Phantoms Face Mid-Season Test This Weekend

Thursday, January 19, 2017
Photo caption: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Phantoms preparing for three games in three nights

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

Last season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms failed to ever get ahead and were a sub .500 team throughout the entire 2015-16 season. They entered the second half of the season in 7th place in the Atlantic Division with a record of 17-18-2-1 some 20 points off the division-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Fast forward to 2016-17 and the Phantoms enter the final game of the first half in second place in the Atlantic Division with an impressive 25-10-2 record, kicking off a three-game weekend Friday against rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (29-8-3) with a chance to close within seven points of the 1st place Penguins despite having played three less games.

What a difference a year makes for the Phantoms.

After the jump, three key reasons why Lehigh Valley has been able to turn it around and be one of the top teams in the league through the first half of 2016-17 as well as a look ahead to this weekend's games and the tough test that awaits the Phantoms.

Sanheim's Progress Defensively Sparking His Offensive Game

Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Sanheim continuing to evolve his game at the pro level
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

There's no questioning Travis Sanheim's abilities offensively. He put those on full display in his final years of junior hockey with the Calgary Hitmen (WHL) and was a big reason why he was drafted in the first round - 17th overall - in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

The biggest questions surrounding his ability to translate his game to the pro level were how he'd be able to adapt to more physical play against bigger, stronger opponents and his willingness to play a more structured game away from the puck.

While the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are just approaching the midway point of the regular season this weekend, it's safe to say that Sanheim's game is evolving in all aspects - from his transition to playing the right side as a left-shooting defenseman to being more assertive and scrappy in the corners and hard areas of the ice.

"Obviously it's a work in progress, but I like where my game is at right now," Sanheim said last weekend after another two-goal performance in Hershey.

So where is Sanheim's game at exactly? Is he NHL-ready right now? What does he need to do in order to make the jump to the NHL? We'll get to all of that as well as provide a detailed update into how Sanheim's development in the AHL is going after the jump.

Stealing One in Springfield

Monday, January 16, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Three goals in 3:53 lift Lehigh Valley to third period comeback win

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

The last time the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-10-2) and Springfield Thunderbirds (15-15-5-2) met, back on November 5th, the Phantoms found themselves down by two goals entering the third period. Lehigh Valley stormed back with a dominant third period in that one - scoring four unanswered goals in a 6-4 come from behind win.

In a rare 1:05 p.m. ET Monday afternoon game in Springfield, the Phantoms again found themselves entering the final 20 minutes of regulation with a two-goal deficit to the Thunderbirds - this one a 3-1 hole.

They did it again.

Scott Laughton made it a one-goal game with 5:31 left on an expert deflection of a Robert Hagg point shot, then Jordan Weal was tripped on the next shift - giving the Phantoms a power play.

Weal won the ensuing face-off to begin the man advantage back to T.J. Brennan, who slid a pass across to Greg Carey who blasted a one-timer past Thunderbirds' goaltender Reto Berra to tie the game 27 seconds after Laughton's tally.

The Phantoms got the go-ahead goal with 1:38 left to play, as Danick Martel got a puck in behind the net to Chris Conner. Conner skated away from the corner to avoid a Thunderbirds defenseman and did his patented blind pass out in front to Andy Miele as he faked the wrap around bid.

Miele didn't get much on the shot but it was just enough to go up and over Berra's leg pad and bank into the net off his butt to give the Phantoms a 4-3 lead that they held onto to steal a regulation win away from Springfield.

Phantoms Split Weekend Series With Hershey

Saturday, January 14, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Phantoms Come Up Short In Hershey

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

HERSHEY - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (24-10-2) came into Giant Center looking for a weekend sweep of the home and home series, but it wasn't meant to be in a 6-4 loss to Atlantic Division rival Hershey (19-9-9).

The Bears came out with purpose after dropping a 6-2 game to the Phantoms in Allentown Friday night, and got some fortunate bounces and puck luck to snap their five-game losing skid Saturday night.

Travis Sanheim pulled the Phantoms out of a 2-0 hole in the second period with a pair of goals - including a brilliant coast-to-coast tally to tie the game - but a bad angle centering pass by Hershey on the next shift bounced off a leg in front and went in to restore Hershey's lead just 46 seconds later.

With the Phantoms down 5-2 early in the third, Greg Carey was able to tally his team-leading 18th and 19th goals of the season to get Lehigh Valley within a goal in the final minutes of regulation, but it wasn't enough to get any points in the standings.

After the jump, a full recap of the action complete with post-game reaction from head coach Scott Gordon and Greg Carey.

Game 36 Preview: Lehigh Valley at Hershey

Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Round Eight - Hershey Hosts Lehigh Valley

I'll have full coverage of tonight's Phantoms game against the Hershey Bears. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. ET, but make sure you're following along on Twitter -> @TonyAndrock & Facebook (be sure to like the Facebook page!) for all the latest updates and information.

Stay tuned here online after the game for a recap of the action. Don't forget to subscribe to Highland Park Hockey's YouTube channel for post-game interviews with AHL hockey players.

After a penalty-filled 6-2 win for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (24-9-2) last night at home against rival Hershey (18-9-9), the two teams reconvene at the Giant Center in Hershey tonight to finish the home and home series in what should be another physical battle between bitter rivals in the Atlantic Division.

It's a tough as well as crucial portion of games coming up on the schedule, as after the Phantoms face Hershey twice this weekend they have four games next week including a three-in-three weekend against the other top three teams in the Atlantic Division in succession with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Providence at home on Friday and Saturday nights and another game in Hershey next Sunday.

A good outcome in the next two weeks worth of games could vault the Phantoms atop the division, but a poor showing could have them in the middle of the pack. It should make for some great games in the coming days.

After the jump, a preview full of the latest news and notes to get you ready for tonight's game.

You can help keep me on the road covering the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season by making a donation via GoFundMe or PayPal.