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Family hockey rivalry takes center stage

The Phantoms Tyler Wotherspoon is just one member of the family playing in the AHL, with the other being his brother Parker Wotherspoon, who plays for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Growing up the two were generally at different levels because of a four-year age difference. Their paths diverged even further as they got older and even through junior hockey, the two never got to play against each other.

Tyler, 26, was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the second round of the 2011 NHL Draft and 22-year old Parker was selected by the Islanders in the fourth round of the 2015 Draft.

With Tyler signing with the Flyers last summer, the odds of the two facing off became much better and it nearly happened in the preseason this year, but a late scratch kept the two from being on the ice together. With Tyler playing for Lehigh Valley and Parker on the Sound Tigers roster, it was only a matter of time. Both circled the first weekend in November when Bridgeport and Lehigh Valley were matched up in a pair of games and the opportunity finally arose.

In their first meeting Nov. 2, not only did the brothers skate against each other, but they both nearly scored a goal. Tyler put a shot on goal that may have wound up in the back of the net, but Nicolas Aube-Kubel redirected the shot to be sure, giving Tyler Wotherspoon the assist and the Phantoms a one-goal lead. Late in the game, Parker got his chance, but goaltender J-F Berube came up with a big save to preserve the Phantoms lead and give the older brother bragging rights.

“I’ll ride that one for a while,” said Tyler Wotherspoon with a laugh. “I’m glad we got the win. I got a one-up on him right now.”

Tyler Wotherspoon reached the NHL with Calgary in 2013 and spent four seasons going back-and-forth between the AHL and the NHL, playing in 30 games with the Flames. Following the 2017-2018 season, he signed with the St. Louis Blues, but spent the entire season with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage before signing with Philadelphia last July.

“It’s been an easy transition for me, just kind of come in and get my bearings and really just focus on my game,” Tyler said recently about coming to the Flyers. “I’ve really enjoyed it here so far, they treat us really well, and I’m excited for the rest of the year.”

The transition has been made even easier for the elder Wotherspoon brother when he was paired with Reece Wilcox on the same Phantoms line this season. The two have similar styles and relate well to each other on the ice.

“We’re great compliments to each other,” Tyler said of Willcox. “I think we are both kind of defense-first defensemen but we move the puck well. We think similarly and he’s an easy guy to play with, so moving forward we just have to stick to what we’ve been doing and we’ll have a lot of success.”

As for being one-up on his younger brother, it didn’t last long. When the two teams met the following night, Parker Wotherspoon picked up an assist on the game-winning goal in the third period to give the two brothers both a game-winning assist in the two games. But, Parker had another assist earlier in the game, giving him an advantage in the head-to-head play. Provided the two stick with their respective teams, they will see each other again Feb. 14 when Bridgeport comes to the PPL Center.

“It was a cool experience - a lot of fun,” Tyler said of playing against his brother. “You just kind of treat it like any other game though. Go out and play your game. I’ll be able to look back and remember that night, so it was a cool experience.”

FROSTING THE OPPOSITION... Morgan Frost continued his big season for Lehigh Valley Sunday when he scored his team-leading fifth goal in a 3-2 shootout loss against Hershey. Frost has either a goal or an assist in nine of his last 10 games this season and also leads the Phantoms in assists with seven in 13 games.

UPS AND DOWNS... The Flyers sent German Rubtsov to the Phantoms last Wednesday and recalled Mikhail Vorobyev at the same time. On Friday, Vorobyev was back with Lehigh Valley and brought Andy Andreoff back to Philadelphia. In another move, James de Haas rejoined the Phantoms from the Reading Royals Sunday prior to their game against Hershey.