ALLENTOWN, PA- The Lehigh Valley Phantoms got a much-improved game from their penalty kill, which went 6-for-6, and two timely goals from their power play in a 3-2 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds in overtime on Wednesday night.
Lehigh Valley had a 2-0 lead at one point, but ultimately let couldn’t maintain the lead. Their penalty kill and Alex Lyon kept the game tied going to OT, where Greg Carey scored while on the power play to give his team the win. Their power play did not improve much, but it came up big when it counted.
Lehigh Valley’s attempt to wake up their power play started early, getting their first man advantage just 45 seconds in. It was Anthony Greco‘s slash that got the Phantoms that chance, but Lehigh Valley was unable to connect on it despite a shooting gallery toward the net of Samuel Montembeault.
The Phantoms ended up with four power plays in the period, including 22 seconds of a 5-on-3 man advantage. It was during the two-man power advantage when Lehigh Valley’s power play would wake up, thanks to some pretty passing. Phil Varone started the play with a nice pass to the far side of the cage to Chris Conner. Conner whizzed a pass across the net mouth to Mike Vecchione, and the rookie wasted little time blasting a one-timer home to make it 1-0 Phantoms.
Then the returning Colin McDonald made his presence felt, putting a slapshot top shelf past Montembeault six minutes later to make it 2-0. The play was set up by a nice drop pass in the slot from Mikhail Vorobyev to his returning captain, who made sure not to waste the rookie’s effort.
The penalty box parade continued into the second with five minors in all, and two majors called. Springfield got the first man advantage chance just 58 seconds in, with Cole Bardreau off for slashing. They failed to capitalize on their early chance much like the Phantoms had in the first, and it remained 2-0 Lehigh Valley. Then the major penalties came as Bobby Farnham and Sam Morin dropped the gloves. Farnham (5’10”) ended up being rag dolled by the much larger Morin (6’7″) in a very short bout.
The Phantoms seemed to have the upper hand again minutes later, getting their 5th power play, but a slashing call to Vecchione just 19 seconds in wiped the man advantage off the board evening things up at 4-on-4. During this time, the Thunderbirds finally managed to get on the board. It seemed like Mark Friedman got tripped up in the near side corner on the play, but action was allowed to continue. This enabled Curtis Valk to get free and drop a pass to the top of the circle to Dryden Hunt. Hunt unloaded a one-timed shot and the puck barrelled toward Lyon and bounced off the twine and out to cut the Phantoms lead in half.
Springfield used their newfound momentum in a game it seemed like they had been trailing for quite awhile to tie the game back up four minutes after Hunt’s goal. A Tyrell Goulbourne turnover lead to a chance for the Thunderbirds, as Juho Lammikko picked up the puck. He sent it to Maxim Mamin, who centered a pass to the slot for Thomas Schemitsch. He fired a shot that beat Lyon and tied the game at 2, shifting all momentum to the Thunderbirds side.
Lehigh Valley got another early power play in the third, thanks to a Reese Scarlett slash. The Phantoms again got great pressure on their man advantage, but again failed to capitalize, falling to 1/7 on the power play at that point of the night. The power play did seem to wake up the Phantoms however, as they hemmed the Thunderbirds in their own end for minutes at a time. Generating a lot of shots, Lehigh Valley put up 7 in the first eight minutes of the third, taking the game to Springfield early.
It looked like their surge would be cut short thanks to Nic Aube-Kubel taking a slashing minor, but during the Springfield power play, Ed Wittchow got called for hooking to even the teams up. The Phantoms again got a power play after the 4-on-4, but once again could not convert, making them 1/8 on the night. The game remained tied into the final 7 minutes, and the tensions began flaring between the two teams. After nearly every whistle, the clubs came together for a little extra pushing and shoving.
Lehigh Valley again had to kill off a late penalty, as Corban Knight took a high sticking minor at 15:02. The Phantoms PK came up huge yet again, anchored by Lyon, to keep the game tied into the final few minutes. The big performance by the penalty kill ended up getting the game tied at 2 into overtime.
In the extra session, Lehigh Valley would get one more opportunity on their power play, and they would make this one count. During a puck battle along the far side boards in the Springfield zone, Mark Friedman ended up getting plastered into the boards by Matt MacKenzie. The jarring hit left Friedman down for quite some time, and he would need to be helped off to the locker room. MacKenzie would end up getting assessed a 50-minute major for cross-checking, and a game misconduct for injuring the rookie defenseman.
Lehigh Valley’s power play went to work, finishing it off with a Greg Carey one-timer from the point that popped the bottle behind Montembeault to give the Phantoms the win. The play started with Oskar Lindblom picking up the puck behind the net. He passed to Carey at the point, who sent it across to Will O’Neill. O’Neill zipped it right back to Carey ho unloaded and won the game for the Phantoms.
Despite going 2/9 on the power play, the Phantoms used big performances from their PK and Alex Lyon to ultimately force a game they once lead 2-0 to OT. It was there that their power play finally woke up, helping them down a struggling Springfield team and give them their 6th win of the season. One would have to think that, sooner or later, the special teams struggles will catch up with the Phantoms. Tonight was not that night.
3rd: SPR G Samuel Montembeault (36 saves)
2nd: LVP RW Colin McDonald(Goal in return to action)
1st: LVP LW Greg Carey(OT game-winner on the power play)
Lehigh Valley will face off with these same Springfield Thunderbirds in Springfield on Friday night, before returning home Saturday to face the Hartford Wolf Pack.