ALLENTOWN, PA – Missing two of their top players and coming off a walkover 5-0 win over the Binghamton Senators on Wednesday, nobody quite knew what to expect on Friday at PPL Center. Taylor Leier missed his fourth consecutive game to injury, and Jordan Weal was called up earlier in the day by Philadelphia, so the Phantoms had holes to fill when the St. John’s IceCaps rolled into Allentown.
None of that mattered as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms took a thrilling 4-2 victory.
It wasn’t all roses, however. The Phantoms came out sluggish, not registering their first shot of the game until more than 12 minutes into the contest. On the other side, St. John’s reeled off the first seven shots and got the games first goal at 8:40.
Just after a power play expired and off of a faceoff, Daniel Audette found Julien Brouillette at the point and he fired a shot that Bobby Farnham tipped at the left post past Phantoms’ netminder Anthony Stolarz, who was making his first start since surrendering seven goals to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last Saturday.
A little more than four minutes later, Travis Sanheim’s notched his eighth goal of the season, tying the game at one. Using a slick move to keep the play alive at the blue line, Sanheim floated a shot that eluded St. John’s goalie Charlie Lindgren.
With 5:04 left in the frame, some controversy surrounded what everyone thought was the goal that gave the Phantoms the lead. Cole Bardreau made minimal contact with Lindgren, and the goaltender scrambled out of the play, enabling Chris McCarthy to score his first in a Lehigh Valley uniform, however, the referees conferenced and determined that Bardreau’s contact was interference, so the goal came off the board.
The teams went to the locker room knotted at one, with the visitors leading in shots 7-4.
A misplayed puck at the Lehigh Valley offensive blue line gave the IceCaps the lead seconds into the middle period. Robert Hagg fumbled a puck coming down the wall, and Charles Hudon broke in two on one, beating Stolarz upstairs over the glove hand.
A busted exit pass by the IceCaps enabled the Phantoms to tie the game late in the period. Brett Lernout had the puck behind the net, but defensive pressure from Andy Miele caused a rushed pass, right to the stick of Greg Carey. Carey lasered a pass to the back door, finding Chris Conner on the power play for his 14th of the season.
In the third, St. John’s was just trying to hold on as the Phantoms had all the momentum. Lernout tackled Conner on a breakaway midway through the period, leading to a penalty shot. Lindgren left his five-hole wide open, but his athleticism allowed him to stop him with the right pad.
It didn’t matter, though, as Conner would get his revenge minutes later.
A Andy Miele shot was blocked out to Mark Alt, who wired the puck on net from the top of the left circle. Conner snuck around the back of the net and tipped the shot just inside the left post past Lindgren’s glove.
Cole Bardreau chopped a length of the ice, mid-air pass from Hagg with 1:01 left to add some insurance.
Notes: Conner and Scott Laughton collided early in the seconded. Conner popped right up, while Laughton labored to the bench. He played a couple more shifts, then did not come out to start the third period. His status is unknown. Phantoms captain Colin McDonald returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with an unspecified injury.
3) STJ-Charlie Lindgren (33 Saves on 36 Shots)
2) LV-Cole Bardreau (Goal, Assist)
1) LV-Mark Alt (Two Assists)
Up Next: These two teams rematch at PPL Center Saturday Night at 7:05 P.M.