By Tony Androckitis
Coming into a Thanksgiving Eve match-up with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Adirondack Phantoms were in the midst of a four-game losing streak and starting to fall off the pace of division-leading Springfield. The Phantoms used the home ice to their advantage, beating a depleted Penguins roster which saw five of their regular forwards out of the lineup.
“It’s huge, especially after the way we played last weekend,” Phantoms goaltender Yann Danis said after the Phantoms 3-1 win over the Penguins. “We definitely wanted to bounce back. This was huge and it’s definitely something to build on.”
The Phantoms came out with the extra jump in their step and took an early 1-0 lead on a power play goal from Brandon Manning. Manning’s point shot 5:25 into the game beat a screened Deslauriers to give the home team an early lead.
Phantoms leading scorer Jason Akeson added an assist on Manning’s third goal of the season as the Phantoms power play is starting to click after a rough stretch has them last in the league with the man advantage.
“Our power play has been terrible this month,” Manning said. “When you’re 30th in the league, we got back to simple things; shooting pucks. It paid off for us and if we can get that going, I think the rest will fall in place.”
From there, it got very physical late in the first period. Penguins forward Bobby Farnham was at it again, trying to start a fight with Phantoms rookie forward Petr Straka. Phantoms team captain Ben Holmstrom noticed Farnham giving Straka a hard time and switched sides with the rookie winger, dropping the gloves with Farnham off the draw.
On the very next face-off, Pierre-Luc Leblond and Kris Newbury began pushing and shoving, though the Phantoms veteran forward declined numerous invitations from Leblond to be the second bout on the night. Both received ten minute misconducts, ending the period with some bad blood on the ice.
Typical rough stuff to add to the Penguins/Phantoms rivalry, which is starting to heat up. The rivalry will only grow stronger next season when the Phantoms move to Allentown, Pa. which is just about an hour away from the Penguins home in Wilkes-Barre.
“You look at the first game [between the Penguins and Phantoms] it was the same thing and even back to last year. You can see it out there this year for sure,” Manning said of the competitiveness between the two teams. “It’s unfortunate we only play them two more times this season.”
“For the guys going to Allentown, I think being an hour away will definitely heat it up,” Manning added. “Probably play 10 or 12 games against them next year. The guys like playing in these games, that’s where character is built. Guys bond and come together, it’s great to see.”
Petr Straka gave the Phantoms a 2-1 lead on a weird play in front of Deslauriers that was initially waived off by the referees. After further discussion by the guys in stripes, they awarded Straka’s goal, giving the Phantoms a one goal lead 6:57 into the middle frame.
The Pens killed off three straight Phantoms power plays, including some 5-on-3 time, but were unable to gain any momentum from it as the Phantoms extended their lead late in the 2nd period on a goal by Chris Vandevelde. His team-leading 6th goal of the season gave the Phantoms a 3-1 lead over the Penguins heading into the second intermission.
The Penguins are the best third period team in the AHL, currently having outscored opponents 32-10 in the final frame, but the Phantoms were able to hold onto the two goal lead for the win behind a strong showing from the defense and in net from Danis.
“We have to keep playing like this,” Danis said. “We can’t fall back to what we did last weekend. When we play well, we’re a good team.”