Syracuse Slips Past Lehigh Valley in Season Opener

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Phantoms drop the home opener to Syracuse after a slow start.
There wasn't any magic on opening night for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their 2nd season as an AHL franchise.

The Phantoms fell behind early and despite a frantic finish in the final seconds, dropped a 4-3 decision to the Syracuse Crunch at the PPL Center. Danick Martel made things interesting with 3:29 to play, bringing the Phantoms within a goal, but it was too little too late.

Credit Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis with a big glove save with 6.9 seconds left to play to preserve the win for Syracuse, while the Marchessault's 2nd tally of the night that gave the Crunch a 4-1 lead at the time - early in the 2nd period - proved to be the game winner.

Team captain Colin McDonald left the game early and didn't return, missing the third period of play. Head coach Scott Gordon didn't have an update on McDonald's status immediately following the game.

The Phantoms will resume practice Tuesday with their next game on the road Friday night in Springfield.


Jason LaBarbera on the start of the game:
Anytime you're down 3-1 after the 1st at home isn't ideal. A couple breakdowns that they capitalized on. I thought we started playing better as the game wore on, but anytime you put yourself behind the eight-ball like that it's tough.
LaBarbera on the Crunch's third goal, by Paradis:
I don't know why they didn't call interference on that. It wasn't like I was coming out, I stood my ground and the guy was backing into me. I tried to move towards where the puck was going, but I got hit and kind of knocked back. I got jammed up with the guy. It's tough.
Chris Conner on what went well in the third period:
I think we were just making the right plays, creating turnovers and our forecheck was getting in there a little quicker and not giving them as much time.
Conner on his goal:
I was just trying to go to the net. Padakin made a great play getting it there and it was just kind of sitting there for me.
Danick Martel on the team's first period:
We know the system, but we didn't apply it. We were running around with speed but not in the right place. The puck wasn't coming and it was bouncing everywhere. 
Martel on his feisty play tonight:
I think I need to build my place in this league, so if I need to be stronger around the net and stronger on the wall, I'll do it. That's what I tried to do today. On my goal, I take my place in front of the net.
Scott Gordon on the first game of the season:
It took awhile to get our feet going. Obviously in the third period we were able to establish a forecheck, put some pressure [on them]. We didn't spend as much time in the defensive zone as a result of it. 
The biggest thing is just the skating wasn't there through two periods. There was a little hesitancy. Part of it is to be expected, but part of it is putting our foot on the pedal and going. We weren't doing that. We were waiting to see where they were going to go with the puck instead of dictating. 
 Gordon on the takeaway points of the season opener:
The biggest thing is the 3rd period. We'll be able to come in Tuesday and see some video on the way it should be versus what he did in the first and second period. It'll be painful to watch the bad part, but the quicker we learn from this the less we are going to have to do it. That will be the emphasis on Tuesday's practice to make sure they understand that there is a reason why we put ourselves in that situation.

The Phantoms brought energy to the opening face-off and were strong on the forecheck in the opening minutes, which made it difficult for the Crunch to break out of their zone. The tides began to turn as Syracuse got things going and they eventually took a 1-0 lead nine minutes into play when Mike Blunden muscled home a shot past Jason LaBarbera off a feed from Mike Angelidis. Henri Ikonen added a secondary assist on the play.

The Crunch continued to control play until a high-sticking minor on Michael Peca gave the Phantoms their first power play of the season. Lehigh Valley wasted no time, as Aaron Palushaj picked up a rebound of a Shayne Gostisbehere point shot from the right-wing circle and fired a rebound past Gudlevskis to even the score at 1-1 just 26 seconds into the Phantoms' man advantage. Taylor Leier actually picked up the primary assist on the goal as he deflected Gostisbehere's point shot on Palushaj's power play tally 11:39 into the 1st frame.

It seemed like the Phantoms had righted the ship, but the Crunch put two more past LaBarbera before the first period ended to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. First, it was Joel Vermin getting a puck to Jonathan Marchessault, who with a nifty move fired a shot past the Phantoms goaltender to make it a 2-1 Crunch lead less than three minutes after Palushaj had tied it up.

With 1:22 left in the opening period, Philippe Paradis used a Phantoms defender as a screen and fired a shot from the top of the left-wing circle past LaBarbera to make it a 3-1 Crunch lead. Tanner Richard and Anthony DeAngelo picked up assists on the play, with DeAngelo earning his first pro point with the secondary assist.

The Crunch made it 4-1 after the Phantoms 2nd power play of the night failed. Marchessault fired a rebound past LaBarbera 6:07 into the middle frame. Dylan Blujus picked up his second assist of the night on the play, while Jeff Tambellini got credit for the secondary assist on the play.

The Phantoms got back to within two midway through the period after a great play from Pavel Padakin, who got a shot on net and allowed Chris Conner to use his speed to get to the rebound and beat Gudlevskis with a backhander.

The Phantoms started to get to their game in the third period, establishing their forecheck and making it hard on the Crunch, but didn't get within one goal until there was 3:29 left to play after a strong play from Martel in front of the net.


Jason LaBarbera (22 saves - 26 shots) got the start in net for the Phantoms tonight. Anthony Stolarz served as backup.

Defenseman Logan Pyett was diagnosed with sarcoma in his upper left leg and is out indefinitely. The announcement was made by Flyers' general manager Ron Hextall on Friday.

Defenseman Matt Lashoff has been released from his PTO, but is still practicing with the team as an invite player. That explains why he is not listed on the Phantoms' roster.

Forward Colin McDonald was injured in tonight's game. He left the game early and didn't return. Scott Gordon had no update on McDonald during the post-game press conference.

Phantoms Scratches: Jesper Pettersson (healthy), Jay Rosehill (healthy) and Logan Pyett (sarcoma, out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold & Italics)

Taylor Leier - Tim Brent (A) - Aaron Palushaj
Danick Martel - Nick Cousins - Colin McDonald (C)
Petr Straka - Cole Bardreau - Chris Conner
Tyrell Goulbourne - Pavel Padakin - Michael Parks

Shayne Gostisbehere - Andrew MacDonald
Sam Morin - Davis Drewiske (A)
Robert Hagg - Mark Alt

Jason LaBarbera - Anthony Stolarz


1st Period

9:00: SYR - Blunden (1) - Angelidis, Ikonen
11:13: SYR - (PP) Peca, minor (high-sticking)
11:13: SYR - McGinn, minor (roughing)
11:13: LV - Bardreau, minor (roughing)
11:39: LV - PPG Palushaj (1) - Leier, Gostisbehere
14:31: SYR - Marchessault (1) - Vermin, Blujus
18:38: SYR - Paradis (1) - Richard, DeAngelo

2nd Period

3:52: SYR - (PP) Vermin, minor (holding)
6:07: SYR - Marchessault (2) - Blujus, Tambellini
9:17: LV - Conner (1) - Padakin, Parks
17:54: SYR - (PP) Erne, minor (tripping)
18:03 - LV (PP) Brent, minor (high-sticking)

3rd Period

2:30: SYR - (PP) Dotchin, minor (roughing)
16:31: LV - Martel (1) - Conner, Cousins


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