The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were looking to creep up closer on the Atlantic Division-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night. Hosting them tonight and then traveling to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Saturday, the Phantoms could have headed to St. Johns, Newfoundland on Sunday with the division lead.

Unfortunately for them, a lineup scattered with ECHL fill-ins had other ideas. Tristan Jarry made 29 saves, and Josh ArchibaldRyan HaggertyTom Kostopoulos and Dominik Simon added goals as the Penguins picked up two crucial points on Friday night.

Things were looking great for the Phantoms in the first, as they were able to hem the Penguins in for large stretches. Sahir Gill tripped Travis Sanheim on a Phantoms rush, and a bit of puck luck got the Lehigh Valley on the board.

At the right point, Mark Zengerle threw a cross-zone pass to the left wing that nicked off the skate of the Penguins’ Jarrett Burton. That caused Jarry to hesitate for a split second, and that was enough time for Maxim LaMarche to one-time it into the net from the left circle.

About five minutes after the goal, the Phantoms nearly made the lead two when Chris Conner found Dannick Martel all alone in the slot, but Jarry got his glove on the shot. Corban Knight hit the far post from the left boards with 32 seconds left in what was Lehigh Valley’s last best chance of the period.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton may have come out flat in the first, but they positively dominated the middle frame, nearly doubling up Lehigh Valley in shots. A shorthanded goal by Josh Archibald got them off and running at 8:34. The Penguins cleared the zone, and Teddy Blueger pressured Alex Lyon who came to the near boards to play the puck. Lyon tapped the puck to T.J. Brennan, who passed the puck right to Blueger.

Blueger then found Archibald in the left circle, and his one-timer beat Lyon from the slot.

The Penguins then ratcheted up the forecheck, and it gave the Penguins the lead less than six minutes later. A Frank Corrado shot went wide, came around the back of the net and found Haggerty standing on the goal line to the left of the net. Lyon, unable to track the puck, didn’t get over in time as the shot beat him from an obscene angle.

The Phantoms were unable to get anything going, as their passes were not crisp. At times, they couldn’t get a sustainable zone entry.  Every team they did get in the Penguins’ zone, the visitors moved the puck right back out.

In the third, the Penguins used the same formula to stop the Phantoms offense. They cleared the zone in seconds anytime the Phantoms got in the zone. and midway through the period, Kevin Porter won a faceoff to Kostopoulos who wristed the puck over the glove hand of Lyon.

Porter boarded Cole Bardreau with 4:10 left. With 1:20 left in the man-advantage, Conner again found Martel alone in the slot, and again, Jarry foiled him. Simon added an empty netter with 1:12 left to close the scoring, and set what could be a feisty tone to tomorrow night’s rematch.

Three Stars:

3) WBS-Tristan Jarry (29 Saves)

2) WBS-Tom Kostopoulos (Goal)

1) WBS-Josh Archibald (Goal)

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