Saturday, March 30, 2013

Phantoms 4, Bridgeport 1 3/30

What do Kyle Flanagan, Derek Mathers, Jon Sim and Marcel Noebels have in common?

None of them were on the Adirondack Phantoms' roster at the beginning of the year, and all of them scored tonight as the Phantoms handed the Bridgeport Sound Tigers a 4-1 loss at the Civic Center.

That was actually an indication of a larger theme in this one. Thanks to a slew of call-ups to the NHL, as well as trades and free-agent signings, the Phantoms dressed 10 players tonight who weren't on their roster to start the season. Six of them had a point, and the seventh was the starting goaltender.

Brian Boucher made 30 saves -- including 12 each in the first and third periods -- to earn the victory.

The takeaway from this game is that the team has finally assembled a collection of players that is capable of scoring some goals, and they're starting to do that. They are 7-4-0-1 in their past 12 games, and they are scoring 2.91 goals per game during that stretch. If that seems pedestrian, that would give them 95 points over the course of the year. It would also be the No. 12 offense in the entire AHL.

Instead, the Phantoms are 28-34-2-3 and still 12 points out of a playoff spot with nine games to go. Players have accepted that's probably not going to happen, but they're buying into the philosophy that there's still a lot to play for. Noebels is going to try and get a look in Philadelphia's camp next year. Flanagan and Mathers are vying for roster spots in the AHL, and they both just may well earn them.

“It’s unfortunate,” Sim said. “Sometimes you run out of time. That’s the way it was this season. It was a different season, a weird season. You can’t control the schedule. You run out of time, you run out of time. These guys are going to get opportunities. It’s for them to make a name for themselves. You have to keep pushing along.”

Here's another item I thought was interesting: Jon Sim and David Laliberte were both healthy scratches as recently as last week. Those came after they were scoreless for seven games in Laliberte's case, and three game's in Sim's case. Since then, they've both been point-per-game players.

I think it's safe to say they got the message.

"I know it's a question of numbers," Laliberte said. "We get a lot of young guys and when you don't make the playoffs, you want to develop those young kids too. I knew I had to play a little bit better, and I worked really hard during those days that I wasn't playing. You just have to stay positive and try to get better. That's what I did. I didn't go down on myself. I just tried to keep going and work hard and work on my stuff. I think that's the only way you can do it."

Sim thought he was playing well before he he sat out, though Murray said Sim has improved lately.

“I think we’re seeing an energized Sim right now," Murray said. "I’ve noticed the upbeat in his tempo and his play. That’s where we need it to be. For us to have some success on any given night, he has to be a player that’s going to be a threat in the offensive part of the game.”

Sim's line was really firing on all cylinders tonight. He, Noebels and Flanagan all scored goals -- including Flanagan's first pro goal just 97 seconds into the game -- and finished with five points between them. There would have been more, but there were some late scoring corrections.

The other thing to take away from this one is the three goals that the Phantoms scored in a six-minute span in the second period. Those came after Zack FitzGerald had a nice fight at center ice where he dropped Nathan McIver with two quick haymakers. Earlier in the period, McIver laid a questionable hit on Rob Bordson in front of the Zamboni entrance and no one really made him pay for it until that.

Then Mathers scored his first pro goal about four minutes later on a solid, heads-up play -- go to the front of the net, wait for a rebound and then bury it -- to give the Phantoms some insurance. Sim scored on a deflection just 1:14 after that, and Noebels scored on a goofy play in the final minute of the second period. Rick DiPietro came out to play the puck behind the net and Laliberte whacked it away from him to Noebels in front, and he buried it into an empty net for an easy power-play goal.

Brandon DeFazio got one back in the third period, but it was too little too late. I really didn't think DiPietro had his strongest game tonight, and the Phantoms needed to capitalize on that. They did.

A couple of injury updates: Tyler Brown will probably miss the rest of the season with his shoulder injury, Murray said. Matt Mangene left tonight's game after he fell down and then a teammate tried to jump over him and accidentally caught him with a knee in the back or back of the head, Murray said. "I'm not sure where he's at," the coach added.

I'm off through Tuesday, so expect the next blog update on Wednesday.

Until next time,


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