This season’s LV squad is a work in progress
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms looked kind of like a work in progress Saturday night in their season-opener against Providence.
What came through, though, was the fact that there is a lot to like with this team, and once they get to know how their teammates play the game and develop a little chemistry, they’re likely to be just fine.
The Phantoms had just six returning players active for their opener. The fact that their coach, Scott Gordon, was absent from the team for a while when he took over the reins of the Flyers for an extended stretch last season only adds to the confusion.
Top prospect Morgan Frost was making his pro debut with the Phantoms after sitting out the three preseason games, so he too, is part of that work in progress for the team.
“I don’t know how long it will take,” admitted Gordon after his team’s 3-0 loss to the Bruins Saturday on their home ice. “The lightbulb will go on, and we’ll move forward.”
In the first two periods, even as they were still adjusting to each other and the system, the Phantoms had plenty of opportunities. Four times, the puck clanked off the post after shots by Phantoms.
The team could have gone into the final period with a 4-1 advantage rather than a 1-0 deficit. The two goals the Bruins added in the final period wouldn’t have even mattered, except that was only in a perfect world.
In the preseason, Lehigh Valley put together some strong power play attacks, but went 0-for-5 to open the season. It didn’t help that Providence goalie Max Lagace was looking good in goal, turning away all 28 shots that he faced from the Phantoms, and appearing especially good on power play opportunities.
For his part, Frost looked good on the ice, and he fired one of the shots that dented the post. He put another shot on-goal with a cool, between-the-legs shot that nearly became his first pro point. Another newcomer, German Rubtsov, also looked sharp, taking six shots in the game. He wasn’t only playing hard in the offensive zone, but he also made nice moves up and down the ice.
Frost admitted the chemistry still needs some work as players adjust to each other’s styles and moves. He also realizes that he has to play a more disciplined game at this level than in the past because some things that work in junior hockey just don’t play in the pros.
“You can take a lot more risks and that kind of thing,” noted Frost about playing junior hockey, as opposed to playing in the AHL. “That’s kind of my game, so I have to pick and choose my spots and be smart about it.”
HOME COOKING ... The Phantoms open with five straight home games. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are up next, and will be followed in by Hershey next Friday and Saturday. The following weekend, it’s Binghamton and Springfield coming to town. The first road contests for the Phantoms are Oct. 25 and 26 in Charlotte. Saturday night’s home-opener was the sixth one for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and marked the sixth straight opening night that resulted in a sellout for the team.
COMINGS AND GOINGS ... The Phantoms shuttle between the PPL Center, and Reading is gassed up and has already made a few trips. Forward Pascal Laberge was sent to Reading on Monday. The 21-year-old played in 15 games with Lehigh Valley last season, and will likely be back for more time with the Phantoms this season. Goalie Felix Sandstrom was also sent to Reading and is stuck between Alex Lyon and J-F Berube, who got the start in the opener. Lyon and Berube figure to split time with Lehigh Valley.
AYE, AYE CAPTAIN ... Andy Andreoff, Cal O’Reilly and Nate Prosser were all selected as team captains last week. “Great personalities, great work ethic and great attitude,” was how Gordon described the three players and their selection to serve as captains.