ALLENTOWN, PA – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms returned home Friday night to face a desperate Hershey Bears squad. Hershey, looking to take advantage of a Bridgeport loss to the Utica Comets, needs every point they can get to cement their playoff position. Unfortunately for Hershey, their defense was as reliable as the lookout on the Titanic.
Three direct turnovers by the Bears led to three Lehigh Valley goals, capped by Corban Knight’s marker with 2:18 left in regulation, as the Phantoms started the weekend on a high note, squeaking by their Atlantic Division Rivals 3-2 at PPL Center.
The Phantoms defense did their job in the first period, holding Hershey to just five shots. If puck possession counted for points in hockey, then this game would have been over within the first 20 minutes. Pheonix Copley kept Hershey in the game, stopping all 11 shots he faced in the period, including a crucial save with 6:31 left.
The Bears left Will O’Neill unchecked at the top of the right circle, and he unleashed a one-timer that Copley was able to snare it with the glove.
It was Copley’s strong play in goal that enabled Hershey to actually take a lead to the locker room via Ryan Bourque’s second of the season with 54 seconds left. A failed clearing attempt by the Phantoms’ Travis Sanheim was picked off by Zach Sill. Sill circled the net and threw the puck to the front of the net, and Bourque was able to get a stick on it to get it past Anthony Stolarz.
Sanheim made up for his turnover just ninety seconds into the second period, thanks to a Hershey turnover. Sanheim, Knight and Greg Carey came on a three on two, and a tic-tac-toe passing sequence led to Sanheim taking a shot from the slot that beat bCopley over the left pad. The goal was the rookie defenseman’s 9th of the season.
About three minutes later, The Phantoms almost took the lead on a miscue by Hershey’s goaltender. He passed the puck from behind the net directly to Lehigh Valley’s Cole Bardreau along the goal line, but he was able to dive back and keep the puck out.
Scott Laughton’s 15th of the season would put the Phantoms’ in front, as he finished off a mini-breakaway with 7:08 left, beating Copley over the blocker.
Hershey used a power play goal to tie the game late in the third, as Paul Carey finished off a Travis Boyd feed from the left circle with 3.6 left in the middle period. Carey’s wrister beat Stolarz top shelf glove side for his 17th goal of the season.
The third period was very much controlled by the Phantoms, even though the shots were even at eight. Nothing Hershey did was enough to challenge Stolarz, let alone tie the game. It was Aaron Ness who fumbled the puck to Mark Zengerle who found Knight in the left circle to seal the game.
Notes: Danick Martel, who was injured last weekend, skated on his own Friday and may be nearing a return to the lineup. Meanwhile, Taylor Leier missed his 16th consecutive contest, having not played since the AHL All-Star Classic on January 30th.
3) LV-Travis Sanheim (Goal)
2) HER-Pheonix Copley (33 Saves)
1) LV-Corban Knight (Game-Winning Goal, Assist)
Up Next: Lehigh Valley hosts the Utica Comets tonight at 7:05.
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