Valley’s young guns starting to stand out
In their season opener, the Phantoms had a bunch of near-misses when it came to shots. The team’s chemistry looked a little off as a number of new faces, many of them young, inexperienced pro players, tried to fit together into a cohesive unit.
They quickly put the opening 3-0 shutout to Providence aside and came out firing against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The result was a 4-1 win, which they followed up with an overtime loss to another rival, the Hershey Bears.
“I don’t think we were that far off last week. I think all of our guys would have liked to get back at it the next day and not have to wait six days for our next game,” said coach Scott Gordon. “They responded well tonight, played with a lot of energy. I don’t recall the last time we gave up less than 20 shots.”
Young players Kurtis Gabriel, Mikhail Vorobyev and Chris Bigras all scored goals against the Penguins, but it was Joel Farabee who put on the biggest display. Farabee, playing in his first professional game, scored a highlight reel goal and then came back the next night and notched another against Hershey.
“That’s a special talent to turn what looked like a meaningless one-on-one into a breakaway situation,” said Gordon of Farabee’s first pro goal. “Actually, I thought he was just going to get a shot off and then he takes it all the way to the net and dekes out DeSmith [Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith]. We haven’t seen that here a lot, but now with the forwards that have been drafted and are playing here now, that’s something that I think our fans will see a lot more regularly than we have in the past.”
Farabee’s first goal was set up by Phil Meyers, who got him the puck in perfect position. The performance was good to see from Meyers after he had an average, at best, performance in camp with the Flyers.
One young player who hasn’t gotten into the goals scored column yet for Lehigh Valley is Morgan Frost, a former first-round pick. He, along with Farabee and German Rubstov were singled out by Gordon for their play even though not everything they did showed up on the stat sheet. The trio put together four shots against the Pens and played an active role on the ice. The 21-year old Rubstov was off to an impressive start last season when he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. Don’t be surprised if he and Farabee are among early callups to Philadelphia, when needed.
UNWANTED MILESTONES... The good news for defenseman T.J. Brennan and goalie Alex Lyon is that they both set milestones last Friday night. The bad news is that they came in the AHL and not the NHL. Brennan played in his 700th career game as a pro and Lyon played in his 114th with the Phantoms, setting a franchise record.
WE DON’T HAVE THE POWER... The Phantoms have had 11 power play opportunities through three games and haven’t scored on any of them. In fact, they allowed a short-handed goal on one of the power plays. So, is it too early to be concerned?
“Well, we’re not giving ourselves enough possessions; we keep going to the same two people,” Gordon noted. “We have to find ways to get the puck to the other side of the ice and we’ve got to find a way to do a better job on our entries.”
THE PENNSYLVANIA THREESOME... The three AHL teams in Pennsylvania – Hershey, Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - all had identical 1-1-1-0 records after their first three games of the season. The three teams were also 1-1-0-0 in their games against each other. The string was snapped when the Bears downed the Penguins 5-1 on Sunday.