Strong 5-1 win over Norfolk for the shorthanded Phantoms on Friday night in a game filled with oddities.
Let's look at the defensive situation first. In a mild surprise, Blake Kessel returned after missing one game with an injury. He may not have had much of a choice. Oskars Bartulis was scratched for unknown reasons and Brandon Manning, expected to make his season debut, skated in warmups but didn't play in the game.
Not being on the road trip, I'm not sure when we'll get those answers. I asked Phantoms PR Director Bob Rotruck, but he wasn't able to add anything more than the above.
Because of the absences the Phantoms skated with five defensemen and 17 skaters. Just how inexperienced was the defensive core? None of the four other than Dan Jancevski have played a full AHL season. In fact, if you add together the career AHL games of Blake Kessel (18), Oliver Lauridsen (17), Andy Thomas (57) and Eddy (52), you'd still fall far short of Jancevski's 729.
Going against the AHL's top offense, that seems like a recipe for disaster, which makes this perhaps the most impressive of the team's four straight wins.
A closer look:
-- Tye McGinn had two goals, giving him three in the last two nights. Good to see him seize the exrta ice-time he's getting with all these call-ups.
-- Norfolk went 0 for 4 on the power play, running the Phantoms' streak of successful penalty kills to 22. They haven't allowed a power-play goal in their last four games going back to the third period against Binghamton on Thanksgiving.
-- Denis Hamel scored an empty-net goal to tie Glenn Merkosky for 12th place on the all-time AHL list with 325 career goals. That broke an eight-game drought without a goal. Even this was strange, as Norfolk pulled its goalie in a three-goal game with about six minutes remaining. You don't see many empty-net goals with more than five minutes left.
-- Michael Leighton, going back to the scene of his first 18 career shutouts, won his fourth straight game. He's now 10-5 with a 2.45 GAA and .920 save percentage.
-- Adding to the shorthanded theme, the Phantoms played the first 10 minutes of the third without captain Ben Holmstrom, who picked up a misconduct at the end of the second.
-- There were 89 penalty minutes in third period, including 77 after a scrum with 19 seconds remaining. That may add some juice to Saturday's rematch.