HARTFORD, CT – So far this season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms seemed to be a see-saw on the ice. They’d have a good game, followed by a bad game. After Sunday’s loss in Hershey, they looked to right the ship in a morning matinee Wednesday against the Hartford Wolf Pack at XL Center.
Right the ship they did.
A 33-save shutout from Anthony Stolarz, the third of his career, and a goal and two assists from T.J. Brennan (pictured) led the Phantoms’ 4-0 victory.
Lehigh Valley looked slow off the hop, as the Wolf Pack peppered Stolarz with the first six shots in the game, and 14 overall in the period. However, it was the Phantoms that got on the board first at 11:15. Taylor Leier sent a neutral zone pass to Jordan Weal at the near point, just as Brennan was cutting through the slot. Weal’s pass found him and he fired it home.
The Phantoms’ weren’t done though, as Cole Bardreau collected his first of the season on a rebound at 18:52. Mark Zengerle ripped a shot from the near circle and followed his rebound. As he crashed toward the net, Hartford netminder Magnus Hellberg came out to contain the puck. Instead, he knocked Zengerle down, and with Hellberg prone on the ice, the puck came to Bardreau and from the top of the dot, he roofed it to the top of the net.
There was no scoring in the middle period, but both teams had multiple chances to do so. Just 20 seconds in, Greg Carey almost made it 3-0 on two on one centering feed, but Hellberg made a flashy pad stop. At the six minute mark, an almost identical play saw Leier feed Weal, but again Hellberg threw out the leg pillows to keep the deficit at two.
Hartford had a couple great chances of their own. With just under three minutes left, Tanner Glass tipped a Mat Bodie point shot that squirted through Stolarz, but slid through the crease, narrowly avoiding the far post. Ten seconds after that, Steven Fogarty was stopped when he flew down the near wing and tried to push a puck between Stolarz and the post on the backhand.
With the goaltending the Phantoms’ were getting, they probably could have played out the string and taken the two points, but much like Oliver in the musical of the same name, they wanted more. Corban Knight collected his second of the season when he tipped a Brennan point shot through the legs of Hellberg at 2:51
With just over five minutes remaining, Zengerle laid a perfect screen on Hellberg, and a Brennan point shot deflected off his left skate and curled around the goaltender’s out stretched left leg. From there, Lehigh Valley had large stretches of zone time, ensuring the victory and tying the Wolf Pack in shots for the period at 10.
Impressions: From Stolarz out, this was by far and away the most complete game this team had this season. Besides he and Brennan, the other player who had a great game was Tyrell Goulbourne. He was creating chances and just generally causing havoc.
Notes: Stolarz shutout was his first since 12/19/14 vs. Hershey. Danick Martel did not play, still suffering from a knee injury suffered Saturday in Bridgeport. In stark contrast from their game from Friday, these two teams combined to go 0-5 on the power play.
★ – LV-T.J. Brennan (Goal, 2 Assists)
★★ – LV-Anthony Stolarz (33 Save Shutout)
★★★ – LV-Cole Bardreau (Goal)
Up Next: The Phantoms close out the five-game road trip on Friday when they travel to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, RI for a 7:05 faceoff with the Providence Bruins.
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