Phantoms hold another successful Teddy Bear Toss
Connor Bunnaman, left, and Carter Hart pose with a giant teddy bear Saturday night. The Phantoms held Teddy Bear Toss that evening with 7,148 stuffed animals being thrown on the ice. PHOTO COURTESY OF JustSports Photography
In the grand scheme of things, Connor Bunnaman’s second goal of the season wasn’t one that will be extremely memorable.
His goal put the Phantoms up 1-0 in a game that they would wind up losing 4-2 to the Cleveland Monsters.
What “Bunny” did with his goal, though, was launch an avalanche of stuffed teddy bears and other assorted animals onto the ice as part of the Phantoms annual Teddy Bear Toss.
When the fur stopped flying, there were a Phantoms record 7,148 stuffed animals tossed by fans to be given to Valley Youth House, who will distribute the animals to needy children across the Lehigh Valley. The number topped the previous high for the Phantoms, which was 4,970 and was set last season. The number has grown each season of the Phantoms’ existence, starting with 1,728 in 2014 up to its current level.
“It’s a good feeling,” said Bunnaman later. “We had a good crowd tonight and they support the Teddy Bear Toss really well. I don’t know how many teddy bears were out on the ice tonight, but it sure was a lot.”
The Phantoms played a listless game of hockey last Wednesday against Cleveland, but looked better, although not overly sharp, against the Monsters Saturday night. Sandwiched between the two losses was a home-ice win Friday over the Hershey Bears that saw AHL rookie Carter Hart pick up his first professional shutout
The 20-year-old Hart made 26 saves, some of them being very acrobatic saves, and all of them were important in the 1-0 win over Hershey.
“I’m following the puck, my body kind of goes with it,” said Hart. “I’m just trying to stay on top of the puck and track down the puck, just trying to play my game and play to my strengths.”
The only goal scored by Lehigh Valley was by Bunnaman, who has seen increased playing time with the roster being somewhat shortened by call-ups by the Flyers. Throughout the season, Bunnaman has seen his time on the ice see-saw depending on the size and shape of the roster.
Bunnaman finds himself playing center, which isn’t his usual spot, but he’s fit in well on a line with Greg Carey and David Kase.
“Having the opportunity to be out there with Carey and David is special and I’ve got to create every opportunity I get. It’s taken me a while to get the system down and how the game is played,” said Bunnaman after Friday’s win.
PHIL TO PHILLY ... Phil Varone, the reigning AHL Most Valuable Player and the current leading scorer on the Phantoms, was recalled by the Flyers Friday afternoon. Varone has 11 goals and 17 assists (28 points). He also led the Phantoms in scoring last season with 23 goals and 47 assists for a total of 70 points. Varone had seven goals and five assists in his last nine games with the Phantoms.
MILESTONE ... Phantoms captain Colin McDonald played in his 800th professional game last Wednesday night against Cleveland. In 12 seasons, he’s scored 178 goals and has added 215 assists for a total of 393 points.
JUST VISITING ... Flyers new GM Chuck Fletcher was in town to take in his first Lehigh Valley Phantoms game on Wednesday night. Earlier in the day he was introduced to the Philadelphia media for the first time. Unfortunately, he didn’t see much as the Phantoms played an uninspired 60 minutes of hockey in a 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Monsters.