ALLENTOWN, PA – If you looked at the media notes for tonight’s game between the Hartford Wolf Pack and Lehigh Valley Phantoms, you would think this would be a walkover for the Phantoms. After all, Hartford came into this game having won just five of their first 18, while Lehigh Valley has lost just four times in their first 7 games. Only one of those five wins was on the road.
That one win? October 21st in Allentown at PPL Center.
Magnus Hellberg (pictured) made 31 saves, and the Wolf Pack used three different goal scorers to win Saturday night.
Things started badly for the Phantoms right from the opening faceoff, as Niclas Jensen got his seventh of the season when he swooped down the right wing, cut to the slot, and put the puck in a yawning cage after Alex Lyon failed to connect on a pokecheck. Assists went to Justin Fontaine and Cristoval Nieves.
25 seconds after a Mat Bodie holding penalty expired, the Wolf Pack would extend their lead at 7:36. A point shot from Ryan Graves squirted through Lyon, and before he could find it, Matt Carey crashed the net and got the easy tap in of a puck that was lying in the crease.
The Wolf Pack would go up by three early in the second when Chris Brown would deflect a blast from the far point by Bodie past Lyon at 6:22. The power play gosal was also assisted by Fontaine, his second point of the night.
After the goal, Lehigh Valley had a great flurry of chances midway through the period when Greg Carey was stopped in succession by Hellberg. After that, T.J. Brennan had a great chance on a point shot but Hellberg was equal to the task there, too.
Lehigh Valley got on the board late in the period on Sam Morin’s first goal of the season. Morin one-timed a perfect cross-ice feed from Greg Carey over Hellberg’s shoulder. The secondary assist went to Chris Conner, his tenth of the season.
Hartford shut Lehigh Valley down early in the third, holding them to a meager 3 shots in the first 10 minutes of the frame. The Phantoms best chance to get some momentum its’ way came with 7:01 left. Brennan lasered a shot pass just wide of the cage, Taylor Leier attempted to deflect it past Hellberg, but the Hartford netminder came across the crease to keep it out.
The Phantoms would pull Lyon with 2:46 left, but the Wolf Pack continually iced the puck to put a strangle on the game. Shots in the period wound up favoring Hartford 10-9.
Notes: Andy Miele remained an injury scratch, but could return Friday when the Phantoms host the Hershey Bears. Defenseman Reece Willcox was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
Impressions: Hartford did a great job, especially in the first and third period, of keeping Lehigh Valley to the outside, making it easy for Magnus Hellberg to see what was coming at him. The only other thing that stood out to me was how cold the Phantoms’ power play has gotten. After going 5 for 10 last week, they were 0-7 in three games this week.
Head Coach Scott Gordon was not happy about it after the game:
“I think the frustrating part is that we didn’t make it harder for them. Particularly our power play. We just wanna hold on to the puck. We don’t wanna shoot the puck. We’re looking for the perfect play. We have defenseman that have great shots who don’t wanna use them on the power play. We saw it tonight, we do a great job of killing the penalty, we don’t give up a shot, one point shot and it’s in the back of our net. That’s part of how you generate offense on your power play. It’s not gonna be tic-tac-toe. A lot of times those shots lead to secondary and third opportunities and that’s one area we’ve stopped generating offense …… shots out by the flanks or up top. Our power play has basically done nothing for three maybe four games now. We had that really good game in Providence where we had three power play goals, but even then they weren’t great power plays. We got a couple lucky bounces and buried some chances. We’ve gotta do a much better job, we’re spending too much time with the puck on the yellow along the boards instead of allowing ourselves to take advantage of our break out.
We shouldn’t be dumping the puck, we shouldn’t be throwing the pucks around the boards unless it’s absolutely necessary. And we’ve been doing that numerous times in the last four games. We have poor recognition of when we’ve got time and when we don’t. We’ve just been sloppy in that area.”
3) HFD-Ryan Graves (2 Assists)
2) HFD-Justin Fontaine (2 Assists)
1) HFD-Magnus Hellberg (31 Saves)
Up Next: The Phantoms travel north of the border Tuesday when they face the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum at 7 P.M.