Phantoms Losing Skid Reaches Four Games Despite Spectacular Third Period

Friday, January 15, 2016
The Phantoms and Bears battled in front of a sellout crowd at PPL Center Friday night. Photo: Brian Ptashinski
Despite another strong effort, which included a 27-1 shots advantage in the third period, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms dropped their fourth straight game in a 4-3 loss to Hershey Friday night in front of another sellout crowd of 8,793 at the PPL Center. Three of the Phantoms' losses during this current four-game skid have been by one-goal deficits.

"It's definitely frustrating. I'm at a loss for words," forward Chris Conner said after Friday night's 4-3 loss to Hershey. "We need to win games, that's the bottom line. We have to figure out what we need to do to win them"

What exactly do the Phantoms need to do to win games? It's not something you can point your finger at and say, if that's fixed the team will turn things around. They're playing, for the most part, some very good hockey. The team is going into games with confidence they did not have earlier in the season, according head coach Scott Gordon. 

In tonight's game, for example, the Phantoms rebounded from a 2-0 deficit in the 2nd period with back-to-back goals 52 seconds apart to even things up before Hershey re-took the lead and added to it on their first shot of the third period - a shot that came 14:23 into the final frame after being out-worked, out-hustled and out-played by the Phantoms.

"You only have one choice," Gordon said after the loss. "Keep going on and try to fight through it."

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POST-GAME REACTION

Scott Gordon's thoughts:
You come in after a loss and it's your fourth loss in a row the first thoughts are did you do everything you could offensively to win, and we did.
I didn't like our coverage on three of their goals. Just poor reads and mistakes and they capitalized on it. We gave up one shot in the third and it ends up being the game winner. 
We did everything we needed to do in the third period to try to give ourselves a chance to win and we have to build off of that. 
Chris Conner on the third period & the bottom line:
I thought we came out and played well in the third, but these are the games we need to start winning. We gave ourselves a chance, we came back, We have to find a way to get another goal there... I don't know, but we need to figure it out soon here. We are losing these points. I think we keep going, take something from this third period and move onto tomorrow.
Conner on his goal:
Cole did a great job fore-checking and the puck squirted out and I was able to poke it in before Peters was able to get down.
Conner on his reaction in the third period while screening the goaltender:
It was going in I think and I couldn;t get out of the way quick enough. That's the way it goes sometimes.
Mark Alt on the 27-shot 3rd period:
That was quite the push. That's what we said in between periods that we wanted to do and we accomplished it. You just think in that number that one of those would have gone in because all we needed was one at that point.
Alt on the frustration of coming up short:
That's definitely the word. We are working hard. We had the puck in their end the majority of that period and had a lot of good chances. I'm just surprised that one of those didn't go in or that whole game is different.... Something has to give here.
RECAP

The Phantoms and Bears played to a scoreless first period. Despite trailing in shots by a 10-8 margin, Lehigh Valley had more quality chances than their counterparts.

The first of which came early in the period when Danick Martel and Nick Cousins came in 2-on-1. Cousins was able to get a stick on Martel's pass back to him but tapped it just wide of the net. The Phantoms nearly took a 1-0 lead in the waning seconds of the period when Kevin Goumas picked up the rebound of Tyrell Goulbourne's shot at the side of the net, but Goumas was robbed by a pad save from Justin Peters.

The best chances for both teams in the 1st period came by way of the fourth lines for each team. The Phantoms' line of Goumas, Cole Bardreau and Joe Rehkamp was very noticeable on the ice in the opening frame.

The same could be said for Hershey's fourth line of Garrett Mitchell, Liam O'Brien and Nathan Walker. On the opening shift of the hockey game, the Bears nearly took a 1-0 lead. O'Brien found a rebound atop the crease of Jason LaBarbera, but the puck hopped up and onto the top of the net before falling off the back side of the net.

The scoreless game didn't make it through the middle frame unscathed. In fact, the flood gates opened.

Hershey jumped out to a 2-0 lead, starting 1:55 into the period when Chris Bourque found a loose puck in the slot after Sam Morin had blocked Connor Carrick's shot from the point. Morin was unable to get to the loose puck and hooked Travis Boyd from getting control of it, but Bourque swooped in and scored his 17th of the season.

Then, Tyler Lewington tallied his 2nd of the season at the 7:27 mark. LaBarbera stopped the initial shot from Carter Camper but the rebound went right to Lewington, who was able to put one into basically an empty net.

The Phantoms answered back with two goals 52 seconds to tie the game up at 2-2. First, Mark Alt skated down low along the wall and his centering pass to Nick Cousins was re-directed in past Peters for Cousins' 10th of the year. Sam Gagner added a secondary assist.

On the next shift, Cole Bardreau won a battle for the puck behind the Bears' net and Chris Conner was in the right place at the right time, taking a pass from Bardreau at the side of the net and lifting one past Peters for his 6th of the season and first since returning to action after a lengthy injury absence. Gagner also added a secondary assist on the goal, giving him two on the night to that point.

The fifth goal of the period went to Hershey, who re-took the lead with 7:48 left in the 2nd when Liam O'Brien set up in front of LaBarbera and took a pass from Carrick from behind the net to beat LaBarbera.

Lehigh Valley dominated the third period, out-shooting Hershey by an incredible 27-1. Oddly enough, after the Phantoms had the first 13 shots of the period it was the Bears who tallied first in the third on their lone shot of the period.

Chris Brown got a puck behind the net and fed out in front to Dustin Gazley, who picked a corner on LaBarbera to make it 4-2 Hershey with 5:37 left in regulation.

The Phantoms continued to pepper Peters with pucks and their 22nd shot of the frame gave the Phantoms a chance down 4-3 with three minutes left. Taylor Leier got a puck ahead to Colin McDonald, and the Phantoms captain slid a sneaky shot towards the net that never left the ice but somehow eluded Peters to make it a one-goal game.

ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms

Jason LaBarbera (17 saves - 21 shots) got the start in net tonight for the Phantoms to kick off the three-game weekend.

Defenseman Jesper Pettersson was reassigned to Reading yesterday, leaving the Phantoms with a more manageable eight healthy defensemen.

Christian Marti returned to the Phantoms lineup for his first AHL action since November 20th. Marti played in two games last weekend with Reading.

Robert Hagg was back in the lineup after sitting out Sunday's game against Binghamton.

The Phantoms had to go with the 11 forwards, seven defensemen lineup because of Petr Straka's scratch. Gordon offered no update, but it's likely he's still feeling the ill effects of the point shot he blocked in Portland on January 3rd. He wasn't seen at practice on Thursday.

Aaron Palushaj was the odd man out as far as veterans are concerned, sitting out as a healthy scratch along with Matt Lashoff and Jay Rosehill.

Head coach Scott Gordon was named as an assistant coach for Team USA in the World Cup of Hockey.

Scratches: Kevin Sundher (lower body - out since 11/27), Michael Parks (upper body - out since 10/17), Aaron Palushaj (healthy/veteran), Petr Straka (undisclosed), Matt Lashoff (healthy/veteran), Jay Rosehill (healthy/veteran) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Taylor Leier - Tim Brent - Colin McDonald
Danick Martel - Nick Cousins - xxxxxxxx
Tyrell Goulbourne - Sam Gagner - Chris Conner
Kevin Goumas - Cole Bardreau - Joe Rehkamp

Andrew MacDonald - Max Lamarche
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Davis Drewiske - Christian Marti
Robert Hagg

Jason LaBarbera - Anthony Stolarz

GAME SUMMARY

1st Period

8:51: LV - (PP) Cousins, minor (slashing)
16:24: HER - (PP) Carrick, minor (slashing)

2nd Period

1:55: HER - Bourque (17) - Boyd, Carrick
7:27: HER - Lewington (2) - Camper, Carey
9:26: LV - Cousins (10) - Alt, Martel
10:18: LV - Conner (6) - Bardreau, Gagner
12:12: HER - O'Brien - Carrick, Mitchell

3rd Period

2:29: HER - (PP) Bowey, minor (hooking)
14:23: HER - Gazley (8) - Brown, Lewington
17:00: LV - McDonald (3) - Leier, Bardreau
19:41: HER - (PP) Boyd, minor (delay of game)