July 10, 2018
By: Kristi Fulkerson
OPENING NIGHT: TIGERS VS. PHANTOMS
We knew the Phantoms would kick off their fifth season of hockey in Allentown on October 6th — 88 days from now. Today, the team announced their opening night opponent will be the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the AHL affiliate of the NY Islanders. The Atlantic Division foes met 8 times last season, 7 of those games ended in victories for the Phantoms. The Sound Tigers finished 5th in the division in each of the last three seasons. They did however, just signed the AHL’s active leading scorer in Chris Bourque — who opted not return to Hershey where he spent the last three seasons and won three Calder Cups (2006, 2009, 2010).
So far the Phantoms have only released their Opening Night opponent and 6 other guaranteed dates, but that should change this week as I expect we’ll see a full schedule release this week.
Last week the Flyers wrapped up Development Camp, the 5-day stint that included 17 forwards, 10 defensemen and six goalies. Media members had their first chance to catch up with key prospects like Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom and start speculating on when the aforementioned goalies would be ‘saving the day’ in Philadelphia. Hart mentioned the challenges ahead now having to fend for himself in the pros — without a billet (aka host family) like he had in juniors.
I chatted with a few 2017-18 Phantoms about how they hope to improve their game before camp begins in September. David Drake and Phil Myers are among the defensemen anxious to get back at it saying Development Camp is a great chance to get some solid direction from the Flyers/Phantoms coaches without the pressure of an evaluation — which will come later at Rookie Camp/Training Camp.
GOALTENDING RUNS THE GORDON FAMILY
While at camp, I had a chance to catch up with Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon who was part of the staff running the on-ice player sessions. But he wasn’t the only Gordon on the ice. His son Eric was among the non-Flyers/college players in attendance helping with workouts — extra skaters for the goalie sessions & extra goalies for the skater sessions. Eric is a goalie — like his dad — who will begin his freshman season at Holy Family University this fall. Gordon’s younger son, Ryan, also plays hockey but he opted out of the family norm and is a forward.
Over the weekend, the Flyers re-signed goaltender Alex Lyon to a two-year contract. The first year is a two-way contract, the second is a one-way deal (which basically means he’ll make NHL money regardless of where he’s playing in 2019-20). I think many of us would agree Lyon is a viable option for the Flyers this fall but there’s a bit of a crowd at the goaltender position in Philadelphia. Right now, they have four goalies under contract (Brian Elliot, Michal Neuvirth, Alex Lyon, Carter Hart) and potentially another in the coming weeks after Anthony Stolarz, a RFA, received a qualifying offer. In the words of GM Ron Hextall, “I’d rather have too many goalies than too few”. Can’t say I disagree considering their injury-plaqued history.