Friday, February 22, 2013

Penguins 2, Phantoms 1 2/22

For a lot of fans, I’m sure the immediate reaction for a loss like Friday’s is to feel disappointment.

The Adirondack Phantoms were ahead 1-0 for most of the game, but lost in regulation after they allowed the Wilkes-Barre/Penguins to score two goals in a span of 1:47 late in the third period.

In the grand scheme of things, though, the loss may do more for the Phantoms’ development.

Take goaltender Cal Heeter for example.

He leads the Phantoms onto the ice and his skates cut into the ice in the very spot he hopes to one day call home, the home goalie’s crease at the Wells Fargo Center. He proceeds to come within seven minutes of recording his first professional shutout, but allows two quick goals and loses.

The second one was a particularly soft goal. He’s moving from side to side and doesn’t have his legs closed yet, so Brian Gibbons’ shot banks off his knee and finds the back of the net. That winds up being the game-winning goal. Lesson: You can’t allow goals like that late in a 1-1 hockey game.

“It’s unfortunate the way it turned out there,” Heeter said. “A couple bad bounces, the second one squeaks through my legs there. I have to have shots like that. We’d hope for a different result, but it’s good to see that we’re making progress. That’s what we’re here to do – to get better as players and get better as a team. It’s good to see that we’re improving.”

If Heeter makes it back to the Wells Fargo Center, it will be because of moments like that. Take it as a teaching experience and move on. There’s more at this level than winning and losing games. It probably provide a lot of comfort for Phantoms fans, since the team is still 30th in the American Hockey League standings, but Phantoms coach Terry Murray was happy with the overall game.

“You have to celebrate the little things,” Murray said. “There are a lot of good things that happened in this game. We’re becoming more of a consistent, young group of players here. We’re battling right through to the last minute of the game. There’s a lot of positives we’ll take out of this, but at the end of the day what we need to understand is that it’s a very fine line in this game.”

In this one, he said that line probably came down to a face-off. They lost a face-off against Worcester Saturday and the Sharks scored. This time, they won the draw, but couldn’t clear the zone. Philip Samuelsson kept it in at the blue line, fed it to Bobby Farnham and it’s now 1-1.

“It’s a pretty emotional game so you had to be ready at all times and obviously we played a good team like them,” Ian Slater said. “Any little small error or detail can result in a goal like it did.”

If the puck gets out of the zone there, Murray said, maybe things are different.

If the Phantoms score on more than one of their seven power plays, defenseman Brandon Manning said, and go up 2-0 or 3-0 heading in the third period, maybe things are different.

Again, though, these are things they will have to take with them and carry on.

“The effort was there, guys worked hard,” Manning said. “I think we had one break down in the first when the puck doesn’t go out. The second one, the puck was in the air and bouncing and guys didn’t know where it is. I don’t think you want to be negative with it, being here in Philly is such a great opportunity for everyone. Playing in front of these fans and getting a taste (of the National Hockey League). Any chance you’re in the Wells Fargo Center, you feel like a Flyer tonight. It’s awesome to be here and everybody get that opportunity.”

You could definitely see the adrenaline and emotion coming out of some of the rookies.

Heeter played a good game in net. The rookie line of Marcel Noebels, Matt Mangene and Andrew Johnston scored a five-on-three power-play goal for a 1-0 lead and they defended it for 43 minutes.

Slater, an undrafted player on an AHL deal, had 19,561 fans, the third-largest regular-season crowd in league history, cheering for him as he fought Farhnam to try and spark the Phantoms, who were a little flat in the second period.

“I was really happy for the young guys to be to play in that kind of environment,” Murray said. “It’s tremendous for them, the experience they are now going to take out of this game as far as handling the focus, handling the pressure, handling the responsibility of coming out and playing well. I thought we came out and played very good in the first period. We had our feet moving. We got into the second period and we got a little bit too far away from each other to give the support and they started coming through us and got a lot of scoring opportunities. At the end of the day, Heeter played well and kept us there and we had a chance in the third period.”

Another downside to this one: Tom Sestito, sent down to the Phantoms on conditioning, suffered a lower-body injury, Murray said. He'll be re-evaluated tomorrow, Philadelphia Flyers insider Anthony SanFilippo reported. I’m off tomorrow, but someone will update the blog after the Hershey game.

More before the Binghamton game Sunday.

Until next time,


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