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Phantoms 3, Manchester 1: ?We?re still right there?

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  • Phantoms 3, Manchester 1: ?We?re still right there?

    There didn’t figure to be much scoring in this game. We all know the Phantoms aren’t the second coming of the Washington Capitals. And Manchester is one of the league’s better defensive teams, keyed by goalie Jonathan Bernier, who came in with a two-game shutout streak.

    The game played to type, but unlike the last seven days when the Phantoms lost one-goal games against Norfolk, Rochester and Wilkes-Barre despite outshooting them, they came out on top.

    The above quote is from Phantoms captain Jared Ross, who has looked rejuvenated the last few games playing with Mika Pyorala. Here’s the full version:

    “We haven’t played our best and we’re still right there. So that’s a very positive thing knowing we’re still right there and have a lot better in us.”

    And he’s right, at least about being right there. For all the teeth-gnashing we’ve done about this team at times, and rightly so, they’re in the thick of the playoff race.* If they can find any momentum at all they can still salvage this season. The real question is can this team find the consistency so that if they get in they can actually do something.

    My game story focused a bit on how well the Ross line with Andreas Nodl and Pyorala has been clicking. Not sure if it will stay together when Stefan Legein returns from his bout with the flu bug.

    DID YOU NOTICE?

    – Garret Klotz fought Kevin Westgarth? If you followed the Phantoms last year, you know that’s a rematch of a fight last year where Klotz fell, struck his head on the ice, and had a seizure. I won’t link to the video, but it’s all over the internet if you really want to see it. Scary stuff.

    – Johan Backlund’s save to start the third period? It didn’t get much of a crowd reaction, maybe because people weren’t back in their seats yet or it just happened too quickly. But he slid across on a 3-on-1 and made a stop off his helmet. What else can you say about this guy? He’s great almost every night.

    – Jon Matusmoto’s empty-net goal was his first in nine games? He had cooled a bit of late, but still leads the team in points. He’s now tied for the lead in goals. That was Matsumoto’s fourth empty-netter of the season.

    – Joonas Lehtivuori’s nice poke-check to break up a 1-on-1 rush in the first period? He’s really becoming a confident player. Notice how many times Friday he rapped his stick on the ice calling for the puck to shoot? I don’t remember that happening in November.

    – Kevin Marshall break his stick on a big shot after a perfect drop pass? I thought for sure that was a goal.

    QUOTES:

    Jared Ross

    More on still being in the playoff race, despite not playing well:

    “I think we started progressively playing better through the whole season. Even though right now we’re at .500 there’s been some games I felt like we could have won. Once we start scoring some more goals and keep getting the goaltending we’ve been getting, I think we’re gong get above .500 and be in the playoffs.”

    On his chemistry with Pyorala and Nodl:

    “We’ve been talking a lot. A lot of communication on the ice. I think at this level, whoever you play with, everyone is skilled enough to work with them if you guys are talking and supporting one another. I think we’re supporting each other really well on the puck.”

    Greg Gilbert

    On the quality of the win after some recent tough, close losses:

    “It was a big win for us. The guys battled hard to a man. We did outchance them, we outshot them, but still if we can bury a couple more, we’re getting Grade-A chances and not finishing. If we can go that maybe it will be a little more than a one-goal game. But I thought we played pretty hard both ways. Bernier played well and Backs played well for us.”

    On the developing chemistry between Ross, Pyorala and Nodl:

    “You’ve got two lefthanded shots, Mika is playing the off-side I’m sure he’s used to that. It’s good to see. They work well together.They read off each other well and that’s what chemistry is all about. When you do that good things usually happen.”

    On the Phantoms’ discipline (they took just two minor penalties):

    “There’s nothing wrong with hard-hitting games, but those hooking and slashing penalties are penalties usually taken because you’re in bad position. I thought we did a real good job of not exposing ourselves and putting ourselves in position to take penalties.”

    LINEUP

    Lines: Maroon/Matsumoto/Laliberte; Nodl/Ross/Pyorala; Ward/Kalinski/Dingle; Klotz/Beaulieu/Bellamy.

    D-pairs: Lehtivuori/Mormina; Bodrov/Bourdon; Marshall/Stephenson.

    Scratches: Healthy: Clackson, Curry, Sloane; Injured: Legein (flu), Kolanos (mid-body).

    That’s all I have. What did you all think?

    – Tim



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