GLENS FALLS -- Through the past three games, the Adirondack Phantoms have put together strong offensive attacks and dominated possession in the second period. And the defensemen have had a lot to do with it.
That the best offense is a good defense may be a cliche, but it certainly helps.
The Phantoms’ defense has been forcing opposing forwards to the perimeter, blocking shots and getting the puck up to their own forwards quickly. The defensemen have also been getting more involved with the offensive attack themselves.
The transition game has been one of coach Terry Murray’s main focuses. The Phantoms spent an entire pre-game morning skate working solely on the breakout, moving the puck up the ice quickly and setting up an attack. That work is starting to pay off.
“I love the way, right now, the (defensemen) are moving the puck,” Murray said. “They’re moving their feet, they’re part of the attack. The puck is getting into the offensive zone faster and quicker on counters and we’re catching the opposition in between; and with that you get some good cycles, offensive zone time and timely goals.
“That’s the D-men,” Murray said. “They’re getting it back, they’re moving it up, there’s no other option. Right back to the forward’s stick and away they go again to get on the hunt.”
Early in the season, the Phantoms seemed to be looking for home-run plays, passing from deep in their own zone to try for a breakaway. All too often, that pass was intercepted and turned into a shot for the other team. Now, the Phantoms are sticking to the system and working the puck up ice so they have a full attack.
The Phantoms have had a number of quick counters to the opponents’ offensive attacks, which could especially be seen in the second period Saturday night. Hershey rarely got more than one shot off after advancing into the Phantoms’ zone. Adirondack jumped on the puck and took control quickly.
Limiting shots was another thing Murray stressed even before the Phantoms stepped on the ice at training camp. He said they needed to cut back on scoring chances, especially grade-A chances (those taken in the space between the face-off dots and the net), in order to have a chance.
That’s exactly what the Phantoms are now doing. Even spending much of the third period Saturday in their defensive zone, the Phantoms limited the Bears to eight shots. That was only one more shot than the previous period, which Adirondack spent largely on offense.
“We just try to block some shots, get the puck out of our end and keep the forwards to the outside,” said defenseman Erik Gustafsson. “When they’re taking shots from the outside, it’s going to be easier for (Scott Munroe) to make the saves, and then we can clear out any rebounds that come out.”
The defensemen are also getting involved more offensively. In Gustafsson’s case, it’s happening on the power play, where he is now the only defenseman on the power-play unit. Overall the defensemen are a little more willing to shoot, which can create rebound chances like Danny Syvret did for Tyler Brown’s game-winner Saturday night. That’s another thing Murray wanted to see.
When it comes down to it, creating offense is about getting the puck, moving it up the ice and taking shots. The Phantoms are doing all three and the defensemen are creating opportunities.
“That’s about hard work, that’s about pride,” Murray said. “That’s all defense is, you take a lot of pride in what you’re doing. You work extra hard to get in shot lanes, block shots, get sticks on pucks, get sticks in shooting lanes. When you’re committed to that as a group, that’s when you see the results we’ve had in the past couple games.”