ALLENTOWN, PA – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were only shutout three times in 76 games last season. Wednesday night they were shutout for the second time in just 21 games this season, dropping a tilt with the Binghamton Devils 3-0. Ken Appleby made just 25 saves to secure the win, earning his third win of the season. Alex Lyon continued his struggles in this young campaign, making only 21 saves on 24 shots in the losing effort.
Early on, the Phantoms defense helped their goaltender out, limiting the Devils to just nine shots in the first period, and holding off two Binghamton power plays. The Devils returned the favor though, seemingly able to get their sticks into ever Phantom passing lane, breaking up odd-man chances and centering passes at will. Lehigh Valley also went 0-for on the power play in the first, missing on their only opportunity and registering just seven shots on Appleby.
For the most part, the second period was more of the same. Lehigh Valley was limited to seven shots for the second straight period and held off the board again, despite having two power play chances. The Phantoms held the Devils to just seven shots as well heading into the final minute of the period.
Still scoreless, it looked like the game was going to go to the third still tied at zero. But, with time was winding down in the middle frame, Devils forward Kevin Rooney came flying up the far side into the Phantoms zone on a line rush, skated into the top of the far circle and centered a pass to a streaking Jacob MacDonald. MacDonald then veered to his right and shot back to his left, beating Lyon through the five-hole to get Binghamton the games first goal with just 30 seconds showing on the clock before intermission.
That late second period goal seemed to be the dagger, as Lehigh Valley came out flat in the third. They would put up a game-high 11 shots in the period, using two power plays to try to take momentum back. Even though the Phantoms played poorly on offense, they held the Devils to just seven shots again in the final frame. The issue was, two of those found the back of the net. The first came off another assist from Rooney, who used a beautiful play down below the goal line to get the tally. Rooney used a burst of speed to get behind the net and came up to the goal line on the other side, before being pushed back by the Phantoms defense. He turned toward going back behind the net but backhanded the puck toward a leaning Lyon. Somehow, the puck deflected off Lyon’s goalie stick and found its way to the back of the net, giving the Devils a 2-0 lead.
Their third goal was another beautiful play, with Joe Blandisi scoring on a breakaway to ice the game. Blandisi came flying through the neutral zone after picking up the puck along the nearside wall and got into a foot race with Mark Alt toward the front of the net. Blandisi cut across the ice going right to left, and Alt could not catch up. Skating to the left of the net, Blandisi was able to pick the top right corner of the should of a sliding Lyon to make it 3-0. The goal would cap a chess match between the two teams that, despite maybe not having control of some areas of it, came out in Binghamton’s favor where it counted.
As previously stated, this game was just the fifth time over the last 97 games the Phantoms have played that they have been shutout. Oddly enough, the other four shutouts have come against one team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, on March 25 (4-0), April 1 (3-0), April 7 (3-0), and October 13 (5-0). Lehigh Valley’s offense lead the league in goals for last season with 260. They are currently in 3rd in the league with 73 goals for through their 21 games this season, averaging 3.47 goals a game.
3rd: BNG #23 Jacob MacDonald(1G, 1A, +2)
2nd: BNG #41 Ken Appleby(25 save shutout)
1st: BNG #21 Kevin Rooney(1G, 1A,)
They will look to get that potent offense back on track this weekend, with two big games coming up. Friday, they host their arch rival the Hershey Bears on Superhero Night at PPL Center. Then Saturday, its Teddy Bear toss night against the Laval Rocket, who are visiting the Lehigh Valley for the first time.