For the three years they’ve been in Allentown, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have been notorious for fast starts. Saturday night’s season opener was no exception. Mark Zengerle scored 56 seconds in, Danick Martel had 2 goals, and Anthony Stolarz (pictured) made 31 saves to lead Lehigh Valley to a 4-2 win Saturday night at PPL Center.
Zengerle’s goal was all about opportunity. Sam Morin threw the puck to Chris Conner in the slot. He rifled a quick shot that Mike McKenna stopped, but Zengerle found the puck in the bottom far circle and fired it home.
Both teams found their legs and traded chances, but The Phantoms would extend their lead to two with a shorthanded Tally at 9:52. With Colin McDonald off for interference, Lehigh Valley’s Radel Fazleev forced a turnover in the neutral zone and sprang Martel for a breakaway. Martel’s shot from the slot beat Mckenna stick side.
An unfortunate bounce for Stolarz halved the Phantoms’ lead late in the third. Springfield’s Anthony Greco threw a puck out front from the backboards, but it bounced off of the Lehigh Valley netminder and into the cage. The goal was unassisted.
T.J. Brennan would restore the two-goal lead with five seconds left in the opening frame on the power play with a laser from the slot at 19:55.
There was only one goal, in the second, but from the way the Thunderbirds played, you wouldn’t know it. Stolarz was tested to the tune of 18 shots, but he held his ground to prevent any further damage. Danick Martel, meanwhile, added his second of the night with a wrister from the near circle at 2:50. There was a lot of iron for Springfield, as Jakub Kindl hit the post or crossbar 4 times in the period, including twice on a single power play midway through the period.
In the third, Lehigh Valley seemed to be content to sit back, but the Thunderbirds were having none of it. Much like the second period, they continued to throw shots at Stolarz, and it was Dryden Hunt that pulled Springfield back to a deficit of two. With Colin McDonald again in the penalty box, Hunt unleashed an absolute missile from the center point that eluded Stolarz. Assists went to Chase Balisy and Kindl. With that, the Phantoms held on for the first of what they hope will be many victories this season.
Head Coach Scott Gordon on the overall performance: “I thought we had a great first period, a mixed bag of a second period, and then in the third period, I think, it’s a great learning experience for our guys because, when it’s all said and done, we know we have the personnel to create offense. But if we go about it the wrong way, as I said to the guys after the game, you’re going to get into situations where, instead of generating chances in the offensive zone, were going to have to play defense and kill penalties. And that’s what happened in the third period. It didn’t bite us tonight but when you’re giving up opportunities for the wrong reason, hopefully, we use that as a learning lesson. Because for the first period, and I’d say the first half of the game we were a hard team to play against because we were forcing the issue and everything took care of itself.”
Martel, on his two-goal night: “He (McKenna) left a space on the blocker side, I don’t know why, but I found it though. And great pass from (Travis Sanheim) on my second goal, just took the shot and kept it easy. Everything is coming for me.”
Thanks to Tommy Hendricks for the quotes
Prior to the game, Lehigh Valley loaned Defensemen Max LaMarche and Jesper Pettersson to Reading of the ECHL.
3 Stars: 3) LV-Anthony Stolarz (31 Saves) 2) LV-T.J. Brennan (PP Goal, assist +2) 1) LV-Danick Martel (2 Goals)
Lehigh Valley hosts the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Friday, October 21st at 7:05 pm.