by Brian Smith || AHL On The Beat Archive
When Kyle Greentree left behind the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for the warmer climes of Philadelphia last March, he also left behind a travel schedule that makes the one the Phantoms have look like cake.
"It was kind of tough," he said. "We’d leave on a Tuesday for a Friday game and then travel all night, get there Wednesday and get used to the time change and jet lag and everything. It was tough. Our professors were really good with us missing class, and our classes were mostly online. We’d have long, long road trips for two or three weeks. It was tough, but it was good to see the rest of the States and to be in a different place when teams come to play you, that they’re not used to traveling that much."
A shorter travel slate was just one thing Greentree became accustomed to last season when he played the end of the year for Philadelphia. The Phantoms have enjoyed unprecedented success over the first two weeks of the season, going 5-0 for the first time in team history. Much of that success can be attributed to seeds planted towards the end of last season.
Greentree was one of several players to join the team late in the season after their college or junior careers had ended. Many of those players are back with the Phantoms this year, and the value of their brief experience with the team last year is becoming clear.
"It was kind of difficult coming to a team that’s already played together the whole year, but all the guys were great," Greentree said. "I was really fortunate to come in and see what it was like, play a few games here and get to know everyone. The conditioning camp was good just to see how hard you had to work, and at training camp it was comfortable because I knew everyone here."
Greentree also met Jonathan Matsumoto, who had arrived on the Philadelphia scene about the same time as Greentree after finishing up his junior year at Bowling Green. The two became friends and also met Darren Reid, who was already with the Phantoms. That trio has formed an exciting line combination this year that has been responsible for much of the team’s success on the power play early this season.
"We all just get along really well on and off the ice," Greentree said. "If something goes wrong, we tell each other. We’re always talking, and we have chemistry on the ice. It’s fun to play with guys who are so eager to get better. On the power play, we just try to be creative."
The time in Philadelphia also gave Greentree a chance to get accustomed to the professional game, which has helped him get off to a better start this season.
"He’s really picked up his intensity on the puck," said Phantoms head coach Craig Berube. "Coming out of college, early on, he wasn’t quite prepared for the speed of the game and the physicality, and so far it’s really improved. He gets pucks deep, loose pucks, he’s getting more physicall, has really good hands and he has a good shot. I like him using his wide drive and getting his big body to the net."