October 11, 2017
By: Steve Degler

(MARTEL HEADSHOT COURTESY OF phantomshockey.com)

The beginning of every sports season is always special. The players are anxious to compete in "real games" after weeks of practicing against one another and playing a few preseason contests. The fans are excited to see their favorite team and players back in town after an off-season that always seems too long.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms opened their fourth season in Allentown with a bang Saturday night. With 8,648 in attendance the Phantoms rocked both the PPL Center and Hershey, crushing the Bears 7-2. Lehigh Valley scored three times in a 55-second span late in the third period to put away the Bears, the team that put them away in the AHL playoffs last spring.

The biggest night belonged to one of the smallest men on the ice. Fan favorite Danick Martel, (generously) listed at 5-8/167, recorded a hat trick in the season opener. Ten times a Lehigh Valley Phantoms player has bagged a hat trick. Martel has three of them. After scoring 42 goals over his first two seasons in the Lehigh Valley, Martel has already netted four in the first two games this season. It's easy to root for a guy like Danick. He always has a smile on his face and he truly is a great representative for the Phantoms. He is constantly making appearances in the community and was deservedly named the Phantoms' Man of the Year for the 2016-17 season. On the ice, he plays the game with tremendous energy and passion. After the game Saturday, he was seen with the fruits of his night's labor. With that ever present smile he was walking through the hallway outside the rink, carrying a huge bag filled with the hats that were tossed onto the ice.

The Phantoms were impressive in their season debut. They swarmed all over the ice with great speed and tenacity. This will be a very entertaining team to watch this season. The Atlantic is the toughest division in the AHL so Lehigh Valley will face a series of challenges around every turn in the schedule. Expect the Phantoms to be ready to take on all comers in what should be an exciting season at PPL Center and on Service Electric.