August 21, 2018
By: Kristi Fulkerson
It’s that time in life that everyone dreads: moving out. The packing, the loading, the unloading, the chaos, and worst of all — doing it again in three weeks when you’re able to actually move IN to the new home. I’ll admit, doing all that with the help of a two-year-old is interesting, so again, any takers? Just kidding. We’re looking forward to moving into a new home next month….which also marks the start of — you guessed, it hockey season! Unofficially of course. 

The PPL Center will host it’s first hockey game one month from today on September 21st when the Flyers return for a preseason contest against the NY Islanders. It’s a chance to see many of the guys that will spend the season in Allentown and a handful of notable Flyers as they work out the kinks and get back on the ice. The week before, fans can actually get their first 2018-19 glimpse of the organization’s youth with a 2.5 hour trip to the Islanders practice facility (Northwell Health Ice Center) for a Prospects Game on Sept. 12th. Last year the Flyers hosted the game at Wells Fargo Center, which was a neat experience for fans and players alike. In June, I saw many of the new faces at Development Camp — and let’s just say I wasn't the only one envisioning how many will fit in to the LV lineup this season. (Scott Gordon, Kerry Huffman and Bill Downey — the entire Phantoms coaching staff —  were all on hand.)

Lehigh Valley, whose roster is plenty loaded, will play three preseason games (back-to-back-to-back) beginning with a road trip north to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sept. 27th. The Phantoms will then host their good friends from the south in Charlotte on Friday and Saturday. Greg Carey (leading goal-scorer) and Phil Varone (AHL MVP) are among the key returnees along with veterans T.J. Brennan, Chris Conner, and Colin McDonald. Depending how the goalie situation works out in Philly, the Phantoms will potentially have Alex Lyon, Carter Hart, and Anthony Stolarz to start. Let’s not forget Mike Vecchione, Danick Martel, Phil Myers, and a plethora of incoming talent. So yeah, is it September yet? 

AHL changes this season include a realignment of divisions, which affects four teams. Out west, San Antonio & Texas will move from the Pacific to Central Division. Colorado replaces one spot, becoming the league’s 31st team and competing in the Pacific Division. Finally, Cleveland will depart the Western Conference altogether and join the Eastern’s North Division — they’ll visit Lehigh Valley twice in December.

The 2018-19 season begins league-wide on October 5th. The Phantoms will open the following day, hosting Bridgeport — a team they beat 7 out of 8 meetings last year, but a much-improved team (Chris Bourque, anyone?) in 2019-20. 

As is the case with my (old) house, it’s time to rid my desk of last season’s bios, notes, game recaps, interview logs, scoresheets (yes I keep them all) and start gearing up for a new season. I suppose it’s less heavy lifting so bring it on!