Northwestern Press

Saturday, January 19, 2019

LV wraps up third busy weekend in a row

Saturday, March 17, 2018 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

If you think your weekends are busy, consider the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

This past weekend, they wrapped up the middle portion of their third straight three-game weekend. While it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the Phantoms will be playing playoff hockey this spring, nothing is official just yet. With 13 games left in the regular season, the Phantoms have dropped their magic number down to 12 after a productive weekend.

With a win over Bridgeport on Saturday, and another over Binghamton Sunday, the Phantoms continued their trip toward the postseason. The two wins lowered their magic number by six. The win over Bridgeport was especially big since the Sound Tigers are one position spot out of the playoffs and by beating them, the Phantoms not only picked up two points with the win, but the Bridgeport loss deducted two more points from the magic number. Unfortunately, Lehigh Valley couldn’t capitalize on the first part of its home-and-home series with the Sound Tigers, dropping their Friday night game 3-2.

Meanwhile, it looked like their opportunity for another win Sunday night at home might go by the boards when they were tied with Binghamtom with just a minute left to play before Mike Vecchione scored with just 58.9 seconds left in regulation. The goal was a classic as the puck seemed to have bounced off both of his skates before sliding past goalie Eddie Lack for what would be the game-winner. The Phantoms added an empty netter just for good measure and capped their weekend with a 5-3 win over the Devils.

Vecchione’s goal was reviewed but was allowed by the replay officials to put the Phantoms up 4-3. For his part, Vecchione wasn’t about to argue with the officials.

“I was just trying to get it to the back post,” he said. “I put my stick down and opened it and was able to get a piece of it. At least I think so.”

This Phantoms team doesn’t get shaken very easily. They’ve produced a number of comeback wins this season and when Binghamton tied the game 3-3, Lehigh Valley just went back to work knowing that they had just over six minutes to play in regulation.

“There’s a lot of resiliency with this team. Nobody panicked when they scored that third one to tie it up,” said Vecchione. “We just kept playing and played the full 60 [minutes].”

There seems to be a little confusion about when goalie Anthony Stolarz will return to action. Flyers GM Paul Hextall said last week that he expects Stolarz, who has been out all season after needing not one, but two surgeries to correct a torn meniscus, to play this past weekend. He didn’t. Phantoms coach Scott Gordon hasn’t yet picked a date for when he’ll play although he has been practicing with the team.

When Stolarz does return, he’ll likely be using a new mask that he had designed to play tribute to two of his favorite TV shows. It just so happens that they both have a Philadelphia connection. The mask features Philadelphian Will Smith on one side as a tribute to the show The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The other features Danny DeVito and characters from the show It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

SANHEIM HEADS FOR PHILLY... Travis Sanheim was recalled by the Flyers a couple hours prior to Friday night’s game against Bridgeport. The move was done under “emergency conditions” meaning that it is because of an injury to the NHL team, this time to Johnny Oduya. Teams can only make four call-ups after the trade deadline unless they use the emergency conditions rule, which means that the move doesn’t count against their four allowed moves.