Phantoms open up season with win
The Phantoms opened their season on home ice over the weekend and everything seemed to go right for the home team.
Goalie prospect Carter Hart looked every bit of the super-prospect player that he is, the top line of Greg Carey, Phil Varone and Nicolas Aube-Kubel operated like a well-oiled machine and the young players were ready to go. It all resulted in a 6-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
In fact, things went so well, that you can even find some sweetness in what appeared to be a down note in the stats. The line where it says the Phantoms were 0-for-4 on the power play probably should have an asterisk beside that number. Yes, technically, those are the numbers but let’s drill a little deeper to see just what the impact of those power play shifts were.
Just under six-minutes into the game, the Phantoms got their first goal of the season from Carey. It was a rebounder type and came just 12 seconds after a Phantoms power play ended and before Bridgeport could regroup from their penalty killing mode. Their third goal of the night also came on the heels of a power play opportunity just 6 seconds after the Tigers got back to full strength, Varone hit Aube-Kubel with a near perfect pass that was buried deep into the net.
“We’ve got new bodies on the power play and are working some guys who are rookies and haven’t been on the power play the last couple of years. It’s a learning curve and we didn’t even have video to look at and we expected them to be kind of passive but they were attacking pretty hard,” explained Carey. “We’re trying to snap it around and we got those two quick goals and it almost felt like a power play situation.”
The top line of Carey, Varone and Aube-Kubel was impressive all night. Carey and Varone spent pretty much all of last season on the same line and their familiarity definitely showed. Aube-Kubel adds a guy to that line who can go up against the toughest and win battles for the puck, making the line nearly impeccable.
“We played together a lot last year and this was just like rekindling old chemistry. Phil was moving the puck and Aube was flying around there with his big body,” said Carey. “It’s a nice start to the year but it’s only game one of the next 75.”
You may look at the three goals allowed by Hart and think it was just a decent night. Much like the power play numbers though when you dig deeper, things look better.
Two of the three goals came on Bridgeport power play opportunities, and one of those was an accidental deflection off a Bridgeport player’s skate. He also had moments where he showed just how good he is when the faced a ferocious early attack and fended off three shots in rapid succession, keeping the game scoreless. Early in the second period, Kieffer Bellows stormed toward Hart on the breakaway and was stuffed by Hart. On the ensuing face-off, the Phantoms would move out of their defensive zone and Aube-Kubel would steal a puck for the first of his two goals and a 2-0 Phantoms lead instead of what could have been a 1-1 game.
It’s also worth noting that Hart turned aside 31 shots on the night.
WAY TO GO, ROOKIE... German Rubtsov scored his first pro goal in the third period on a perfectly executed give-and-go with fellow rookie David Kase. Kase and Rubstov have both opened some eyes and had an impressive start to their first professional season together.
GOALIE UPDATE... The Flyers claimed veteran Cal Pickard off waivers from Toronto last week and inserted him as the backup to Brian Elliott on the NHL roster. That meant that a domino fell on Anthony Stolarz who now goes from backing up Elliott to backing up Hart with the Phantoms. Pickard amassed a 2.78 GAA and a .913 save percentage in parts of four seasons in the NHL, playing for both Colorado and Toronto. Stolarz had to clear waivers to be sent back to the Phantoms, which he did. Goaltender Branden Komm was sent to Reading on loan from the Phantoms to clear a spot for Stolarz.