BRIDGEPORT, CT — If the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have had one nemesis this season, it’s been the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. They had not beaten them in four games this season, including a 5-2 loss on November 19th that snapped their franchise record eight-game winning streak.
Thanks to Danick Martel (pictured) scored the winner in the third and Martin Ouellette made 19 saves in his first start of the season to lead the Phantoms to a 3-2 win Sunday afternoon at Webster Bank Arena.
Things looked good in the first, as they outshot the Sound Tigers 14-3 and jumped out to a two-goal lead in the first. Taylor Leier took a home run pass from Corban Knight at 8:51. It was Leier’s sixth of the season.
Less than five minutes later, the Phantoms struck again less than five minutes later on Captain Colin McDonald’s league leading 11th goal of the season at 12:07.
Corban Knight sent a feed from behind the net and he found McDonald in the slot. McDonald didn’t miss, as he chipped the puck past Bridgeport goalie Stephon Williams. The Phantoms had a pair of late power plays in the period, although unable to capitalize, their best chance came with 2:12 left when Travis Sanheim was stopped from center point.
In the second, to say the periods were turned would be an understatement. The Sound Tigers came out and were the aggressors, putting Lehigh Valley on their heels for much of the stanza.
While an early power play just over five minutes in didn’t produce the desired result, Bridgeport evened the game with two goals 51 seconds apart in the middle of the period. First, Travis St. Denis got his fourth of the season and fourth goal of the weekend at 10:17.
Martin Ouellette gave up a juicy rebound of a Scott Mayfield shot that found St. Denis parked in the slot and he put the puck home. Michael Dal Colle picked up the secondary assist.
Then, a Chris Conner hooking penalty 14 seconds would allow the Sound Tigers to tie the game. Ryan Pulock, on a conditioning assignment from the New York Islanders, found 38-year old Bracken Kearns in the slot and he one-timed the puck home for his eighth tally of the season.
Robert Hagg would make a brilliant play to find Martel in the slot at 7:40. Hagg drew a Bridgeport defender to him and slid the puck to the second year player, who fired the puck home.
The Phantoms would have a late power play with 5:01 remaining but were unable to convert, marking the first time in four games that Lehigh Valley failed to capitalize with a man-advantage.
The Sound Tigers nearly tied it as time expired after Sam Morin took a hooking penalty with eight seconds remaining. With the goalie pulled, it gave Bridgeport a six on four advantage. Bridgeport won the faceoff, and Pulock boomed a one-timer that was deflected by veteran Stephen Gionta who was screening Ouellette, but the puck skittered wide, and the clock ran out.
Notes: Radel Fazleev was initially listed as a healthy scratch, but when the game started, he was dressed and for unknown reasons, Andy Miele was scratched. Prior to this weekend, Miele had missed 10 consecutive games with an unspecified injury. Dating back to last season, Martin Ouellette had a shutout streak of 155:37 that was snapped with the St. Denis goal.
Impressions: This game looked exactly as you might imagine when both teams have played three games in less than 72 hours. From a mental standpoint, Lehigh Valley needed this game, because if there was a team that had their number, it was Bridgeport. This was also an opportune time to rest Alex Lyon, and while he wasn’t severely tested, Ouellette looked strong.
3) LV-Corban Knight (2 Assists)
2) BPT-Travis St. Denis (Goal)
1) LV-Danick Martel (Game-Winning Goal)
Up Next: Lehigh Valley closes out this three-game road set when the travel to Syracuse, NY to face the Crunch Wednesday at 7:05.