Lehigh Valley came into Friday night’s game looking to rebound from a 4-2 loss on Wednesday night in Syracuse, a game in which they totaled 50 shots on goal. It was performance they nearly repeated.
The Phantoms tallied an impressive 48 shots on Linus Ullmark and Chris Conner’s second period tally lead them to a 4-2 victory at the PPL Center.
Things didn’t start out well for Lehigh Valley. They almost went down three minutes into the game as Brady Austin hit the post off a face, and it was a sign of things to come. Just over two minutes later, they trailed 1-0. Off of a another offensive zone draw, Justin Bailey collected an Evan Rodrigues rebound off the end boars and curled it around the post at 5:18.
Just over four minutes later, the Phantoms’ deficit would increase as Nick Baptiste would pot his league-leading 11th goal of the season on a wrist shot from the near circle. Assists went to Cal O’Reilly and Cole Schneider.
Daniel Catenacci took a cross checking call at 13:21, and it lead to a fantastic chance for the Phantoms to eat into the lead. Greg Carey found himself on a mini breakaway, but Ullmark flashed his pad.
The Phantoms would eventually tie the game with 12 seconds left in the period on Travis Sanheim’s first goal of the season. As he exited the Penalty box, he took a tap pass from Conner in the neutral Zone and broke in all alone, beating Ullmark five-hole. It was the second pro goal of his carrer, as he had scored one with Lehigh Valley while on an Amateur tryout late last season.
Lehigh Valley imposed their will in the second, and turned the game around. The Phantoms pushed the offensive pace, and it paid off. Greg Carey collected his 11th of the season off a faceoff. Andy Miele won the draw to Carey, who kicked the puck to his stick and ripped a slapper to the top corner at 5:08.
27 seconds later, the Phantoms would take the lead when Conner drove down the wing and put a shot on net that Ullmark couldn’t control. Miele collected the rebound and chipped it over Ullmark’s leg.
Things got physical in the third. Daniel Muzito-Bazenga boarded a Phantom along the bench and a melee ensued. Sam Morin pulled Mike Aviani out of a pile and pummeled him at center ice. 22 seconds after that, Cole Schneider pulled the score to one. A point shot by Casey Nelson took a double deflection and landed on Schneider’s stick and he popped it into the net.
The Phantoms had a brilliant chance with 4:15 left, with Ullmark making a windmill glove save on Conner from the slot. The Amerks pulled their goalie with 90 seconds left but were unable to tie the game thanks to Alex Lyon.
Notes: Earlier Saturday, the Phantoms assigned Steven Swavely and Maxim LaMarche to the Reading Royals, and recalled Forward Kevin Sundher. Sundher wound up being the team’s only healthy scratch. Defenseman Mark Alt has begun skating with the team, albeit in a non-contact capacity. He should be ready to return shortly after the new year.
Impressions: What looked like a walk-over victory after two periods wound up being a lot closer than it should have been. The power play started to click again, which is good, considering they had hit a bit of a mini slump.
3 Stars: 3) RCH-Cole Schneider (Goal, Assist)
2) LV-Andy Miele (Goal, Assist)
1) LV-Chris Conner (Goal, 2 Assists)
Up Next: It’s a short turnaround as these teams have a rematch at PPL Center Saturday at 7:05.