ALLENTOWN, PA – Saturday night turned out to be a bounce back night for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, as a strong performance gave them a 2-1 victory over their arch-rival Hershey Bears. The big win came just 24 hours after the Phantoms fell apart in a 6-2 loss to the Springfield Thunderbirds. Saturday night’s contest proved to be a complete reverse of fortunes for Lehigh Valley, however, as their great game was met with one huge down side, as apposed to their game Friday night which had one bright spot on the evening,
The game did not always look like it would go the Phantoms way. Lehigh Valley ended up with three golden opportunities on the power play in the first period, but they could not capitalize on Hershey’s undisciplined mistakes. The Bears held the Phantoms to no power play goals on four chances for the whole night, continuing the special teams struggles that have plagued Lehigh Valley as of late.
Hershey responded to the first three straight kills by capitalizing on their first power play of their own just 6:47 into the second. The goal came from Riley Barber, who sent a wrist shot from the nearside circle through the wickets of Dustin Tokarski to make it 1-0. Barber was able to get open on the left win, and took a pass from Connor Hobbs. He then walked in, and sent a shot toward Tokarski. The shot got a piece of the Phantoms netminder’s pad before getting through into the net for the goal.
Lehigh Valley responded with a goal of their own four minutes after Barber’s game opening goal. A back hand pass from Cole Bardreau sent TJ Brennan and Phil Varone in on a 2-on-1. Brennan elected to shoot, banging it off the post. The rebound off the pipe from Brennan’s shot looked to originally be tipped home off the bounce by Varone. Upon further review, the puck actually seemed to go off the arm of Vitek Vanecek and directly in. That would give Brennan credit of the goal, his 6th of the season.
About a minute and a half later, one of the scariest scenes of the year, along with most shocking moment of the last few seasons, happened inside the PPL Center. Bears defenseman Colby Williams took a run at Danick Martel in front of the penalty boxes. The hit came up high and hard, causing Martel to have his face smashed in. Williams got met with the fury of Nic Aube-Kubel, who jumped all over the Hershey blueliner to stick up for his teammate. Martel, who was bleeding from his mouth, had to be helped off the ice and he would not return to the contest. Williams recieved a match penalty, so his night was over too.
Uhhhh yikes. Williams got a game misconduct for this hit on Martel. pic.twitter.com/1TQ5RtKU19
— Brad Keffer (@brad_keffer) January 14, 2018
Matt Read gave the Phantoms the lead for good in the third, tipping home a point shot from Reese Willcox that beat Vanecek. It would be all the scoring Lehigh Valley would need, with Tokarski making 15 stops in the third to keep his team in the lead. Hershey made two last ditch efforts to tie the game, one by pulling Vanecek within two minutes remaining in the game, and the other by calling a timeout after the Phantoms iced the puck with 26 seconds left, but neither strategic move paid off.
The Phantoms came out on top in the first half of the home-and-home with their cross state rival, but paid the huge price of possibly losing Martel for an extended period of time in the process. An update on his condition and who may replace him in Utica at the All-Star Classic should be announced soon.
Lehigh Valley finishes the Weekend in Hershey Sunday afternoon to complete the weekend series. Afterward, the Phantoms are off until Wednesday, when they play the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in Wilkes-Barre. Then, it will be time to take this rivalry outdoors once again, as the Phantoms take on the Bears in the AHL Outdoor Classic at Hershey Park Stadium on Saturday night. The game marks the second time the Bears and Phantoms have met outside. The first, a contest at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia in 2012 resulted in a 4-3 overtime win for the then Adirondack Phantoms thanks to a goal from Shane Harper just 58 seconds into overtime.