ALLENTOWN, PA – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms looked lost after Friday night’s loss in Wilkes-Barre, starting their three-in-three rivalry weekend off with a 5-0 loss. They turned it back around on Saturday, beating those same WBS Penguins 3-2 at home at PPL Center. Sunday night they traveled to Hershey to try to finish the weekend with four of the possible six points they could have earned on the tough weekend against their two biggest rivals.
The Phantoms ended up escaping Hershey with a 4-3 shootout win over the Bears, earning those two points they desperately needed. Despite not being able to solve their special teams woes, going 0/7 on the power play and giving up another two power-play goals against, the Phantoms improved to 3-1-1. That’s good enough for a tie for 1st in the Atlantic Division at this early point in the season.
Sunday ended up being Alex Lyon‘s third straight start, and the second yearnetminderr answered the bell early. He made saves on all seven shots he faced during the first, but his counterpart, Parker Milner, looked even more impressive. Lehigh Valley earned four man-advantage chances during the opening 20 minutes, and registered 10 shots throughout the period. Milner turned aside all 10 and kept the Phantoms power play ice cold. The game would go scoreless into the second.
It would not take Hershey long to take the lead once the teams were back out for the second, with Matt Read putting the Phantoms down a man just 5:18 in. Read got called for slashing Chris Bourque, and the Bears went to work on their first power play. Bourque would be the guy to strike on that chance, blazing down the near side into a pass from John Albert from the far wall. Bourque blasted a slap shot through the wickets of Lyon, giving the Bears the 1-0 lead. Lehigh Valley’s special teams play continued to struggle, making them one-for-two on the penalty kill to that point in the contest. Hershey would use that momentum to put up 16 shots in the period, but Lyon stood tall, only allowing Bourque’s power play marker to beat him. The Phantoms managed to get another three power plays themselves, but again Milner and the Bears PK kept them off the board despite seeing another 10 shots.
The Phantoms finally broke through in the third, using a quick strike offense that they were accustomed to last year. They managed three goals in 3:20, including two in 49 seconds. The first came in the form of defenseman Philippe Myers first professional goal. A puck in deep below the goal line got centered to the high slot by Greg Carey to Myers, who skated deeper into the zone. Myers then wired a wrister through traffic that just barely squeaked through the legs of Milner to tie the game. Then 49 seconds later, Nic Aube-Kubel firing one that also just snuck through Milner. Aube-Kubel took a cross-ice pass from Mikhail Vorobyev on a 2-on-1 and fired that wrister that snuck through Milner’s pads to give Lehigh Valley the lead. The final goal came in the form of a laser from Danick Martel. He came flying down the far side wall and rifled one top shelf past the glove of Milner, making it 3-1. The goal marked Martels fourth tally of the year against Hershey, and his league-leading fifth of the season.
Lehigh Valley’stwo-goall lead would not last long however, as a Bears defenseman matched Myers with his first professional goal just 28 seconds after Martels tally. Jonas Siegenthaler was that blueliner, ripping a shot topshelf past Lyon from the high slot to cut the lead in half. Then, the Phantoms fell apart. Mark Alt went off for a trip at the 10:25 mark, giving Hershey their third power play, the Phantoms killed it off, but gave Hershey more momentum down just one. Then Martel took an interference minor at the 15:53 mark, and gave Hershey exactly what they needed. It took them almost the entire man advantage, but Colby Williams finally got a one timer past Lyon with 2:30 to go in regulation. Travis Boyd, who was deep in the Lehigh Valley zone, got the puck back up to the point to Bourque. Bourque then slid a pass cross ice to Williams, who unloaded to tie the game. That marked the second power play goal against the Phantoms on Sunday, and their seventh given up on 23 times shorthanded this season.
The game would go to overtime, and the Phantoms would have a chance to end it, earning their seventh power play of the evening. They again would fail to convert, making their power play just 1-for-26 on the year (3.8%) and 0-for-7 on the day. Both teams would have decent chances, but Milner and Lyon would keep it tied again and force the game to be decided in a shootout.
In the first round, Hershey would send out Wayne Simpson and the Phantoms would tap Corban Knight. Simpson ended up getting stopped by Lyon, while Knight got stopped by the post behind Milner. The second round saw Chandler Stephenson get the shot for Hershey, while Mike Vecchione got the call for Lehigh Valley. Lyon again would make a save and stop Stephenson, while Veccione would never get a shot of as he lost control of the puck. It all came down to the final round of the shootout, Hershey would send Travis Boyd, who has been a Phantoms killer in the past, out. Lyon had to sprawl out to make an unbelievable pad stop, but he kept Hershey off the board. Lehigh Valley decided to counter with their own weapon of choice, Chris Conner, who has been a thorn in Hershey’s side since leaving the Bears. He skated in on Milner, deked him out of position, and slid home the game winner through the fivehole to win the game.
The goal marked Conner’s second straight game-winner at the Giant Center, as he scored the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 4 of last year’s playoff series to force Game 5 back in Allentown.
While escaping with the two points capitalizing on another huge performance from Alex Lyon, Lehigh Valley still has a lot to work on. Even though they are 3-1-1, their power play and penalty kill have been harming them greatly. They are just 1-for-26 on their power play, which is 27th in the league. Their penalty kill is not much better, giving up seven goals on 23 times short-handed. That’s a 69.6% success rate, which just is not good enough to keep staying competitive.
They’ll have until Friday during practice to correct those issues, as they face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers that night at PPL Center. The Sound Tigers have the 18th ranked power play(15.4%) and 20th ranked penalty kill (80%). Those matchups should be very interesting to watch come Friday.
3rd: LVP LW Danick Martel (1G, 1A)
2nd: HER LW Chris Bourque (1G, 2A)
1st: VP LW Chris Conner(Shootout Winner)