Weekend notebook: Phantoms preparing for late-season push

JustSports Photography

📝 by Patrick Williams

Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward Wade Allison is ready for a last-ditch push to the Calder Cup Playoffs.

“That’s what you play for,” Allison said of the American Hockey League stretch drive. “Moments like that when your back’s against the wall, and it’s do-or-die.”

Fans can see that desperation from Allison and his teammates when the Phantoms host the archrival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight in the AHLTV Free Game of the Week (7 ET/4 PT). With three games in hand, Lehigh Valley is 11 points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which currently sits in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The Phantoms are back at home for the first time since March 12 following a six-game road trip that went 2-3-0-1.

Battling is nothing new for the 24-year-old Allison, who went to the parent Philadelphia Flyers as a second-round pick in the 2016 National Hockey League Draft. He has had to overcome a preseason ankle injury along with a pair of injuries while with Philadelphia ― an upper-body injury in December and a knee injury in January. Allison returned to the Lehigh Valley lineup March 11 with a goal and had nine points (four goals, five assists) in six games last month. The second-year pro is up to 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 13 games for the Phantoms.

“My body’s in a good place right now,” Allison said. “I’m slowly getting my confidence back here, starting to get my cardio back, and I feel good. I’m just trying to do all the right things, trying to make sure I take care of the defensive zone first, make the right choices. Don’t try to do too much. Play simple, play my role.

“Just work hard.”

Lehigh Valley will be counting heavily on the Manitoba native in April, and he is ready for his first pro playoff race. Tonight’s contest opens a run of seven games in 11 nights as part of the Phantoms’ 16-game sprint to the end of the regular season.

“[April is] exciting,” Allison said. “I’m excited. I’m going to learn a lot from it.”

After tonight’s contest, the Phantoms visit Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next Wednesday before the Penguins return to PPL Center for the teams’ regular-season finale April 30.

“I think we’re going to get into the playoffs,” Allison said, “and we’re going to make a good push, for sure.”


The Rochester Americans and defenseman Mark Alt hit it off quickly this week.

Alt’s arrival from the San Jose Barracuda for forward Mason Jobst on Monday dramatically buttressed the Rochester blue line as the Amerks attempt to nail down a North Division playoff spot. Going into Cleveland to meet the Monsters tonight and Saturday, the Amerks (31-24-5-3, .556) hold fifth place in the North, just ahead of the sixth-place Belleville Senators (.553). The move followed a difficult weekend in which Rochester went 0-1-1-1; they have also lost defenseman Brandon Davidson for the season.

So in came Alt, who has played parts of 10 AHL seasons (452 games), and had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 46 games for San Jose. Alt’s arrival and a much-needed 4-3 home win against the Utica Comets on Wednesday brightened moods around the Amerks.

“I was just looking for an opportunity,” Alt told the Amerks website following Wednesday’s morning skate. “I was really happy to land here, and I’m just ready to get to work. This team’s in a tight spot, and just [to be] a part of those games… I’m excited to be a part of it. The Amerks have been competitive all year. They’ve been in the hunt, and that’s exactly what I want to be a part of.”

Head coach Seth Appert wasted no time putting Alt to work that night, and the veteran defender quickly impressed his new team.

“What we saw is what we are hoping for,” Appert said of his new stalwart blueliner. “He’s a darn good hockey player. It’s fun to have pressure at this time of the year. That means you’re playing for things that you care about.”

Said captain Michael Mersch, “[Alt has] been a captain in this league, does all the little things, played in the NHL. [He is] just a calming presence and another good guy for the younger guys to look up to when we’re trying to win games down the stretch here.”

Appert said that the organization carefully selected Alt to join the Amerks.

“We have a really good culture,” Appert elaborated. “We have a great leadership group. Our captains are outstanding.

“We did a lot of intel work on who Mark was as a person, not just a hockey player. We wanted to make sure we were adding another winner and another competitor and another guy that was going to bring a calming veteran presence to our group. In the short time he’s been here, he’s already shown that.”


The Henderson Silver Knights begins a new era Saturday with the opening of Dollar Loan Center, their new 6,000-seat facility.

The Silver Knights host Bakersfield in the back end of a home-and-home set before Rockford comes to town on Monday and Tuesday. Henderson has 10 games scheduled for the new rink to close out the regular season.


The Vancouver Canucks organization and forward Vincent Arseneau continue to be a match.

Arseneau, who first joined the organization in Utica in 2017-18, has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 42 games for Abbotsford this season. In all, the ninth-year pro has played 177 games at the AHL level.

That experience prompted the Canucks to sign Arseneau to a two-year AHL contract extension Thursday that will take him through the 2023-24 season.

“Vincent has played a substantial role in the culture we want as an organization,” Abbotsford general manager Ryan Johnson said in a written statement. “He is a great example of a player who didn’t have the easy road, but found his way with resilience, courage, and sacrifice.”


Wednesday’s 2-1 road win against the AHL-leading Stockton Heat made the Colorado Eagles the fourth team in the league to clinch a berth in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Pacific Division field had already included Stockton and the Ontario Reign.

Now the Eagles have more big news with the addition of Colorado Avalanche defenseman Bowen Byram on a conditioning loan. Byram, 20, has been limited to 37 games by injuries with the Avalanche in his first two pro seasons. The fourth overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 18 games before he was shut down in January.

The Eagles wind down a six-game West Coast road trip with a stop in Ontario to face the Reign tonight and Saturday. A 10-3-1-0 surge has carried the Eagles to fifth overall in the AHL with a 33-19-4-3 (.619) record. They have won three in a row, including a come-from-behind 7-5 win last Saturday afternoon against the San Jose Barracuda, in which their special teams produced a pair of power-play goals along with two tallies shorthanded.

After this weekend, the Eagles have only seven games remaining on their regular-season schedule.


🏒 Fans can track the latest races for a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs daily with the handy AHL Playoff Primer.

🏒 Ontario offensive dynamo T.J. Tynan has slipped past Andrew Poturalski of the Chicago Wolves for the AHL scoring lead. Tynan’s league-leading 70 assists go with his 13 goals in 51 games to put him at 83 points. One behind is Poturalski, who is up to 82 points (24 goals, 58 assists). The pair are vying to become the first players to hit 100 points in a season since Keith Aucoin (106 points) and Alexandre Giroux (103 points) did so with the Hershey Bears in 2009-10.

🏒 Abbotsford’s Sheldon Dries has tied Stefan Noesen of Chicago for the AHL lead at 35 goals. Dries also has a league-best 18 power-play tallies. Noesen (30 assists) is third in AHL scoring at 65 points while Dries (27 assists) and Ontario’s Martin Frk (33 goals, 29 assists) are each in fourth place at 62 points.

🏒 Troy Grosenick of the Providence Bruins leads AHL goaltenders in both goals-against average (2.03) and save percentage (.929). He earned his 19th career AHL shutout with 28 saves against Hershey last Friday night.

🏒 Stockton rookie Dustin Wolf’s 29 wins maintain his league lead. Connor Ingram of the Milwaukee Admirals is first in games (46) and shutouts (five).

🏒 Ontario’s 3.93 goals per game still rank first in the AHL. The Reign own the number-one power play (59-for-226) at 26.1 percent. The Stockton penalty kill leads the league at 87.3 percent (213-for-244) and also has a league-high 13 shorthanded strikes. Chicago’s 2.51 goals-against per game are fewest in the AHL while the Manitoba Moose have moved just ahead of the Wolves with 25.8 shots-against per game. The Wolves also rank first in the league at 34.7 shots per game. The Charlotte Checkers have scored twice shorthanded in a game three times this season, most recently in this past Sunday’s 6-3 win at Cleveland.

🏒 Stockton forward Jakob Pelletier has tied Tucson’s Matias Maccelli for the rookie scoring lead at 55 points. Pelletier, a first-round pick by the Calgary Flames in 2019, has 26 goals, tops among rookies, to go with his 29 assists in 55 appearances. Maccelli is on recall to the Arizona Coyotes.

🏒 Hershey will take another crack at earning the 3,000th win in franchise history tonight as the Bears start a two-game trip to Charlotte. The Bears dropped a pair of games last weekend, including a 4-3 shootout defeat to the Hartford Wolf Pack last Saturday night after rallying from a 3-0 hole in the game. Only the Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Detroit Red Wings have reached 3,000 wins in pro hockey.

🏒 Tied for fourth in rookie goal-scoring is San Diego Gulls forward Alex Limoges, the latest AHL Player of the Week. Limoges went on a tear last week with seven goals in four games to bring him up to 20 goals. Going into a two-game home series against the Iowa Wild that begins tonight, Limoges has 32 points (12 assists) in 50 games.

🏒 The Gulls have gone 7-1-0-1 in their past nine games, the lone regulation blemish a 7-5 home loss to Stockton last Sunday that ended a six-game winning streak at Pechanga Arena. They had outscored opponents 25-7 in those six games. At just 19 years old, 2020 first-round pick Jacob Perreault is on a seven-game point streak (four goals, six assists) as part of a line with Limoges and Benoit-Olivier Groulx.

🏒 Charlotte goaltender Joey Daccord has allowed two or fewer goals in five of his past six appearances. The Seattle Kraken prospect is 15-10-2 in 28 games with a 2.33 GAA. His .926 save percentage is second-best in the league.

🏒 Top Los Angeles Kings prospects Akil Thomas and Samuel Fagemo starred with a pair of goals apiece in Ontario’s 6-3 win at San Jose on Wednesday. Thomas also contributed an assist.

🏒 Manitoba center Morgan Barron scored his first goal with the Moose to set up a 4-3 home shootout win against Laval on Tuesday. Barron, 24, joined the Moose after the Winnipeg Jets acquired him from the New York Rangers at the NHL trade deadline. Winnipeg then recalled him on an emergency basis, and he made his Jets debut at Toronto on Thursday.

🏒 Backed by Ty Dellandrea’s first pro hat trick, the Texas Stars pulled out a 6-5 home shootout decision against Milwaukee last Friday. Dellandrea, 21, went to the Dallas Stars as the 13th pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and has 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists) in 55 games. Texas went on to sweep the teams’ two-game set at H-E-B Center and has a five-game home winning streak.

🏒 Utica got a 46-save afternoon from Mareks Mitens at Providence to knock off the P-Bruins last Sunday, 4-1. Back from the New Jersey Devils to start the week, Comets forward A.J. Greer reached AHL career bests in goals (22) and points (48). He provided a goal and three assists in handling Hartford, 7-3, on Monday, and followed that up with a hat trick in the loss in Rochester on Wednesday. Greer also has 25 assists in 48 games, matching a career high.

🏒 Iowa forward Mitchell Chaffee’s two goals and assist set up a 5-4 overtime win last Friday against Rockford. The 24-year-old forward has climbed to 29 points (17 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games for Iowa.

🏒 Back in the Rockford lineup for the first time since Feb. 20 after being in concussion protocol, forward Dylan McLaughlin has six points (three goals, three assists) in three outings.

🏒 Cleveland first-year netminder Jet Greaves recorded his first shutout last Friday, defeating Charlotte with 31 saves, 1-0.

🏒 Phantoms captain Cal O’Reilly played his 1,000th career pro game (NHL, AHL, and KHL) last Friday night at Laval. The team prepared “O’Reilly 1000” t-shirts adorned with the logos of each of O’Reilly’s pro stops for each player. O’Reilly, whose pro career started in 2005-06 with the Milwaukee Admirals, also skated a solo lap in warm-up.

🏒 Bridgeport forward Chris Terry recorded his 600th AHL point in last Sunday’s game at Rochester, scoring the overtime winner in a 6-5 victory.

🏒 Syracuse goaltender Max Lagace collected his 100th AHL win last Saturday, handling Rochester with 26 saves in a 5-1 home triumph. A productive 9-4-0-1 March has pushed the Crunch firmly into playoff contention. Lagace went 8-2-1 with a 1.96 GAA, .919 save percentage, and two shutouts in March.

🏒 Providence captain Josiah Didier will stay on with the club for a fourth season after signing a new one-year extension for 2022-23.

🏒 Wolf Pack forward Maxim Letunov is back on familiar ground after the Rangers acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Tarmo Reunanen at the AHL deadline this past Monday. The trade returns Letunov to Connecticut, where he played three seasons at UConn. He made his Wolf Pack debut at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday.

🏒 Six different goaltenders earned victories for the Toronto Marlies during the month of March: Erik Källgren, Michael Hutchinson, Joseph Woll, Keith Petruzzelli, Talor Joseph, and Billy Christopoulos. Joseph, who had been playing at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C., this season, made his pro debut on Tuesday and stopped 34 shots in a 5-3 Marlies win at Abbotsford. After sweeping two from the Canucks, Toronto moves on to Manitoba to face the Moose tonight and Sunday.

🏒 San Diego hosts its Hockey Fights Cancer Night on Saturday against Iowa. The Gulls are one of 22 AHL clubs to take part in the program.

🏒 On Sunday the Manitoba Moose will celebrate Indigenous culture with their Follow Your Dreams Day event. The game will include Indigenous music and imagery along with the team wearing Follow Your Dreams jerseys. The team will also have a special jersey presentation with retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police sergeant Sam Anderson, who first helped establish the program in 1999. Fans can also hear live music, trade for coins bearing the artwork of award-winning Canadian Haida (Pacific Coast First Nation) artist Bill Reid, and have a chance to win free memberships and passes for the Qaumajuq Inuit art exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.


🏒 New Jersey Devils forward Tyce Thompson has joined Utica, where he had seven points (four goals, three assists) in seven games earlier this season. The 22-year-old has been out since November with a shoulder injury. Utica also has picked up Michigan Tech forward Brian Halonen, a Hobey Baker Award finalist this season as the NCAA’s top player, on an amateur tryout contract. Halonen, an undrafted 23-year-old, posted 44 points (21 goals, 23 assists) in 36 games in 2021-22.

🏒 Hershey forward Mike Vecchione will remain with the Washington Capitals organization next season on a one-year contract extension. In his first season with the Bears, Vecchione has 38 points (13 goals, 25 assists) in 46 games, tied for the team scoring lead with Joe Snively.

🏒 Battling to stay in the Central Division playoff race, Iowa made two significant additions this week. Forward Connor Dewar has returned from the Minnesota Wild, where he played 30 games with Minnesota and picked up five points (two goals, three assists). Dewar, 22, also has 11 points (six goals, five assists) in 12 games for Iowa. Minnesota also signed 2018 draft pick Sam Hentges to an entry-level deal that begins in 2022-23. Hentges, who will begin his pro career in Iowa, had 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 20 games at St. Cloud State this season and also competed for the United States at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

🏒 Chicago added another offensive piece to the lineup in forward Noel Gunler. The 20-year-old signed a three-year entry-level contract with Carolina and will join the Wolves for the rest of this season. Gunler was a second-round selection by the Hurricanes in the 2020 NHL Draft.

🏒 Ontario continues to bring in strong L.A. Kings prospects. This week Finnish defenseman Kim Nousiainen signed with the Kings and reported to the Reign. The 21-year-old is part of an impressive Los Angeles 2019 draft class that includes Samuel Fagemo, Tobias Bjornfot, Arthur Kaliyev, Jordan Spence, and Alex Turcotte, who all have spent time with Ontario. Los Angeles also reassigned 2021 second-round pick Samuel Helenius from his Finnish league club to Ontario.

🏒 The Columbus Blue Jackets have another Sillinger in the organization after Cleveland signed Bemidji State captain Owen Sillinger to an AHL contract for next season. He is the older brother of Cole Sillinger, who was taken 12th overall by Columbus in the 2021 NHL Draft. In 39 games with Bemidji State, Owen had 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists). They are the sons of former Mike Sillinger, who skated in 1,049 NHL games and won a Calder Cup with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1992.

🏒 The Grand Rapids Griffins have signed a pair of Michigan-based NCAA forward standouts for AHL contracts for the rest of this season and 2022-23. Michigan Tech’s Trenton Bliss and Drew Worrad of Western Michigan University joined the Griffins after each averaging more than a point per game this season, Bliss, 24, had 40 points (12 goals, 28 assists) in 36 games. Also 24, Worrad led his club in scoring with 45 points (nine goals, 36 assists) in 39 games.

🏒 Milwaukee has added forward Jachym Kondelik from the University of Connecticut. Kondelik, 22, signed a two-year entry-level agreement with the parent Nashville Predators last week after he had 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 36 games for UConn. Nashville scooped him up in the fourth round of the 2018 NHL Draft.

🏒 UMass-Amherst center Josh Lopina has been assigned to the Gulls after inking his three-year entry-level deal with the Anaheim Ducks. The 21-year-old, chosen in the fourth round of the 2021 NHL Draft by the Ducks, had 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 27 games this season. He also was a Hockey East All-Rookie Team member as part of the program’s 2021 national championship team. UMass teammate Matt Kessel has joined the Springfield Thunderbirds. The 21-year-old blueliner signed a two-year entry-level contract with the St. Louis Blues that activates next season. Kessel went to the Blues as a 2020 fifth-round pick and had 17 points (six goals, 11 assists) in 37 games this season, his third with the Minutemen.


The Hartford Wolf Pack host Belleville tonight and Syracuse on Saturday… The Crunch first stop in Utica tonight… Providence has Springfield in town tonight for a battle between the top two teams in the Atlantic Division… Bridgeport, 6-0-1-0 in its last seven, visits Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday; the Islanders enter the weekend just behind the Penguins in the race for the final playoff position in the Atlantic… Bridgeport then welcomes Lehigh Valley on Sunday… Texas and Grand Rapids, tied for fifth in the Central Division, meet at Van Andel Arena tonight and Saturday… A Chicago-Milwaukee home-and-home series begins tonight with the Admirals hosting. The teams finish it Saturday… Rockford is in Tucson tonight and Saturday before heading to Henderson… Stockton entertains San Jose on Saturday before the teams meet Sunday at SAP Center, where a win would give the Heat their franchise-record 19th road victory this season… Laval, 5-0-0-2 in its last seven, is in Abbotsford for games Saturday and Sunday.


“He’s been there [in the NHL], so he gets it.”

― Lehigh Valley forward Wade Allison on playing for Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere, who played 1,083 games in the National Hockey League.