PREVIEW: Phantoms vs. Rocket, Game #25

Friday, December 15, 7:05 p.m.
PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Lehigh Valley (11-9-4) vs. Laval (6-12-5)

The Phantoms are rolling as they enter Game 4 of their five-game homestand tonight at PPL Center against the Laval Rocket, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens. Lehigh Valley has won consecutive games against the Charlotte Checkers 4-1 and 3-2 in overtime. Laval recently ended a nine-game losing slide but remains mired in the cellar of the North Division.
The Phantoms won in Laval, Quebec at Place Bell in a 3-2 final on November 17 with Olle Lycksell scoring a pair of goals and Tanner Laczynski recording one goal with two assists. Laval broke Cal Petersen’s bid for a shutout with a pair of very late 6-on-4 power-play markers.
Tonight is the second of eight meetings between the Phantoms and Checkers who will also meet five times in December. The homestand concludes Saturday against the Springfield Thunderbirds with Hockey Fiesta Night on when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms will transform into “Los Fantasmas!”

Ronnie Attard knocked home the overtime winner after a terrific assist from Cooper Marody to circle around the zone and find the opening. It was Marody’s third assist of the night in a 3-2 victory over the Charlotte Checkers. Samu Tuomaala’s power-play blast tied the game with 4:09 left. Emil Andrae opened the scoring with the team’s fastest goal of the season just 58 seconds into the game.

Phantoms Phans donated 10,869 teddy bears at Saturday’s game breaking the team’s former record of 10,091 teddy bears in 2019. Zayde Wisdom’s goal was assisted by Mason Millman and Ethan Samson and all three players personally delivered the teddy bears to our friends at Valley Youth House on Monday. During the nine years that the Phantoms have held a Teddy bear Toss, over 56,000 teddy bears have been collected and donated for distribution throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Defenseman Louie Belpedio has been returned on loan to the Lehigh valley Phantoms from the Philadelphia Flyers. The 27-year alternate captain of the Phantoms enjoyed his longest career NHL stretch playing in 12 games with Philadelphia beginning on October 26 while scoring two goals including his first career NHL goal on November 3 at Buffalo. Prior to this stint, Belpedio had not played in the NHL in two-and-a-half years and only had four career games, all with Minnesota. Belpedio scored 8-19-27 in 70 gams with the Phantoms last year and has played in 309 career AHL games with Iowa and Lehigh Valley scoring 33-75-108.

Lehigh Valley’s power play is third in the AHL at 23.9% and the team’s 22 total power-play markers is second-most in the league.  The Phantoms also had a nine-game streak with a power-play goal going 12-for-30 (40.0%) in that stretch and currently have a power-play goal in 11 of the last 12 games going 14-for-41 (34.1%) since November 12.
Olle Lycksell, currently up with Philadelphia, has scored 6-6-12 on the power play and was leading the AHL in PP goals and points at the time of his recall two weeks ago.
Tanner Laczynski (3-5-8), Cooper Marody (2-8-10), Samu Tuomaala (4-5-9), J.R. Avon (2-1-3) and Wade Allison (2-1-3) also have multiple power-play goals.

The Philadelphia Flyers have several young prospects making an impact in their debut professional season with the Phantoms.
Samu Tuomaala (6-14-20) continues to impress. The Round 2 pick in 2021 from Finland is third in AHL rookie assists and rookie points.
J-R Avon (5-3-8) had a terrific assist on Jordy Bellerive’s goal last Saturday. It appears the Flyers struck gold when they signed the Peterborough (Ontario) Petes product as an undrafted free agent.
Alexis Gendron (4-0-4) is the youngest player on the Phantoms at only 19 years old! The son of Flyers scout Martin Gendron was Philadelphia’s Round 7 selection in 2022.
Ethan Samson (0-3-3) is a 20-year-old defenseman who was Philly’s Round 6 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft from the Prince George Cougars (British Columbia, Canada) of the Western Hockey League.

The Phantoms are:
7-1-3 when scoring first
10-1-2 when scoring three or more goals
9-0-0 when leading after two periods
9-2-2 when allowing three goals or fewer

The AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens is looking to climb out of the cellar of the North Division. Laval (6-12-5) finally snapped a nine-game winless skid with a 5-1 blowout of Hartford last Saturday. The Phantoms bested the Rocket 3-2 on November 17 in Quebec to begin the team’s spiral. Tanner Laczynski had one goal and two assists in that game while Olle Lycksell scored twice. Laval broke Cal Petersen’s shutout bid with a pair of 6-on-4 goals in the final 2:30 of the game. Former Devils prospect Brandon Gignac (7-15-22) leads the offense and fifth-rounder Joshua Roy (8-12-20) is having a strong rookie season as his first-rounder Logan Mailloux (4-9-13). With a pair of rookie goalies, Strauss Mann and Jakub Dobes, the Rocket allow 4.1 goals per game, second worst in the AHL.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Samu Tuomaala 6-14-20
Cooper Marody 5-14-20
x – Olle Lycksell 12-7-19
Tanner Laczynski 6-12-18
Ronnie Attard 5-8-13
Garrett Wilson 5-8-13

Rocket Scoring Leaders
Brandon Gignac 7-15-22
Joshua Roy 8-12-20
Logan Mailloux 4-9-13
Sean Farrell 4-8-12
Xavier Simoneau 4-8-12

Lehigh Valley PP, 23.9% (2nd)
Lehigh Valley PK 80.5% (20th)
Laval PP 15.5% (24th)
Laval PK 81.3% (18th)

The homestand concludes Saturday against Springfield Thunderbirds, AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. Saturday is Hockey Fiesta Night including the return of “Los Fantasmas!”

Friday, December 15 (7:05) – Laval Rocket at Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Saturday, December 16 (7:05) – Springfield Thunderbirds at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Hockey Fiesta – Los Fantasmas!!

Thursday, December 21 (7:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers
Friday, December 22 (6:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers

Wednesday, December 27 (7:05) – Utica Comets at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Pregame $2 Beers
Saturday, December 30 (7:05) – Hershey Bears at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Phantoms Knit Caps
Sunday, December 31 (7:05) – Charlotte Checkers at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – World’s Largest Puck Drop!