TORONTO, ON— The Toronto Marlies came into Tuesday night’s contest with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms looking to avenge a 7-2 loss at PPL Center on November 21st.
A couple of costly turnovers proved to be their undoing. Jordan Weal, (pictured) Chris Conner, Danick Martel, and Colin McDonald tallied goals and Alex Lyon stopped 25 shots as the Phantoms cruised to a 4-1 win and closed out their best month in their 15+ year history.
The Phantoms started slow, with Toronto controlling possession for much of the game’s first 10 minutes. Just over two minutes in, Lyon made a fantastic stop on Andreas Johnsson, who had the game’s first real scoring chance. Lehigh Valley used a strategy employed by the Hartford Wolf Pack against them on Saturday.
For the most part, the majority of Marlies shots came from the outside, enabling the young Phantoms netminder to keep a clean sheet. The Phantoms got an early power play at 11:14 when Colin Smith went off for hooking, and it took all of 12 seconds for Lehigh Valley to capitalize.
Chris Conner banged home a puck that had squirted through the pads of Toronto goalie Antoine Bibeau to make it 1-0. Helpers went to Greg Carey and Weal. Late in the period, Toronto got their best scoring chance of the frame. Kerby Rychel forced a turnover in the slot from his knees and shoveled the puck to Ty Stanton at the point, but Lyon dropped to the butterfly to make the save.
The Marlies would tie the game on a nifty deflection power play goal at 7:30 of the middle period. With Travis Sanheim in the box for hooking, Andrew Neilsen found Brendan Leipsic at the far side half wall, Leipsic blasted a shot that Johnsson tipped through Lyon for his fourth of the season and first in 12 games.
The Phantoms’ had a five-on-three power-play chance in the period, but some super solid play from Bibeau kept the game tied when Lehigh Valley possibly could have kicked down the door and busted the game open.
The Phantoms found their legs in the third, and in the process, put the game away. Mark Zengerle forced a Leipsic turnover that found it’s way to Sam Morin at the point, Morin’s wrister was deflected by Danick Martel and the puck found it’s way just inside the near post at 4:44. The goal was Martel’s fifth of the season.
Jordan Weal would put the game to bed 12 minutes later. After two Toronto defenseman got their signals crossed behind the net, the Phantoms’ leading goal scorer would take the puck, crash the net and jam the puck through Bibeau’s pads at 14:58. McDonald would add a power-play empty-netter, as Neilsen took a penalty with 1:26 remaining.
Notes: There were no lineup changes for Lehigh Valley. Andy Miele remains out due to injury but is getting close to returning to the lineup. Reece Willcox was a healthy scratch.
With Jordan Weal’s two points tonight, he is now tied for third in the AHL scoring race. He joins San Diego’s Corey Tropp and Bakersfield’s Taylor Beck in third with 19 points. They trail only Chicago’s Brad Hunt, who has 20 points, and Toronto’s Leipsic, who leads the AHL with 23.
Impressions: It really is astounding that this was the best month in franchise history, especially when you look at some of the players on the powerhouse Philadelphia Phantom rosters of the late 90’s and early 2000’s. those teams had guys like Claude Giroux, R.J Umberger, and others who would go on to have solid, if not spectacular NHL careers. (Hat Tip to NHL.com’s for verifying the info about the team’s best month)
Tonight’s game wasn’t flashy. It was kind of the antithesis of the team’s first two seasons in Allentown. Those teams couldn’t win the greasy, grind it out kind of games that this one has so far this season. It’s safe to say that if they don’t make the playoffs, it’ll be a major disappointment. This team has all the ingredients, barring injury, to make a deep run.
3) LV-Danick Martel (Goal)
2) LV-Jordan Weal (Goal, Assist)
1) LV-Alex Lyon (25 Saves on 26 shots)
Up Next: Lehigh Valley starts a three-in-three day weekend when they host the first of a home-and-home set with the Hershey Bears Friday night. Gametime is set for 7:05 at PPL Center.