January 24, 2019
By: Steve Degler
One has to admire the grit and fortitude being shown by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They have lost their head coach, the reigning AHL MVP and one of their top goalies to the Flyers. The have a talented group of players sitting in the press box these days because of injuries. And yet, the Phantoms keep finding ways to win games.
German Rubtsov (28 games), David Kase (20 games) and Cole Bardreau (19 games) have all missed significant time with injuries. Rubtsov is likely done for the rest of the regular season. Bardreau may return in March. Kase seems the closest to getting back onto the ice but no timetable has been announced.
More recently, the team has been without perennial all-star T.J. Brennan and Nic Aube-Kubel. Tyrell Goulbourne, Mikhail Vorobyev and Greg Carey have been banged up and Connor Bunnaman has been dealing with a nagging injury.
To make the situation just a little tougher, the Phantoms have played four consecutive overtime games, with two of them carrying over to a shootout. The last time the Phantoms played four straight overtime games was January 2-8, 2011, when they were the Adirondack Phantoms. The franchise record for most consecutive overtime games was established by the Philadelphia Phantoms in 2001. They played six straight beyond regulation.
And through all of this adversity, Lehigh Valley has secured points in five straight games (3-0-2) and moved to within one point of Bridgeport for second place in the AHL's Atlantic Division. Players are sacrificing their bodies by blocking shots, Alex Lyon has been sensational in goal and they're finding just enough offense to get by in these difficult times. And there hasn't been much time to recuperate. The Phantoms play their 13 January games in a span of 23 days.
You have to credit interim head coach Kerry Huffman, assistant Terry Murray and the players on the roster for persevering through a difficult stretch. They have been a more than resilient bunch. And they'll need to continue that mindset because it looks like the playoff race in the division will come right down to the final weekend in April.