For as fast as they started last weekend, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms couldn’t get out of the blocks on Friday night. By the time they did, it was too late.
Five different Sound Tigers tallied goals, Bracken Kearns had two assists, and Christopher Gibson had a pedestrian 18 saves as Bridgeport downed the Phantoms at PPL Center.
Bridgeport pushed the pace from the opening faceoff, and it was evident, as Lehigh Valley only had two shots in the first 16 minutes of the frame. Bridgeport had their chances, and while they weren’t grade-A, Anthony Stolarz kept Bridgeport off the board. Only a Kyle Burroughs penalty helped the Phantoms’ generate more offense, and they went to the locker room scoreless with the Phantoms’ having a seven to six edge in shots.
“We had a decent first period, as far as we didn’t give up anything,” said Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon. “There was maybe one shot threat and that was it and we just didn’t capitalize on the chances we had. But in the second period we just shot ourselves in the foot too much.”
It didn’t take the Sound Tigers long to jump on the first tally of the night in the middle stanza. That goal, however, was not without controversy. Bracken Kearns threw a perfect saucer pass from the near-side boards to the net. The puck deflected off Josh Winquist’s skate and into the net.
Referees Pierre Lambert and Peter MacDougall reviewed it, and it was allowed to stand, even though replays showed what appeared to be a distinct kicking motion. Carter Verhaeghe assisted on the marker at 47 seconds.
After some back and forth through the middle of the period, a shorthanded goal would give the Sound Tigers a two-goal lead at 14:31. With Scott Mayfield in the box for holding, a turnover at the offensive blueline gave Kellen Jones a two-on-zero with this brother Connor Jones. After taking a cross-crease pass, Connor buried a shot from the faceoff dot.
Lehigh Valley cut the deficit in half when Colin McDonald tapped in the rebound of a Jordan Weal shot just 1:06 later. Travis Sanheim also assisted on the power play goal.
For all the momentum they gained with the McDonald goal, Lehigh Valley gave it all back when, with 2 seconds left, Michael Dal Colle collected his first of the season an incredible deflection of a Josh Ho-Sang cross-ice saucer pass. It was Dal Colle’s first of the season.
In a near carbon copy of the middle period, Colin Markinson took a cross-ice feed from Ross Johnston and buried it past Stolarz at 47 seconds.
Greg Carey (Pictured) pulled the Phantoms to within two on a breakaway backhand five-hole goal after a beautiful stretch pass from Andy Miele. Chris Conner collected the secondary assist.
Bridgeport closed the scoring on what some would consider a lucky bounce. an Adam Pelech shot deflected off the end board and came right to Verhaeghe, who wristed it past a stunned Stolarz.
The Phantoms got a power play with 12:34 left, but were unable to convert, handing the visitors the victory.
“Our decisions can’t be the reason why we lose,” Gordon said. “We certainly have enough offense on our team to be able to score goals, but if we’re going to take chances and make high-risk plays, you don’t have to look any further than the second and third goal, that’s all it was. And then on top of that, the turnovers we made that didn’t go in, maybe there’s a false sense that things were okay when the reality is the second period was not a good period, and the third may have been worse.”
Notes: Lehigh Valley scratched Forwards Cole Bardreau and Petr Straka. Before the game, the Phantoms honored late Flyers Owner Ed Snider with a video tribute. Snider, 83, died in April after a battle with cancer. Lehigh Valley is now 2-13 on the season on the power Play, after going 1-5 tonight and 1-8 last Saturday against Springfield.
3 Stars: 3) BST-Michael Dal Colle (Goal) 2) BST-Bracken Kearns (2 Assists) 1) BST-Carter Verhaeghe (Goal, assist)
Up Next: There will be no time to sulk over this loss, as Lehigh Valley hosts the Hartford Wolf Pack Saturday at 7:05.