Sunday, February 24, 2013

Phantoms 2, Senators 1 2/24

Photo Courtesy of Andy Camp / Adirondack Phantoms
The Adirondack Phantoms are now 1-0 when wearing giant radioactive orange beavers on their chests, beating the Binghamton Senators 2-1 Sunday thanks in large part to those two players above.

Oliver Lauridsen, the defenseman, and the rest of the penalty killers went 6-for-6, including killing off two lengthy five-on-threes in the second period. Cal Heeter, the goaltender, made 30 saves.

The penalty kill, which has had documented success this season, was at its finest when it needed to be. They killed off 2:35 of five-on-three time in a span of about six minutes in the second period, and held the Senators to just three shots on those chances. They're currently eighth in the AHL (85.4 percent) in overall penalty kill and fourth in home penalty killing (89.5 percent).

Wrote about that in the print story here.

“You almost go out with the attitude of just outwork the other team’s power play,” said center Rob Bordson, one of Adirondack’s chief penalty killers. “If you do that early in the game, you can frustrate the other team’s power play. Then they start doing things they don’t want to do.”

Another neat stat, this one not beaver-jersey themed. Which of these would you think is higher -- the number of power play goals the Phantoms have allowed at home, or the number of wins their opponents have at Glens Falls Civic Center? I'll leave the answer in the comments section below.

Even at even strength, the Phantoms did a good job of taking away Binghamton's options. They blocked shots and put bodies in passing lanes and kept pucks along the wall, which makes Heeter's job much easier. But he was there when he needed to be, especially on some of the better shots that got through. The only goal he allowed was on a rebound to Dustin Gazley early in the third period.

But the Phantoms had some of their best minutes of hockey late in that frame. They didn't allow a shot on goal for the final 2:55, despite playing that entire stretch down a man. It started when Bordson was called for tripping at 17:05. Once they killed that, the Senators pulled goalie Marc Cheverie for an extra attacker. They kept the puck in the Adirondack zone for the final 55 seconds, but the Phantoms still prevented them from getting a puck to Heeter.

“It’s a penalty kill mentality now,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said of Adirondack's approach to Binghamton’s late six-on-five. “You have to dig in, you have to get in the shot lanes. You have to block shots. You do whatever you can to sacrifice yourself in order to preserve a win.”

Murray said he's always liked Heeter's work ethic and level of compete, right from the start of training camp. The rookie has worked a lot with Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese this season to bring the other parts of his game together, and Murray said he's starting to see some of that surfacing.

Adirondack got its offense from Matt Mangene, who scored on a power play, and Jon Sim.

Mangene's came at 12:34 of the second, less than two minutes after Brandon Manning finished serving a cross-checking minor that, when coupled with an earlier high stick from Tyler Brown, gave the Senators a 1:45 five-on-three. It also came less than a minute after a big hit from Ian Slater in the right-wing corner that shook up Mark Borowiecki. Cole Schneider came after Slater and got an instigating minor for it, and Mangene beat Cheverie five-hole on a rush into the offensive zone.

Mangene, who had three points in his first 25 games in the AHL, now has five his his past seven.

Sim scored on a wrap-around early in the third period to give the Phantoms a multi-goal lead. They hadn't had one of those since Eric Wellwood tucked one into an empty net Feb. 15 vs. Albany for a 4-2 lead. That was four games ago, and they led by more than one goal in just three of their 11 February game. They needed that advantage, too, because Gazley cut the lead to 2-1 1:55 later.

Sim finished the month of February, his first with the team, with two goals and five points in 11 games.

"I think it's really important that Jon Sim give us some offensive production -- and in the right areas of the ice," Murray said. "It's not plays where he's blasting pucks from above the top of the circle. His game is down around the blue paint, back of the net. He's creating stuff either getting in view of the goalie, screening goalies or just running into the defensemen, creating scrums and loose pucks are developed out of that. His goal tonight was a wraparound hard play and I hope that comes in bunches now for him."

Back to the jerseys, which the Phantoms wore to celebrate the birthday of Dax, their mascot. I figured Andreas Lilja would be the right person to ask about this. I figured that because he has played 577 games in the NHL, he had probably never been subjected to anything like those jerseys. So, Andreas, what was it like when you walked into the locker room today and saw that hanging in your stall?

"I started howling," Lilja said. "I was laughing my butt off when I saw it. I was laughing so much when I saw it, but you just have to go with it. Have fun with it."

Lilja said he heard about some of the other specialty jerseys the Phantoms wore this season, like the orange tuxedo jerseys that the team wore on New Year's Eve. He hadn't seen a photo, though.

"I thought we were just going to wear them for warm-ups and then sign them and give them away," Lilja said of the Dax jerseys. "Then the guys told me we were going to wear them with the game. It was kind of weird, actually. I don't think you should do it. You should keep your logo on your chest."

That Heat-to-Utica report from earlier is being downplayed by the Calgary Flames, per the Abbotsford News.

Expect the next update after Tuesday's practice.

Until next time,


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