Saturday, September 27, 2014

PPL Center christened with intra-squad Flyers/Phantoms game

Thanks to the LV Phantoms
That selected members of the Flyers and Phantoms played an intra-squad exhibition game wasn't important.

What makes Saturday evening's contest a milestone, is that it was the first-ever hockey event inside the new PPL Center in downtown Allentown.

For the first time, minor-league hockey was on display to the Lehigh Valley and a sellout crowd of more than 8,000 fans saw Team Orange best Team White by a 5-3 count.

"I think this is a hockey place. It's a hockey city. I'm not surprised at all that the crowd was as energetic and full as it was today," noted Phantoms head coach Terry Murray. "They're telling us they want more of it and we're ready to get going."

It was a strange contest played under unique circumstances. Unlike previous Flyers-Phantoms preseason games, both sides were a mixture of players from either team. In addition, in the third period, new rules set to debut in the American Hockey League were followed -- such as the odd 4-on-4 reduced to a 3-on-3 which will be part of the overtime process.

Nonetheless, the assembled gathering, which included Flyers team President Paul Holmgren, GM Ron Hextall, Chris Pryor and Kjell Samuelsson, got their money and time's worth.

Michael Raffl and Jason Akeson posted back-to-back goals in the second period to stake Orange to the lead and Taylor Leier added another marker to provide a 3-1 edge by the end of the second period, with Brandon Alderson picking up another tally.

Chris VandeVelde added an empty-net tally for the winning side late in regulation.

Brett Flemming, a defenseman who was a key piece of the Reading Royals' 2013 Kelly Cup winners while an affiliate of the Capitals, lit the lamp for the White. Petr Straka also hit the net and former Union College forward Matt Hatch provided the other score for the losing side, coming with two minutes to play in the third.

"The lineups were forwarded to us. They balanced it to be exciting and it was," Murray offered.

Both sides had to hold their breath as Leier and goaltender Anthony Stolarz collided with 11:50 to play, and the sizeable Stolarz was slow to arise from the ice. The former Nebraska-Omaha and London Knights goaltender surrendered three goals on 12 shots in the second period. 

For the Flyers, this proved to be a nice little diversion in their legitimate exhibition slate, which continues at Prudential Center tomorrow night against the Devils.

The Phantoms' first-ever official preseason home game is slate for this coming Wednesday against new division foe and old rivals, the Hershey Bears. The puck drops on the Phantoms' 2014-15 home schedule on October 17 against the Adirondack Flames. 

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