You better get ready, cause there is a new team that needs to be on your radar.
You know about the wars with the Hershey Bears. Hell, that team is like a sibling that you just don’t get along with. You are related by blood to them and have to love and respect them but deep down you detest their existence.
Then come the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, a new team on the block with a fresh new arena that sells out nearly every game in a market in Allentown punch drunk with the new affiliate of the Flyers an hour south that is here to stay.
But we are Penguins fans. And we hate the Flyers by default despite them being relevant since 1975. Something about that name and logo just gets the hair on the back of your neck to stand up.
It used to be, that the Flyers AHL affiliate in recent years was a punchline to a joke more than it was anything.
But not this year.
The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have far and away been the best team in the AHL this season. But so have the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The only difference here is that these two teams, separated by about 50 miles, haven’t played each other at all this season all but once. There are 12 matchups scheduled between the two, but the majority of games played against by both teams have come against Hershey and not either Lehigh Valley or Wilkes-Barre.
Tonight, it was the Phantoms getting the better of the Penguins by a 5-3 score Friday night at PPL Center.
Only 10 more meetings to go!
Tristan Jarry opposed Anthony Stolarz.
Tom Sestito – J-S Dea – Tom Kostopoulos
Garrett Wilson – Oskar Sundqvist – Josh Archibald
Kevin Porter – Carter Rowney – Dominik Simon
Sahir Gill – Teddy Blueger – Ryan Haggerty
Derrick Pouliot – Ethan Prow
Stuart Percy – David Warsofsky
Brett Stern – Barry Goers
Tristan Jarry – Casey DeSmith
Lineup Notes: Third straight start for Tristan Jarry going back to this Monday in Syracuse. Jarry also started Wednesday in Hershey….the Penguins recalled Michael Webster from Wheeling Friday morning as Tim Erixon was listed as an injury scratch. Derrick Pouliot was back in the lineup missing the last two games with a lower body injury. Kevin Porter was back also from his illness.
First Period: :39 in, the Phantoms would jump on the board quickly on this goal by Scott Laughton…
Seventh straight game where the opponent of the Penguins scores first.
Things settled out between the two teams for a bit then after the two teams traded power plays you got the sense that the Penguins needed to get out of the way of the giant snowball that was bulletins downhill towards them. TJ Brennnan picked a corner and scored on a tail end of a power play for the Phantoms to make it 2-0.
It’s been a few games but the Penguins let the opponent score on their first power play.
J-S Dea scored off of a face-off just as a Penguins power play expired to bring Wilkes-Barre back to one…
Penguins got steamrolled a bit in the open, started to settle and began to hit back and it was 2-1 heading into the…
Second Period: Wilkes-Barre had seventeen shots in the first period. They had five in the second.
Phantoms scored :25 into the period when Robert Hagg finishes off of two on one that doubled the Lehigh Valley lead. Lehigh Valley must have scouted Tristan Jarry’s weaknesses as up to this point all three goals he allowed were over or by his glove.
Teams traded power plays but there was no scoring for the remainder of the period.
If you wanted a nice synopsis of play thus far, Tom had you covered….
Third Period: The Lehigh Valley Phantoms came into this game with the AHL’s best third period goal differential, outscoring opponents coming into the day in the final period 55-27 for a +28 goal differential.
So you knew the Penguins were going to come back in this one, right?
At first it didn’t look like it, as the Penguins were gift wrapped a 4:00 double minor on account of a Brennan high stick that drew blood, but Wilkes-Barre was unable to do anything with the man advantage.
Having that stuck in their craw, the Pens came out of a break determined to bring the game back level and in the span of 1:37, mission accomplished.
Ethan Prow takes a shot from the blue line and Ryan Haggerty gets a stick in on it on the way through to bring the Penguins to within one…
Then, David Warsofsky scores to tie the game for Wilkes-Barre…
Box, at the time of this writing, has it as a Warsofsky goal, so I am going with that.
One minute later, Taylor Leier scores to put the Phantoms out in front again. Over the glove of Jarry, again.
Leier worked Ethan Prow and Derrick Pouliot on that goal but more so Prow. There is a trend starting to develop here with Prow, who has hit a rough stretch. Nothing to be too concerned about from a player perspective as all rookies go through this, but if you are a defenseman on the best team in the AHL, you know that other teams, especially those like Lehigh Valley that are of the belief that they should be where you are, are going to get up to play you. Honestly, I think that Prow needs to be sat a few games or at the very least sent to Wheeling to keep his timing up and get game action and continue to develop.
Do the Penguins lose the game on that single play by Prow? No. But the trend is there. Your team just did to a team what they have done to others (score goals in the third period) and you break down defensively.
Oskar Sundqvist was not seen on the Penguins bench late in the third.
Chris Conner scored on an empty net with Jarry vacated to make it 5-3 to ice the game away.
Three Stars: 3) Teddy Blueger (two assists, +2) Colin McDonald (three assists, +3) and 1) Taylor Leier (goal, two assists, +2)
Around the Division: Everyone around the Penguins for the playoff hunt won tonight. Providence beat Rochester 4-3. The Bruins visit Allentown tomorrow. Bridgeport beats Springfield 5-3. The Sound Tigers inch closer to Hershey for the fourth spot and Hartford loses to Toronto 7-4. The Bears were off.
Standings: Penguins (.744 percentage points) — Lehigh Valley (.711) — Providence (.663) — Hershey (.603) — Bridgeport (.568) — Springfield (.487) — Hartford (.400)
Wheeling Update: The Norfolk Admirals, previously undefeated in 2017, are defeated no more with a 9-2 loss to the Wheeling Nailers who throttle the Admirals at Scope. Gage Quinney was 2-2-4, Christian Hilbrich was 1-2-3, Jordan Kwas had two goals, Danny Fickj had three assists. Sean Maguire stopped 25 of 27 to pick up the win. The Nailers travel overnight to Reading to take on the Royals Saturday.
If the Phantoms roll a highlight clip I will edit one ion here. If not, look for the Gameday setup against the Bears to come Saturday at 3.
Let’s Go Pens!