Phantoms Take Care of Business in Utica

Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Aaron Palushaj just misses a back-door play on an odd-man rush Wednesday night in Utica. Photo credit: Nina Weiss.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (10-11-1-0) saw their 1-0 lead disappear in the opening minute of the third period, but it didn't seem to phase them. They rallied for two goals 1:25 apart in the middle part of the final frame and leaned on another strong performance from Anthony Stolarz in net to leave Utica with a big 3-1 road win.

Evan Rankin picked up his first goal as a member of the Phantoms in the first period on a nice setup from Tyrell Goulbourne. After the Comets evened the score at 1-1, back-to-back goals by Jesper Pettersson and Danick Martel pushed the Phantoms ahead for good.

Stolarz, in his first game back since being injured in the 1st period of last Wednesday's game in Utica, was nothing short of spectacular in net tonight. He stopped all 12 shots he saw in the 1st period with his team badly out-shot and finished the game with 28 saves on 29 shots to improve to 8-4-1 on the season.

After the jump, thoughts from head coach Scott Gordon, forward Evan Rankin and goaltender Anthony Stolarz.

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Scott Gordon on Phantoms' play after Utica's tying goal in 3rd:
We obviously had a slow start in the first period. From that point on, we were a better team. I think that was kind of a fluke play. Two defensemen collide and we get the save on a nothing shot and it ends up being an empty net goal because of another collision at the net. It was a tough break, but at the end of the day the guys were going in the right direction after that 1st period and they just stayed with it.
Gordon on Stolarz's return:
The first period, he made a difference for us that allowed us to even have a lead, let alone not be down a goal, so we were lucky to come out of that first period.  
Evan Rankin on his first goal as a Phantoms forward:
It was a huge goal for us because the last time we were here they took it to us. Just getting off on the right foot and the speed that Tyrell had moving into the zone it made the play easier for me to drive to net and make sure we had the presence there. Every time that we have been together we seem to have success. It was a goal for us.
Rankin on the third period play after Utica's tying goal
It was a huge response by our team. That's awesome looking forward into this week and obviously it was a big win for tonight but we want to keep this trend going here.
Anthony Stolarz on getting back in net:
The last two days I was able to practice so I was able to get back into a little bit of a rhythm. Just going out there, I felt really fresh and my legs were going really well. It was a good team effort and a big win on the road.
Stolarz on facing a lot of shots early on:
They were throwing them from everywhere. Seeing so many shots like that gets you into a rhythm. Your job is just to push it into an area where they're not going to get a decent scoring chance. They pressured us hard but I think we had a nice push back and were able to get a couple goals late to bury them. 

The Phantoms didn't get off to the best of starts, taking an early penalty 2:13 into play. They didn't get their first shot on net until the game was six minutes old and the Comets had already put seven pucks in on Anthony Stolarz at that point.

Stolarz was sharp early in the contest, making several nice stops to keep the Phantoms afloat. The Comets had a hit post and some near shots just missing, but the Phantoms goaltender stood tall.

The Phantoms taking a 1-0 lead just moments after one of those big saves by Stolarz.

Andrew MacDonald pushed a puck ahead to Tyrell Goulbourne, who appeared to be taking the puck from the wing and heading behind the net with it. Instead, he sneakily fed a backhand pass through traffic against the grain and threaded the needle to Evan Rankin who went upstairs on Richard Backman to make it 1-0 at the 9:04 mark of the period.

The Comets came out firing again to start the middle frame, but again Stolarz was up to the task. The play was more even in the period as both teams exchanged chances.

Lehigh Valley had a power play chance of their own in the second period and had good puck movement but were unable to capitalize on the man advantage. With 39 seconds left on their man advantage, Taylor Leier was whistled for a double-minor for high-sticking - sending the Phantoms to a lengthy penalty kill.

The PK unit did it's job and was strong, killing off 3:21 of power play time and not allowing much of anything towards the way of Stolarz. The Comets pressured for a few shifts following the Phantoms' successful penalty kill but Lehigh Valley kept the 1-0 lead and took it to the third period.

The Comets wouldn't go away quietly. They tied the game at 1-1 just 43 seconds into the final frame on a goal that could have been waived off.

Stolarz made the initial stop on Mike Zalewski, but the Comets forward bumped the Phantoms netminder on his way behind the net to get to the rebound. Zalewski quickly fed it in front at the other side of the net and Alex Freisen slammed it into an empty net. Stolarz argued with the referees, but to no avail.

The unfortunate series of events didn't send the Phantoms into a down spiral in Utica, however. They weathered the storm of Utica pressure and got back to it in the middle part of the third period.

Brandon Alderson was hooked bringing the puck into the offensive zone, but continued on and got the puck down low. On the delayed call Alderson found MacDonald at the point, who shuffled it across to Jesper Pettersson just atop the right-wing circle for a big slap shot that found the back of the net. Pettersson's 1st of the season at the 9:10 mark of the third gave Lehigh Valley the lead back at 2-1.

The Phantoms weren't done there either. Danick Martel stole a puck at his own defensive blue line and used his speed to race down the wing and create a 2-on-1 with Aaron Palushaj. Martel elected to shoot and beat Bachman to the short side to extend the Phantoms' lead to 3-1 just 1:25 after Pettersson's goal.

Stolarz ended the night continuing his strong play from the opening face-off. He finished with 28 saves on 29 shots and was named the game's first star deservedly so.


Anthony Stolarz (28 saves - 29 shots) got the start in net tonight for the Phantoms after missing two games with a lower body injury he suffered here in Utica last Wednesday. Martin Ouellette served as the team's backup goaltender.

Mark Alt returned to the lineup after missing Saturday's game with a lower body injury.

Up front, the Phantoms lost Chris Conner to an undisclosed injury that will keep him out of the lineup at least six weeks. Gordon said Conner was injured on his first shift of last Saturday's game and played through it.

Lehigh Valley signed forward Joe Rekhamp to a PTO and he made his Phantoms debut. He played a simple game and saw some AHL ice time for the first time in his pro career after starting as a rookie in Reading (ECHL).

Scratches: Jason LaBarbera (injured), Christian Marti (injured), Cole Bardreau (injured), Kevin Sundher (injured), Michael Parks (injured), Chris Conner (injured), Jay Rosehill (healthy) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)


Taylor Leier - Tim Brent - Brandon Alderson
Petr Straka - Danick Martel - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Kevin Goumas - Evan Rankin
Joe Rekhamp - Pavel Padakin

Andrew MacDonald - Davis Drewiske
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Robert Hagg - Matt Lashoff
Jesper Pettersson

Anthony Stolarz - Martin Ouellette


1st Period

2:13: LV - (PP) Pettersson, minor (tripping)
9:04: LV - Rankin (1) - Goulbourne, MacDonald
16:54: LV - (PP) MacDonald, minor (hooking)

2nd Period

8:05: UTI - (PP) Fedun, minor (hooking)
9:26: LV - (PP) Leier, double-minor (high-sticking)

3rd Period

0:43: UTI - Friesen (4) - Zalewski
5:33: UTI - (PP) Grenier, minor (tripping)
9:10: LV - Pettersson (1) - MacDonald, Alderson
10:35: LV - Martel (8) - unassisted
13:11: LV - MacDonald, minor (roughing)
13:11: UTI - Freisen, minor (roughing)


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