ALLENTOWN, PA – Wednesday night was the start of the Alex Lyon era for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. With Anthony Stolarz up in the NHL as an injury fill-in with the Philadelphia Flyers, The 23-year old Yale graduate was handed the keys to the Ferrari and immediately faced a big test.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins came into tonight’s game with two big stats on their side: The league’s top penalty kill at just over 90 percent, and they were the first team in the American Hockey League to notch ten wins this season.
“When you play three games in a row, against Wilkes-Barre, Toronto, and Hershey, that’s got the making of a potential losing streak” Head Coach, Scott Gordon stated. “And to get three in a row, obviously for us, there hasn’t been any easy games. To play the amount of hockey we’ve played over the last two weeks, and then go out and play what is, at the time, the first place team, and play that well, it’s pretty impressive of our guys to do that.”
None of that mattered to Lyon or his Phantoms’ teammates.
Lyon stopped 30 of 31 shots while Corban Knight, Greg Carey, Taylor Leier and T.J. Brennan added goals as the Phantoms triumphed before a capacity crowd Wednesday night inside the PPL Center.
The Phantoms controlled much of the first but didn’t get anything to show for it as Penguins’ goaltender, Tristan Jarry was fantastic stopping all 16 shots he faced in the opening frame. Lehigh Valley had a handful of decent chances in the period; the first just a few minutes in. Brennan took a shot from the point that both he and Nicolas Aube-Kubel followed the rebound on, but Jarry was able to sprawl in the crease and keep it out.
A few minutes after that, Cole Bardreau took a spinning shot from the slot that just missed the far post. Lehigh Valley’s best chance came late in the period after a Jordan Weal hooking penalty expired. Scott Laughton found himself in on a breakaway that Jarry was able to get just enough of to keep it out of the net.
The Penguins best chance came when Dominik Simon slipped a puck just past the far post during their late power play.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came with pressure right out of the gate to start the second, and it got them the early lead. Thomas Di Pauli took a pass out of the corner from Oskar Sundqvist and jammed it under Lyon. The referee didn’t blow the play dead, and while at the bottom of the pile, the Notre Dame standout poked the puck home for his first professional goal at the 2:23 mark of the middle frame.
The Phantoms would tie it with 2:31 left in the period. Danick Martel beat out an icing and found Radel Fazleev in the corner, who found Knight at the side of the net. Knight’s initial shot bounced off of Jarry, into the air, and Knight gloved it down and put it home for his fourth of the season.
Lehigh Valley came out flying in the third and took the lead on Greg Carey’s team-leading 8th marker of the season at 5:57. A shot by Mark Zengerle from the near boards deflected off of a prone Penguin defender in Chad Ruhwedel. Carey grabbed the puck, and dragged it around Jarry to find the back of the net.
Taylor Leier would make it a two-goal lead less than a minute later when he picked up the rebound of a Travis Sanheim shot and went forehand-to-backhand to find the top of the cage far corner.
The Phantoms would ice the game on Brennan’s length of the ice empty-netter with 25 seconds remaining.
Impressions: I keep saying these are statement wins, and they keep piling them up. Confidence is sky high, and that’s a good team the Phantoms beat tonight. This was the first of 12 meetings, so you can guarantee the Penguins be looking for revenge.
Notes: Robert Hagg and Andy Miele remained injury scratches, and Scott Gordon said they will remain out through the weekend. The seven-game winning streak is the longest since 2008, when the Phantoms were based at the Philadelphia Spectrum and featured a 20-year-old Claude Giroux. Jordan Weal did not play at all in the third period after taking a couple hard checks late in the second. There was no update on his condition postgame.
★ – LV-Corban Knight (Goal)
★★ – LV-Alex Lyon (30 Saves)
★★★ – LV-Greg Carey (Goal)
Up Next: The Phantoms travel to Providence, RI to face-off with the Providence Bruins Friday at 7:05.