ALLENTOWN, PA – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms came into Saturday night’s game against the Toronto Marlies riding a four-game winning streak. Given the way Toronto dispatched the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday night in shutout fashion, this was a true measuring stick game.
“We talked about it a lot before the game as being a measuring stick to see where we were,” said Phantoms Head Coach Scott Gordon. “We’ve seen a lot of the same teams early here so, you play a team from the other division that’s a first place team, it gives you an idea of where you’re at, and the response from our guys was tremendous tonight.”
Radel Fazleev scored his first professional goal, and Lehigh Valley scored four goals in the third period to defeat the Eastern Conference leading Marlies 7-2 at PPL Center Saturday night.
The beginning of the game was more of a feeling out process, as both teams kind of played catch in the neutral zone. Neither team wanted to possess the puck.
The Phantoms broke thought just before the ten minute mark. Scott Laughton blocked a Toronto slapshot from the blueline and fired a homerun pass to Taylor Leier at center ice, and with Brendan Leipsic draped on his back, he muscled his way to the net and forced the puck past Antoine Bibeau.
Five minutes later, Cole Bardreau picked up the rebound of a Reece Willcox wraparound attempt and rammed it through Bibeau. Danick Martel collected an assist. Toronto’s Rinat Valiev took a slashing call and it led to 1:28 of a carryover power play. The Phantoms used that power play to bust the game open the game just 12 seconds into the middle period. A great passing sequence between Leier, Jordan Weal and Greg Carey led to Carey’s league-leading sixth man-advantage goal of the season.
Toronto got on the board when Byron Froese took a pass in the slot from Tobias Lindberg and wristed a one-timer past Anthony Stolarz at 4:02.
Colin McDonald notched a goal for the third consecutive game at 3:50 of the third when he crashed the crease a to collect the rebound of a T.J. Brennan shot. Laughton collected the secondary assist.
Former San Jose Shark Milan Michalek pulled Toronto’s deficit to two 43 seconds later when he found a behind the net feed from Trevor Moore at the edge of the crease. Stolarz had lost track of the puck which allowed Michalek to easily put the puck in the net.
From the 7:20 mark to the end of the game, Lehigh Valley scored three consecutive goals to salt the game away. First, Leier potted his second of the game. Laughton stole the puck from Brooks Laich, and found Leier in the slot. Maxim LaMarche got his first point of the season with the secondary assist.
2:40 later, the first pro goal for Fazleev essentially put the game out of reach. Corban Knight took a feed in the neutral zone from Sam Morin and found a streaking Fazleev in the slot to seal the game.
Jordan Weal would add a power play goal with 21 seconds left to add extra insult to injury.
Impressions: As I said in the beginning, these were two juggernauts on a collision course. Toronto very easily could have come to Allentown and blown this crew out of the building. Instead, as they have multiple times this season, this team has another character building win. For the first time this season, Taylor Leier REALLY stood out. He was all over the ice, and it got him two greasy goals.
Notes: Robert Hagg (Head) and Andy Miele (Undisclosed) were once again the injury scratches. Tyrell Goulbourne was the lone healthy scratch. Before the game, it was announced that Forward Petr Straka has been traded to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a conditional draft pick. He will be assigned to the Albany Devils. (AHL)
★ – LV-Scott Laughton (Three Assists)
★★ -LV-Taylor Leier (Two Goals, Assist)
★★★ – LV-Reece Willcox (Assist)
Up Next: The Phantoms finish their three games in three days weekend when they travel to GIANT Center in Hershey for a 5 P.M. faceoff with the Bears this afternoon.