Article By: chuck hixson Special to the Press
Goaltender Alex Lyon earned the win in goal as he returned to the Lehigh Valley crease for the first time since Dec. 1 after spending most of the month with the Philadelphia Flyers. The key to Lyon’s success may have been the overall sharp play of the Phantoms defense, which held the AHL’s second-highest scoring offense to just 29 shots, 28 of which were turned away by Lyon in Lehigh Valley’s 3-1 win against the Charlotte Checkers.
Lyon is now 9-7-1 on the season, while Lehigh Valley stands at 21-10-2-2 after splitting the back-to-back home games with Charlotte this past weekend. After Friday night’s win, Charlotte rebounded to down Lehigh Valley 5-2 the following night.
While coach Scott Gordon was happy with the team’s performance Friday, he wasn’t happy with how they responded a night later, on the same home ice against the same team.
“We were lazy in the first period and that sort of set the tone for us, unfortunately,” said Gordon after Saturday’s loss.
Gordon pointed out that the team not only looked weak, they turned the puck over too many times in key spots and also picked up untimely penalties throughout the game. In fact, the first shift of the night gave Charlotte a power-play situation and the Checkers seemed to find rejuvenation with the weak start by Lehigh Valley.
After facing 29 shots the night before, Lyon was peppered with 16 shots just in the first period alone and finished the night having faced 41 shots.
“It’s all about getting in a rhythm and getting my confidence going,” said Lyon, who didn’t play a game in his four weeks with the Flyers. “I’m just trying to do my thing and get things going again now that I’m back here.”
Charlotte and Lehigh Valley have completed four of their eight games this season with the two teams splitting the first four.
Besides the return of Lyon and his strong play, Phil Varone also continued his big play this season with two more assists in Friday’s win, marking the 10th time this season that he’s had a multi-point game for the Phantoms. The 27-year-old center continues to lead all Phantoms in scoring and is now in sole possession of second place among all AHL players with 37 total points (10 goals, 27 assists). Varone added another assist Saturday and has at least one point in 23 of Lehigh Valley’s 35 games this season.
NEW YEAR, NEW TEAMS... Defenseman James De Haas was the odd-man-out as the Flyers shuffled players back to Lehigh Valley from the NHL. De Haas got bumped back to the Reading Royals of the ECHL after playing in 19 games with the Phantoms. De Haas got bumped with fellow defenseman Mark Alt, who has been with Philadelphia on three separate occasions this season, had his latest assignment with the team ended and was returned to Lehigh Valley.
HOWE DID YOU DO THAT?... Tyrell Goulbourne did it all recently for Lehigh Valley in capturing a Gordie Howe hat trick – a goal, an assist and a fight all in the same game – against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a 5-4 Phantoms win. Goulbourne scored in the second period and when Jared Tinordi started chirping at him later in the period, the two dropped the gloves. It was the third consecutive game that Goulbourne has been in a fight and the fourth time overall. Three of his four fights have come against the Penguins.
“I don’t think this team likes me very much,” Goulbourne said after the game. “I sized up with that guy. I didn’t realize how big he was but I tried to make the best of it. I’m pretty sure I had to jump in the air to try and reach him!”
BRENNAN’S THE MAN... T.J. Brennan etched his name into the record books last weekend when he became the 10th defenseman in NHL history to record 400 career points. Brennan reached the mark when he scored with just 10.5-seconds left in the second period to put the Phantoms up 3-1 over Charlotte.
The goal was the fourth of the season for Brennan, who has scored 138 in his career and now has 25 goals in 102 games with the Phantoms. The 28-year old has 262 assists to go with his goals and has played in 545 career games in the league.