ALLENTOWN, PA- The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were on the ropes for much of Saturday night’s contest against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers but were able to Hulk up like Hogan and earn a 5-4 win in overtime. Even being outshot 39-24 through the three periods and change, Alex Lyon came up with 35 big saves when he needed to and kept the Phantoms in the game.
Bridgeport got the scoring started early in the first, getting the opening tally of the game just 1:22 in. Ryan Bourque, the brother of Hershey Bears forward and known Phantom killer Chris Bourque, got the puck in the slot in front of Lyon. He backhanded a pass to the other side of the crease, right to Tanner Fritz, who took the puck and roofed it on the Lehigh Valley netminder to make it 1-0. That would be the only goal of the period, as both teams power plays would sputter despite getting two chances apiece.
Lehigh Valley’s power play woke up in the second period, tying the game up at the 9:24 mark of the frame. Oskar Lindblom got the puck at about the same spot Bourque did on Bridgeport’s goal and centered a behind the back pass to between the circles to Greg Carey. Carey unleashed a wicked wrister that beat Kristers Gudlevskis and obliterated the Sound Tiger goalie’s water bottle to make it 1-1. The tie would not last long, as Bridgeport retook their lead at the 11:11 mark. Michael Dal Colle showed off his hand-eye coordination, knocking a point shot from Sebastian Aho straight down out of mid-air. The deflection to himself caught Alex Lyon off guard, who ended up out of place and gave Dal Colle an open net to pot the loose puck into to make it 2-1.
The Phantoms decided to play the back and forth battle with Bridgeport, scoring a minute and 20 seconds later to retie the game. Mikhail Vorobyev came flying down the near side wing and tried to center a pass to the middle of the ice. The puck pinballed off skates in between the circles and came back to the point. From there, Mark Alt blasted a slapshot that also found the twine, and water bottle, behind Gudlevskis to again tie the game, this time at 2.
Before the period was over, Bridgeport would retake their lead by 1. With 48 seconds left in the second, Kyle Burroughs perfectly threaded the needle on a pass from the point to the near side of the net to a wide-open Stephen Gionta, who tapped the puck into an empty cage to make it 3-2. The Phantoms would enter the final frame the same way they entered the middle one, down a goal and in a bad way.
It took almost 13 and a half minutes of the third, but the Phantoms finally tied the game back up again. Nic Aube-Kubel did all the work on this one, gaining the zone on an offensive rush and dangling to the slot. He picked a corner behind Gudlevskis and zipped a wrist shot up and in to make it 3-3 and knot the score once again. Just under two minutes later, Lehigh Valley took the lead again. A point shot from TJ Brennan ended up getting kicked aside by Gudlevskis, but the rebound came barreling out to the near side circle. From there, Will O’Neill stepped into a shot that caught the corner of the bars on the net and went down and in to make it 4-3 and send PPL Center crazy. The Phantoms finally had the lead back and were looking great, but again it would not last.
Like the Undertaker sitting back up and laughing in the face of Brock Lesnar after an F5 at Summer Slam a few years back, Bridgeport seemed to earn new life from a late rally. They pulled Gudlevskis with 1:45, and took a timeout 15 seconds later after a stoppage to try to draw up a game-tying play. Twice within the minute and change left the Phantoms would have a chance to clear the puck out of their zone, but could not. This lead to a keep in at the blue line, and a shot toward Lyon. The shot would be blocked in a mase of bodies in front of the Phantoms net, and pop up in the air. Somehow, when the puck hit the ice, Travis St. Denis was able to stab at it and put it past the Phantoms goalie to tie the game with 10 seconds left in regulation.
Those 10 seconds would prove eventful, as Ben Holmstrom and Phil Varone both got roughing minors as the final horn sounded. The two were caught up in a wrestling match, the first of the night, in front of the Bridgeport penalty box. The offsetting minors added a little flavor to overtime, as OT started at 3-on-3, but would go to 4-on-4 until the next stoppage of play if the penalties expired before the OT period ended. We never got that far.
After an attempt on a 2-on-1 failed for the Sound Tigers, they failed to get back defensively and gave up one to the Phantoms. Corban Knight got the play started up ice, as he hit O’Neill with an outlet pass out of the Phantoms end. O’Neill skated in down the near side with Vorobyev on the other side and looked off his teammate to take the shot himself. He waiting out Gudlevskis and just barely snuck the puck inside the nearside post to win the game for Lehigh Valley.
The goal, his second of the night, was good enough to earn O’Neill first star honors on the night. Big games from Fazleev(3 assists) and Brennan(2 assists), plus a stellar 4/4 performance from the penalty kill helped the Phantoms come away with the victory.
3RD-LV 43 TJ Brennan(2A)
2ND-LV 19 Radel Fazleev(3A)
1ST-LV 8 Will O’Neill(2G)
The Phantoms (12-6-0-2) look to continue their winning ways on Wednesday, as they host the Binghamton Devils (6-9-3-0) in their last game inside the month of November. Be sure to follow @SinBinPhantoms for all things Phantoms.