Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Phantoms 3, IceCaps 2 12/19

Of all the players to score the go-ahead goal for the Phantoms in the third period Wednesday night, it's probably a good thing that it was center Brayden Schenn.  He sniped a shot from the left-wing circle over Eddie Pasquale's glove and the Phantoms held on the beat the St. John's IceCaps 3-2 at the Civic Center. When Schenn has a point, the Phantoms are now 9-2-1. When he doesn't, they're 2-12.

That's still a pretty significant statistic, but one of the main reasons that Schenn was in a position to score that goal was two players who hadn't scored more than a month broke out of scoring droughts. Defenseman Brandon Manning snapped a 17-game drought with a power play goal early in the first period and winger Eric Wellwood erased an 11-game scoreless skid midway through the second.

"It's nice when everyone chips in," Schenn said. "It takes a team to win and we had everyone contribute tonight. Everyone stepped in and played well."

It was also good for the Phantoms to play as well as they did in the first period. Manning's goal from the left-wing circle gave them their sixth 1-0 lead of the season. The Phantoms keep underestimating how many times they've actually done this -- Manning thought it was only the third time they've scored first -- but that's a pretty good illustrator for just how infrequently it has occurred. The last time they did it was the last game against St. John's, which the Phantoms lost to begin a 1-6-1 side.

That game, they didn't play with the lead that well. They gave up three straight and then had to fight their way back into it, ultimately falling short. Tonight, they responded well and traded goals throughout the night. That resulted in the team scoring three go-ahead goals, which has a different impact on a team's psyche from them having to score one, two or three equalizers.

“The way we’ve gotten down in games – one or two goals – that’s made a huge difference just as far as our confidence … It’s easier to get guys into the game when you’re up a goal and you can roll the lines,” Manning said. “It makes it a lot easier on everybody.”

The Phantoms also led at the end of the first period for just the second time all season.

"It is an important stat and it proved to be true again today that getting a lead at the end of the first period -- the percentages do come your way," coach Terry Murray said. "They tied it up late in the second period and I thought we responded very well with a big push in the third. Guys were determined to get it back." More on that in the game story.

Now some other notes: Zack FitzGerald, who returned to the line-up after Shane Harper and Zac Rinaldo came down with the flu, was named the game's third star. That's a bit of an unconventional choice, but I tend to agree with it. He fought Ryan Schnell on his first shift and I thought he did a pretty good job at getting energy going right off the bat. Manning's goal came less than two minutes later. I'll post a video of the fight when I can find it, but he had Schnell at his mercy at the end of it.

EDIT: Here's the video:

I saw a Tweet from a Philadelphia-based reporter this morning that said something about the Flyers being concerned that Marc-Andre Bourdon, who has a history with concussions, has another one.

I asked Murray about that after the game tonight and this is his response: "It's not what I would call a concussion. When he left here, he was not showing signs of that. I don't even know what the hell it is. He's having signs of a little bit of not able to focus in a real tight area. Out there he's good, in here he's not so good. We don't believe that that's tied together, but that's the issue right now. Before he left here, he went to see an opthamologist." He later added he didn't know what was going on in Philadelphia, so take those comments for what they're worth.

The Phantoms have played 12 one-goal games this season. Seven of them have come in their past 10 games. They're 6-5-1 in one-goal games this year. Manning says those are the ones they have to win.

In other Northeast Division action, Matt Donovan and Casey Cizikas each had two goals as Bridgeport bested Albany 4-3. On the farm, Matt Mangene had an assist and Marcel Noebels had a goal as Trenton beat Elmira 5-4.

I probably won't have a chance to catch practice tomorrow because I have to cover a high school hockey game that night. But I'll have a feature on Oliver Lauridsen running in Friday's paper that will serve as a preview for the Syracuse game, so be on the lookout for that.

Speaking of that, has anyone heard if the world is supposed to end before puck drop? Not sure if it's worth spending $6.99 for the AHL Live feed if there's not going to be a game that night. I guess I'll have to wait and see. If we're all still here, I'll have a blog post up after that game. I'll also be in Bridgeport for the game Saturday night, apocalypse withstanding.

Until next time,


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