ALLENTOWN, PA — Another chapter in the rivalry between the Hershey Bears and Lehigh Valley Phantoms was written Friday night at PPL Center, with the home team using three goals in 2:13 in the second period to come out on top with a 7-2 final.
The game was not always in the Phantoms favor, however, as Hershey mounted early pressure, fueled by two power play chances. The Phantoms killed both off easily, and then took advantage of their late pressure to take the game’s first lead. With just 22 seconds left in the opening period, the Phantoms struck off a lucky bounce. Phil Varone came flying into the Hershey zone on a lone rush and dropped a pass for Greg Carey. Carey skated to the far side dot and threw a shot toward the net, and it somehow ended up past Phoenix Copley. Initially, it looked as though Chris Conner had gotten a goal, but further review of the play shows the puck went off a Hershey defender and in.
The Bears would not take long to respond, scoring just 2:54 into the second period to tie the game. A play below the Phantoms goalline saw Zach Sill weave around and get the puck to the point for Tyler Lewington. From the point Lewington threw a shot toward the net, which Garrett Mitchell just happened to get a stick on, deflecting the puck past Alex Lyon to make it 1-1. From there, things started to fall apart for Hershey. The Bears would be outshot 19-3 in the middle frame, with those three Phantoms goals in 2:13 making the difference.
The first, to make it 2-1, came off a net-mouth scramble in the Hershey end. The puck initially started in the near side corner, but the Bears could not clear their zone. The puck pinballed around and eventually ended up in front of the net, where Corban Knight had a few whacks at it with Copley down and out. He could not score, but Tyrell Goulbourne came in to clean up the loose puck, potting it high over the sprawling Bear netminder to make it 2-1 at the 8:21 mark. Then, just 1:38 later, Varone got his third point of the night, and the goal to make it 3-1 Phantoms. Mark Friedman started the play in the Phantoms end, clearing the zone and getting the puck to center ice, where it found Oskar Lindblom. Lindblom then sprung Carey on a breakaway into the Hershey zone, where he deked Copley out of place, beating him to the right side post to tap in Lehigh Valleys third goal. Ending the incredible stretch just 35 seconds later, Corban Knight got his second point of the night, snapping a wrister over Copley’s shoulder and off the water bottle behind him to make it 4-1.
Leigh Valley kept their scoring touch going in the third, with Nic Aube-Kubel getting in on the fun. Another odd net mouth scramble led to this one, as bodies and equipment went flying everywhere. Again the puck came out of the far corner to the front of the net, where Danick Martel could not find it, and got dumped for his troubles doing so. In the meantime, the defender who knocked Martel for a loop got caught up with Copley, causing the goalie to lose his blocker. While all of this was transpiring, Aube-Kubel found the puck and roofed it on the backhand to make it 5-1. Hershey countered with some puck luck of their own to get within three though. Lewington got his second point of the game, going cross-ice from point to circle to a streaking Liam O’Brien, who was darting toward the net. O’Brien snapped a shot that Lyon thought he had with his glove, but in reality, the puck bounced off the orange, white, and black catching mitt and into the net.
Sensing a chance to get back into the game, Hershey pulled Copley with about four minutes left and started to sustain pressure again. All this changed moments later though, as Mark Alt fired toward the empty net from the far side circle inside his own zone and hit it dead center to ice the game at 6-2. The Phantoms decided they were not done, however, as a night of guys getting multiple points had to continue. This time, it was a pair of guys getting their third point of the evening, with Conner picking up his second as well. Conner and Varone crossed over each other on their way into the Bears end, with Varone breaking off toward the farside dot. Conner stayed high at the point and spun a pass toward Varone at the far side. Varone then threw the puck toward the middle, where Carey tipped it into the twine for his second goal and third point of the night. Varone also picked up a three-point night of his own by setting up the score, the 6th time this season he’s had three points in a game.
Lost in the offensive barrage by Lehigh Valley was the fact that their struggling penalty kill has started to get better as of late. Even though its still in 28th place out of the 30 teams in the league, the Phantoms have killed off 13 straight power plays. Their 2-for-2 effort on Friday evening also marked the third consecutive game without allowing a power play goal. Lost in the explosion of goals is the performance by Lyon, who made 21 saves for the win. He did not face a lot of shots, but he made timely saves when he needed to and helped by being the team’s most important penalty killer.
Lehigh Valley continues their six-game homestand on Saturday night, as they welcome the Laval Rocket to PPL Center for the first time. They will conclude their homestand next week, with games Wednesday against the Penguins and Friday against these same Bears.
TONIGHT’S THREE STARS
★★★ – LV Corban Knight: goal, assist, +2
★★ – LV Phil Varone: goal, two assists, +3
★ – LV Greg Carey: two goals, assist, +3