PREVIEW: Phantoms vs. T-Birds, Game #26

Saturday, December 16, 7:05 p.m.
PPL Center, Allentown, PA
Lehigh Valley (11-10-4) vs. Springfield (13-8-2)

“Los Fantasmas” return to PPL Center on Hockey Fiesta Night against the Springfield Thunderbirds, AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. Tonight’s game will feature English and Spanish presentation in the arena and other elements celebrating the area’s Hispanic culture. “Los Fantasmas” are 4-0-0 all-time on Hockey Fiesta Nights at PPL Center.
Lehigh Valley is 2-2-0 on the homestand following a 4-3 loss to the Laval Rocket on Friday.
The Phantoms are 2-1-1 this season against Springfield entering Game 5 out of 6 in the season series.

Despite largely outplaying their opponents for most of the game, the Phantoms were stunned by the Laval Rocket 4-3 on a late goal by Riley Kidney with just 1:07 left. Lehigh Valley outshot Laval 45-26, including 16-4 in the third period. But the T-Birds overcame a 3-2 deficit to score twice in the third. Jakub Dobes stole the show, and the game, for visiting Laval with several incredible saves keeping the Phantoms from putting the game away.
The Phantoms went 2-for-6 on the power play. Samu Tuomaala (7th) and Emil Andrae (3rd) both scored for a second consecutive game. Wade Allison (5th) scored for the second time in the last three games. Cooper Marody had two more assists and now has five helpers in the last two contests.

Defenseman Louie Belpedio has been returned on loan to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms from the Philadelphia Flyers. He jumped into the Phantoms’ lineup for the first time in almost two months in Friday’s game against Laval. 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 games with the Phantoms last year and has played in 310 career AHL games with Iowa and Lehigh Valley scoring 33-75-108.

Lehigh Valley’s power play shows no signs of slowing down. The Phantoms are first in the AHL at 24.5% after scoring two more man-advantage markers on Friday and Lehigh Valley has a league-leading 24 power-play goals in 25 games. The Phantoms also have a power-play goal in 12 of the last 13 games going 16-for-47 (34.0%) since November 12.
Olle Lycksell, currently up with Philadelphia, has scored 6-6-12 on the power play. Lycksell and Cooper Marody (2-10-12) are tied for the AHL lead in power-play points.
Tanner Laczynski (3-5-8), Samu Tuomaala (5-6-11), J.R. Avon (2-1-3) and Wade Allison (2-1-3) also have multiple power-play goals.

Philadelphia’s Round 2 selection in the 2021 NHL Draft is having a massive season in his first full pro campaign in North America. 20-year-old Samu Tuomaala is on a two-game goal streak and appears to be gaining more and more confidence by the minute.  With power-play goals in consecutive games, Tuomaala now has five power-play tallies this season to move into a tie for the league lead among rookies and his 11 points on the power play is one off the league lead for rookies.
Overall, Tuomaala has scored 7-15-22 to rate third among AHL rookies in points and fourth in assists.

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

The dangerous Springfield Thunderbirds (13-8-2) carry a five-game point streak into their Saturday arrival in Allentown following a 4-3 shootout win against Rochester on Wednesday. Nathan Walker (11-14-25) and Adam Gaudette (14-11-25) pace a potent offense. Walker is fourth in the AHL in points while Gaudette is second in goals. Gaudette has scored five of his goals against Lehigh Valley.
The Phantoms are 2-1-1 against the T-Birds this season including a 3-2 win on October 22 in Springfield’s lone visit to PPL Center. The AHL affiliate of the St. Blues gives up just 2.68 goals per game which is second-best in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the AHL as the goaltending combo of veteran Malcolm Subban (5-5-2, 2.49, .913) and young prospect Vadim Zherenko (8-3-0, 2.63, .924) have been strong. Olle Lycksell (4-1-5), Elliot Desnoyers (1-3-4) and Samu Tuomaala (0-4-4) are among the Phantoms leading scorers in the season series.

Phantoms Scoring Leaders
Samu Tuomaala 7-15-22
Cooper Marody 5-16-22
x – Olle Lycksell 12-7-19
Tanner Laczynski 6-12-18
Ronnie Attard 5-9-14
Garrett Wilson 5-9-14

T-Birds Scoring Leaders
Adam Gaudette 14-11-25
Nathan Walker 11-14-25
Matthew Peca 6-16-22
Dylan Coghlan 8-7-15
Calle Rosen 0-14-14

Lehigh Valley PP, 24.5% (1st)
Lehigh Valley PK 80.3% (20th)
Springfield PP 19.4% (14th)
Springfield PK 83.7% (14th)

The Phantoms travel to North Carolina for Thursday and Friday matchups against the Charlotte Checkers for the team’s last games before the Holiday Break.
The Phantoms return to PPL Center for a three-game homestand beginning Wednesday, December 27 against the Utica Comets.

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!