HERSHEY, PA – Two of the league’s top teams traded blow after blow in game three of the Atlantic Division Semifinal in Hershey. The Phantoms facing elimination by way of a 3-0 sweep bent but with some luck and a valiant effort battled back to stave off an early summer. A former Bear turned Bear killer, Chris Conner, proved to be the hero to give the Lehigh Valley Phantoms much-needed life in overtime for a huge 2-1 win.
A game of ebbs and flows by both sides finally broke open in the second period thanks to Stanislav Galiev. He picked up a Greg Carey missed shot and rushed into the Lehigh zone on a 3-on-1. He then fired the puck short side past Martin Ouellette to put the Bears up 1-0 midway through period two. Galiev who came into the playoffs without a goal in the final 14 games, now has goals in consecutive playoff games.
The Phantoms carried the better of the chances in the second forcing the Bears into uncharacteristic turnovers but they were unable to capitalize. The score remained 1-0 Hershey going into the third period.
The complexion of the game chanded just 37 seconds into the third period. Colin McDonald slapped a shot on goal with the intention of dumping the puck in. The shot somehow eluded Pheonix Copley and went in to tie the game at one apiece. A rare mental lapse for Copley who has largely been the Bears MVP since joining the club in March. It looked as though he took his eyes off it at the worst possible second and it slipped by his glove and in.
The frantic pace carried on throughout the third period. At one point, the Bears thought they scored but the ref lost sight of the puck as it sat loose in the crease and the play was blown dead before it was tapped in by Hershey. It was immediately waived off.
The phantoms once again carried the better of the play late in the third but had to weather a last second shots by Hershey to carry the game into overtime at one apiece.
It would not take long for this game to find its winner in the extra session. The Bears had good pressure and Stan Galiev threw a puck toward the goal but it was blocked by Andy Miele. The puck bounced right to Chris Conner who went off to the races all alone. Conner made no mistake and put the Phantoms back into the series with the breakaway goal and the 2-1 win. Conner had six goals against the Bears during the regular season.
Hershey will once again have the opportunity to close out the series on home ice Saturday April 29th at Giant Center. As evenly matched as tonight’s game was, it will undoubtedly be another battle if the Bears hope to advance.