both had important set ups.

Four Phantoms have received recalls to the Philadelphia Flyers in the last week.
Olle Lycksell joined the Phantoms after one game back with the team on Saturday in which he scored two goals with two assists at Charlotte. Lycksel leads the Phantoms with 18 goals.
Bobby Brink returns to the Flyers after scoring 5-6-11 in 11 games with the Phantoms since arriving on January 26. Brink scored the overtime winner on Saturday at Charlotte.
Ronnie Attard received his first call-up to the Flyers this season. The righty-shooting defenseman has scored 10-15-25 with Lehigh Valley and has played in 16 career games with the Philadelphia Flyers previously including one game last year and 15 games at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Goaltender Felix Sandstrom has a big opportunity with the Flyers were he has yet to play this season. Sandstrom has gone 11-6-2, 3.23, .882 with Lehigh Valley this season. On his career with the Flyers he is 3-16-4, 3.62, .887.

Cal Petersen has been returned to the Phantoms where he is 5-8-2, 3.26, .890. He had been up with Philadelphia since January 20 and has played in five games with the Flyers this season.
Alex Kile rejoins the Phantoms from the Maine Mariners of the ECHL where he is second in the league in points and third in goals scoring 28-31-49 in just 38 games played. The 29-year-old winger has played in 49 career games with the Phantoms over the past three seasons scoring 6-5-11.

Never count out the Phantoms!
Lehigh Valley has won six times when trailing at the second intermission which is tied for most comeback wins in the AHL with Grand Rapids. Additionally, the Phantoms have points in 10 games when trailing after two periods including four losses in overtime or shootout. That is second-highest in the AHL.

The Phantoms record when:
– Score 4 or more goals: 14-0-2
– Allow 3 or fewer goals: 15-4-3
– Lead After 1st period: 7-1-2
– Lead After 2nd period: 12-1-1
– One-Goal Games: 15-4-7
– Overtime: 6-5 / Shootout: 3-2

Last-place Bridgeport (16-29-7) is showing improved play of late but absorbed a 4-0 loss to Laval in its last game on Wednesday. This is the second of six meetings this season between the Phantoms and B-Isles. Popular Phantoms alum Cole Bardreau scored 3-2-5 in three games in early February to earn Howie’s Hockey Tape AHL Player of the Week Honors. The 30-year-old Bardreau is in his fifth season with Bridgeport after playing in parts of five seasons for the Phantoms where he scored 41-57-98 in 226 games. Bardreau rates 7th in games played and 10th in assists in Lehigh Valley history.
2018 second-rounder Ruslan Ishakov (15-22-37) paces the team’s scoring in his second season in the AHL. Otto Koivula (9-20-29) is in his sixth season with Bridgeport under new head coach Rick Kowalsky. Another former Phantom, Carsen Twarynski (2-0-2), returned from Europe to sign an AHL contract with Bridgeport on January 8. Twarynski played in parts of four full seasons with the Phantoms from 2018-21 totalling 107 games while scoring 18-20-38. Goaltender Jakub Skarek (4-18-5, 3.30, .885) has had a rough season.
The Islanders have the worst record in the league and their offense scores a league-worst 2.24 goals per game. Their 13.6% power play is also at the bottom. The Phantoms eeked out a 2-1 shootout win at Bridgeport two weeks ago on a third-round shootout winner for Wade Allison and a magnificent 34-save performance for Parker Gahagen.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Cooper Marody 13-30-43
Samu Tuomaala 13-24-37
x – Olle Lycksell 18-14-32
Emil Andrae 4-23-27
Tanner Laczynski 8-18-26
Ronnie Attard 10-15-25I

Islanders Scoring Leaders
Ruslan Ishakov 15-22-37
Otto Koivula 9-20-29
x Kyle MacLean 6-16-22
Dennis Cholowski 5-16-21
Robin Salo 5-16-21

Lehigh Valley PP, 20.9% (6th)  – Lehigh Valley PK 79.8% (24th)
Bridgeport PP 13.3% (32nd) – Bridgeport PK 83.7% (11th)

Feb. 10 – Win – Lehigh Valley 2 at Bridgeport 1 (SO)
Mar. 2 – Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley
Mar. 10 – Lehigh Valley at Bridgeport (3:00 p.m.)
Mar. 23 – Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley
Apr. 13 – Bridgeport at Lehigh Valley
Apr. 19 – Lehigh Valley at Bridgeport

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

The Phantoms host the Hershey Bears on Sunday, March 3 at 3:05 p.m. on meLVin’s Birthday! meLVin’s mascot friends will join the fun. The contest also features a postgame skates with the Phantoms players presented by NJM Insurance. Fans can bring their skates to the game in order to be allowed to the ice.

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

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

Friday, March 8 (7:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Berks Dollar Dog Night. Can we break the hot dog record?!
Saturday, March 9 (6:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, March 10 (3:00) at Bridgeport Islanders