September 27, 2018
By: Kristi Fulkerson
After five days of on-ice practice, the Phantoms will play their first preseason contest tonight against their friends to the north, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. They’ll return home Friday and Saturday (both games on Service Electric TV2/502HD) to face Charlotte, another division foe they defeated 4-1 in the Atlantic Division Finals last season.
Lehigh Valley’s camp roster stands at 28 players, including a handful of ECHL tryout players and several key returners. Captain Colin McDonald called preseason practice ‘like the first day of school’, where there’s excitement, nerves, and lots of work ahead. The team’s leading goal-scorer from a year ago, Greg Carey, says it’s an advantage to return so many from last year’s squad (14 at last count) that advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals. And there are more cuts coming in Philly as they Flyers currently have 17 forwards on their roster.
Unexpectedly, it’s the goaltending situation posing the biggest problem as of today….and by that I mean not having enough bodies. Lehigh Valley practiced all week with only one goalie, Branden Komm, rotating a couple Phantoms staff members in as the second netminder. The reason: injuries. Despite coming into camp with five goalies between the Flyers and Phantoms, the group was cut to just three after Alex Lyon was injured in a Flyers preseason game Sept. 18th (out 4 weeks) and Michal Neuvirth left morning skate early on Friday (no update on a timetable for his return). That leaves Brian Elliot, Anthony Stolarz, and rookie Carter Hart to cover the bases in Philly as they finish with two more exhibition games. For the Phantoms, Komm will get the start Thursday and be backed up by Jason Kasdorf, a tryout player who just joined the team Wednesday. Komm has never played an AHL game, spending last season with four different ECHL teams including Reading. I suppose that makes head coach Scott Gordon the best option for an emergency backup? He did play 8 pro seasons, though he claims even with the right gear, his body would fail both him and the team.
In any event, happy preseason hockey to all, only 9 more days until the 5th season of Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey is officially underway.