HERSHEY, PA – Since he arrived in Allentown ahead of last season, Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ bench boss Scott Gordon has preached discipline. On Sunday evening in Chocolate Town, a momentary lack of that discipline cost them two points in the standings.
Sam Morin (pictured) took a costly boarding penalty late in the second period, and Paul Carey scored on the ensuing power play to lead the Hershey Bears to a 3-2 victory at Giant Center.
Lehigh Valley had the best chance early on. 4:36 in, Phantoms’ Captain Colin McDonald was stoned at the edge of the crease. After Hershey’s Travis Boyd finished serving a double-minor for a high stick, Nicolas Aube-Kubel got his first of the season to give Lehigh Valley a lead at 14:38.
Off an offensive zone draw, Will O’Neill and T.J. Brennan played catch at the blueline before O’Neill threw a floater to the net. Aube-Kubel got a piece of it, and the puck went through Hershey goaltender Vitek Vanecek.
It took less than three minutes for the Bears to knot the score at one. Brad Malone broke in on a two on one with Madison Bowey and held the puck, snapping off a shot from the far faceoff dot that beat Anthony Stolarz high to the blocker side. The teams went to the locker room tied at one, with Hershey holding a 12-10 advantage in shots.
The Bears got a power play 91 seconds into the third when Travis Sanheim went off for hooking. Boyd hit the crossbar over a prone Stolarz, but the puck bounced in front of the goal line and stayed out.
Four minutes after that, a spectacular play between Boyd and Jakub Vrana. Boyd cycled the puck along the near side boards and threw as no look pass to the slot. Vrana escaped the tracking of O’Neill and put a shot off the post behind Stolarz.
Four minutes after that, an opportunistic turnover enabled Lehigh Valley to tie the game. A Hershey turnover behind the net found Greg Carey on his stomach. as he got to a knee, he tossed the puck into the slot where an open McDonald roofed the puck over Vanecek’s right shoulder.
58 seconds in the second, came the turning point of the game. Boyd had the puck in the near corner of his offensive zone when Sam Morin just clobbered him head first. Morin was only assessed a minor, but Chris Conner had taken a high-sticking call seconds before.
With under a minute left, Hershey connected on the five on three with 17 seconds left in the period. Reece Willcox lost his stick on the faceoff, giving Hershey what was effectively a five on two and a half. Vrana, who had the puck at the half wall, found Carey unguarded at the far post, and he made a slam dunk tap-in.
Lehigh Valley pushed in the third, but Vanecek was solid. Greg Carey hit the post on a two on one with Andy Miele for the Phantoms’ best chance of the stanza. With 6:18 left, Stolarz kept the Phantoms’ chances intact when he stuffed Riley Barber on a fabulous wraparound attempt.
The Phantoms’ pulled Stolarz with just over a minute left, but Hershey played keep away really well to close out the victory.
Notes: As expected, Danick Martel did not play after taking a knee on knee hit last night in Bridgeport. Petr Straka remained a healthy scratch.
Impressions: Overall, Lehigh Valley was solid Sunday evening. Though hopefully, Gordon uses the Morin board penalty as a teaching moment, because no team can survive badly timed penalties and expect to win.
★ – HER-Brad Malone (Goal)
★★ – HER-Paul Carey (Game-winning Goal)
★★★ – HER-Jakub Vrana (Goal, Assist)
Up Next: Lehigh Valley travels to Hartford on Wednesday for an 11 A.M. School day matinee with the Wolf Pack.