ALLENTOWN, PA – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were flying high after a 7-2 win over the Hershey Bears on Saturday night but got brought back down to earth Sunday afternoon. Losing in Hartford to the Wolf Pack by a final of 2-1 in a shootout, the Phantoms picked up three out of a possible four standings points on the weekend. Danick Martel got his fourth goal of the season just two games in, but Adam Tambellini scored in regulation and the shootout for Hartford.
Tambellini’s goal came a little under halfway through the first, on a power play with Phantoms defenseman TJ Brennan off for a slashing minor. Hartford moved the puck well on their man advantage, setting up the perfect play to beat Alex Lyon. Joe Whitney came in from the point with the puck to the top of the near side circle. He looked poised to shoot but fooled everyone by going cross-ice to the bottom of the far side circle to Tambellini. He tapped a one-timer past an outstretched Lyon, making it 1-0 Hartford to open the scoring.
Danick Martel would not let that lead stand for long, staying red hot to open this very young season. Martel’s goal came with 2:07 left on the opening frames clock, firing a shot top shelf past Chris Nell off a faceoff won by Mike Vecchione. The tally proved to be the 5th goal and 7th and 8th point for the Martel, Vecchione, and Nic Aube-Kubel line (5G, 3A), who have dominated play in the early season. Both teams would head to the locker room looking to try to swing the momentum in a tied game.
Both teams came out and put up double-digit shots in the second, but both goalies, Chris Nell and Alex Lyon held strong to keep it tied. The Phantoms earned the only power play of the frame, as Brandon Crawley went off for boarding 12:51 into the period. Lehigh Valley was unable to connect, and the game remained tied. Lyon ended the period with 13 saves and 22 for the game to that point, as Nell made 10 saves to equal Lyons 22 for the game.
It was more of the same in the third period, with both goalies making sure their teams had a chance to win the game. Each team ended up with a power play, but again Lyon (10 saves) and Nell(6 saves) proved to be the difference makers. The game headed to overtime tied at 1, where Hartford would take control. The Wolf Pack got the only three shots of the extra session, but Lyon remained tall in goal and keeping it a tie game. The game would have to be decided in a shootout.
Lyon stopped Matt Puempel in the first round and forced Joe Whitney to miss in the second. Nell robbed Corban Knight in the first with his glove and gave Oskar Lindblom no room in the second as Lindblom hit post. It came down to the third round of the best of three. Hartford sent out their only goal scorer in Tambellini, and he methodically moved in on Lyon. Lyon came out to meet him with a poke check, but Tambellini deked around it and potted the puck into the yawning cage to give the Wolf Pack the edge. The Phantoms hopes rested with forward Phil Verone to keep the game alive. Varone started wide on Nell and came rushing toward the middle of the ice. He tried to beat Nell to the blocker side, but he got stopped and Hartford gained the extra standings point.
Lehigh Valley only managed one goal Sunday after putting up a touchdown Saturday night, showing just how back to backs can affect an offense. That’s not taking away anything from Chris Nell’s performance in net, as the rookie made 28 saves in regulation and another 3 in the shootout in his professional debut.
The Phantoms ended up going 0/3 on the power play for the second straight night, making them 0/6 on the year. That’s something they’ll have to improve upon, as their power play ended 5th in the league last year (20.7%).
3rd-LVP G Alex Lyon (35 saves on 36 shots, SOL)
2nd-HWP G Chris Nell (28 saves on 29 shots, W)
1st-HWP LW Adam Tambellini (1G, GWG in the shootout)
Lehigh Valley returns to action this weekend, as they open a home and home series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Friday night in Wilkes-Barre, and then Saturday night in Allentown is where those rivalry matchups will take place.