Friday, March 31, 2023 at 7:05 p.m.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (33-25-6) vs. WBS Penguins (25-27-12)
PPL Center, Allentown, PA
The Phantoms look to close their Magic Number to single digits as they host the rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the final game of the season series.
Lehigh Valley (33-25-6) picked up back-to-back exciting comeback wins on the road last weekend and now has a Magic Number of 12 points to clinch a playoff berth.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (25-27-12) has fallen further behind the pace on a three-game winless streak and the last-place Penguins are now seven points back of Hartford for the final playoff spot.
Lehigh Valley is 6-4-1 against the Baby Pens this season.
There are just eight games remaining for the Phantoms including five at home.
Sunday, March 31, 2023
Phantoms 4 – Bears 3 (SO)
Artem Anisimov tied the game in the third period for a second consecutive night and then Jordy Bellerive and Bobby Brink scored in the shootout to clinch an exciting win at the Hershey Bears on Sunday. The Phantoms trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the third period but goals by Louie Belpedio (6th) and Ryan Fitzgerald (1st) got them back into the game. Sam Ersson was outstanding with a career-high 37 saves including two terrific stops in overtime.
The top six teams in the Atlantic Division qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Lehigh Valley occupies the fifth-place position with a three-point edge on sixth-place Hartford.
Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a Calder Cup Playoff Berth is now 8 points (points acquired by the Phantoms or missed by seventh-place Brideport).
The current standings would have the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Springfield Thunderbirds meeting in the first round in the 5 vs. 4 series in a Best of 3 matchup.
Tyson Foerster and Egor Zamula did well in recent stints with the Philadelphia Flyers and now have been returned to the Phantoms to bolster the team’s Calder Cup Playoff push.
Foerster, 21, scored 3-4-7 in eight games with Philadelphia. The #23 overall selection in the 2020 draft ended his stay with a two-game goal streak and a five-game point streak. After making his NHL debut on March 9 at Carolina, Foerster would go on to score his first NHL goal on March 18 in a home game against the Hurricanes. Foerster is now tops on the Phantoms in scoring with 19-21-40 in 58 games.
Zamula, 22, played in three games with the Flyers in his recent stint which were his first NHL games since December 1. The third-year pro has played in 14 total games with Philadelphia this year recording four assists. Zamula has played in 131 career games with the Phantoms and also 26 games with the Flyers.
Defenseman Emil Andrae has signed an entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers and will play with the Phantoms on a tryout basis for the remainder of the 2022-23 season. Andrae, 21, has collected two assists in his first two games with the Phantoms on the road last weekend and is expected to make his PPL Center debut tonight against the Penguins. Andrae was a Round 2 selection of the Flyers in 2020. The 5-foot-9 native of Vastervik, Sweden collected 6-20-26 this season with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and last August was captain of Sweden’s World Juniors team that won bronze.
The Philadelphia Flyers have returned goaltender Sam Ersson to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms following a quick stint on an emergency recall this week.
Ersson, 23, is 21-14-1, 2.70, .904 with the Phantoms this season. With the Philadelphia Flyers this year, Ersson is 6-1-0, 3.07, .898.
Ersson’s first recall in December and January included his first NHL win on December 31, 2022 at the Los Angeles Kings and also his first NHL shutout on January 9, 2023 at Buffalo. Since his first NHL recall, Ersson has gone 12-6-0 with the Phantoms and also 6-1-0 with the Flyers for a combined 18-7-0 record. In his most recent outing, Ersson was outstanding when he had a career-high 37 saves in a 4-3 shootout win at the Hershey Bears on Sunday.
Lehigh Valley has racked up six overtime wins this season including five on the road. Adam Brooks is the latest to strike in the extra frame with his Saturday night conversion at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Louie Belpedio (twice), Cam York, Artem Anisimov and Ronnie Attard also have struck for overtime goals this season. The Phantoms are 6-3 in overtimes and 4-3 in shootouts this season and also boast a record of 19-6-6 in one-goal decisions.
ABOUT THE BEARS
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (25-27-12) has fallen further off the pace with a pair of setbacks last weekend. The Penguins are seven points back of Bridgeport for the playoff cutline with just nine games remaining entering the week. They fought hard on Wednesday against first-place Providence but eventually fell 4-3 in a shootout decision to the red-hot Bruins who won their eighth straight.
Lehigh Valley is 6-4-1 against the Baby Pens entering the last game of the season series. Alex Nylander (25-25-50) is up with Pittsburgh. Dustin Tokarski (12-12-6, 2.54, .914) has returned from Pittsburgh. Drake Caggiula (18-29-47) has scored 7-4-11 against the Phantoms including three goals in the last two games. Valterri Puustinen (23-28-51) has taken the top spot on the team in scoring but the Penguins are last in the Eastern Conference with just 2.7 goals per game. Tyson Foerster has scored 5-3-8 against WBS.
Top Performers in Season Series:
Lehigh Valley – Tyson Foerster (5-2-7), Max Willman (3-4-7), Garrett Wilson (2-5-7), Elliot Desnoyers (3-2-5) – Sam Ersson (4-2-0, 2.35, .921)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – Drake Caggiula (7-3-10), Valtteri Puustinen (4-5-9), Alex Nylander (3-5-8), Corey Andonovski (3-2-5) – Dustin Tokarski (4-1-1, 2.12, .927)
Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Tyson Foerster 19-21-40
Elliot Desnoyers 21-18-39
Olle Lycksell 10-29-39
Garrett Wilson 16-21-37
Cooper Marody 12-22-34
Artem Anisimov 18-15-33
Penguins Scoring Leaders
Valtteri Puustinen 23-28-51
x Alex Nylander 25-25-50
Drake Caggiula 18-31-49
Filip Hallander 11-22-33
Tyler Sikura 9-22-31
Phantoms Tickets are available HERE
Lehigh Valley Power Play – 21.0%, 11th (vs. WBS 6/41, 14.6%)
Lehigh Valley Penalty Kill – 73.0%, 32nd
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Power Play – 20.2%, 14th (vs. LV 10/44, 22.7%)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penalty Kill – 82.3%, 11th
The Phantoms are back at PPL Center on Saturday night against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Then the Lehigh Valley Phantoms travel to Bridgeport for a Sunday afternoon clash against the Islanders.
Phantoms Tickets are available HERE
Friday, March 31 (7:05) vs. WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PENGUINS
Saturday, April 1 (7:05) vs. HERSHEY BEARS
Sunday, April 2 (3:00) at Bridgeport Islanders
Friday, April 7 (7:05) vs. CHARLOTTE CHECKERS
Saturday, April 8 (7:05) vs. SPRINGFIELD THUNDERBIRDS
UPCOMING AT PPL CENTER
Friday, March 31 (7:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Berks $1 Hot Dogs
Saturday, April 1 (7:05) vs. Hartford Wolf Pack – Saturday Night Hockey Live! Jimmy and the Parrots
Friday, April 7 (7:05) vs. Charlotte Checkers – Berks $1 Hot Dogs
Saturday, April 8 (7:05) vs. Springfield Thunderbirds – Star Wars Night! SNHL with DJ Jamal “Jedi” Knight
Friday, April 14 (7:05) vs. Charlotte Checkers – Regular Season Home Finale. Berks $1 Hot Dogs
Broadcast coverage of all Phantoms games with Bob Rotruck is available on the Phantoms 365 app and on Real Oldies 1470-AM in Allentown. Also available on the Listen Live button at phantomshockey.com
Fans can also watch the games on AHLTV.com or can listen on their Smart Speakers at: “Play Phantoms Radio 24/7.”
Service Electric Network again provides exclusive television coverage of all Phantoms home games with veteran announcer Steve Degler and Phantoms’ alum Steven Swavely on the call from the booth. Kristi Fulkerson reports from ice level and also from the Chickie’s and Pete’s studio with Dan Fremuth for pregame, intermission and postgame show analysis.