Phantoms Drop 2-1 in Front of a Huge Philadelphia Crowd
Ever since moving from Philadelphia to upstate New York, the Phantoms came back to Philadelphia once a year to treat their former fans with some minor league hockey.
This year, they hosted the Wilkes-Barre Penguins in front of 19,561 hockey fans. That number was good for the seventh highest attendance ever at an American Hockey League game.
The crowd was loud and boisterous, just like any other Philadelphia crowd at a hockey game.
"It’s always great to come back to Philadelphia especially to play hockey," said Phantoms coach Terry Murray. "It’s a great hockey city. It’s a great atmosphere, great environment all the time. When you come into this building in particular there is no better place in the hockey world than to play in Philadelphia."
The players for the Phantoms ate it up too, reveling in the chance to play in front of such a large crowd.
“It was unbelievable," said Phantoms center Ian Slater. "It’s tough to even put in words to play in front of a crowd and fans that are so willing to show up for the farm club like this and it was unbelievable energy. We have some of the best fans. Unbelievable experience.”
The fans unfortunately went home disappointed as their team, much like the big club, had a poor third period which cost them the game.
The Phantoms jumped out a 1-0 lead in the first period.
Prospect Marcel Noebels scored on the power play at the 9:59 mark of the period. Matt Mangene and former Flyer Danny Syvret were noted with the helpers.
Penguins goalie Brad Thiessen tightened up after that goal to stop 29 of 30 shots for the win.
The Phantoms also took their foot off the pedal in the second period, getting only three shots all period on Thiessen. Slater even dropped the gloves in hopes to light a spark on the bench.
“Yeah. I mean I don’t know I don’t do it to fulfill any individual need, but everything you try to do out there for the boys and bring some energy to the bench,” Slater said.
The man Slater fought was Bobby Farnham, and it sparked both Farnham and the rest of his team as well.
The Penguins finally got on the board with 6:26 remaining in the third period. Farnham beat Phantoms goalie Cal Heeter to tie the game up 1-1, ending the 24-year-old's shutout bid.
Heeter then coughed up the eventual winner less than two minutes later. Brian Gibbons potted the goal with 4:39 left in the game, leading the Penguins to the road win.
"Heeter played great for us all night," said defenseman Brandon Manning. "We need to help our goalies more and it’s hard to win games when you only score one goal. That’s something we need to keep building on and finding."
It was especially frustrating for the Phantoms because they controlled most the momentum during the game. And while sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 20-26-2 record this late in the season, Murray has started looking at the moral victories to help his team's confidence.
"There is lots of time for moral victories, absolutely," Murray said. "That’s part of the process of growing up and becoming a good pro-player. You have to celebrate the little things. There is lots of good things that happened in this game. We are becoming more of a consistent, young group of players here."
Another moral victory Murray took from this game was the opportunity to play in front of such a large crowd. Some of the players like Noebels and Manning will have the opportunity to play in Philadelphia one day (Manning has already).
"I was really happy for the young guys to be to play in that kind of environment." Murray added. "It’s tremendous for them, the experience they are now going to take out of this game as far as handling the focus, handling the pressure, handling the responsibility of coming out and playing well."