Phantoms Losing Skid Reaches Season-High Five Games

Saturday, January 16, 2016
Phantoms continue to play well despite not getting the end results. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (17-21-2-1) dropped their fifth straight game tonight at home in front of a franchise record crowd of 9,046 fans at the PPL Center. It was their third straight one-goal defeat and clearly the frustration is mounting.

"The bottom line is we just can't score," head coach Scott Gordon said after tonight's 2-1 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack.  

The bounces simply aren't going the Phantoms way, which was epitomized with 17:53 left in the 3rd period just moments after the Wolf Pack took a 2-1 lead. Lehigh Valley put a puck on net from a bad angle that caught Magnus Hellberg off guard, sneaking behind him and hitting the top of his back. If not for a quick reaction from a Hartford defender, the puck would have crossed the goal line and tied the game up. It didn't.

"You know it's pretty bad when the goalie has a puck roll down his back while he's up against the post and it lands on the goal line and doesn't go in," Gordon said post-game. "I don't think it could happen like that without going in ever, but it did." 

The Phantoms have one more chance to end the skid this weekend, taking an overnight bus ride to Bridgeport in advance of Sunday evening's match up against the Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena.

Quick recap of the action after the jump.

Would you like to see my coverage of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms while they're on the road continue? Please lend a helping hand to keep me providing live coverage of the team while they're on the road this season by making a generous donation to my GoFundMe page.


Scott Gordon's thoughts:
The bottom line is we just can't score. It's not from a lack of effort or lack of generating chances. You know it's pretty bad when the goalie has a puck roll down his back while he's up against the post and it lands on the goal line and doesn't go in. I don't think it could happen like that without going in ever, but it did. 
We are doing plenty to deserve the bounces but it's just not happening right now.
Sam Gagner's thoughts:
While I'm down here I think the main thing is to help this team win games. We are out-playing teams, out-chances teams, 
I don't know if we are making goalies look good, but we have to find ways to put pucks in the net. We just have to find ways to miss the goalie more and bear down on our chances.
Anthony Stolarz on the frustration:
It's obviously frustrating, especially with the way we have been playing the last couple games. Tonight, just ran into a hot goalie but give him credit he stood on his head and made the saves when he needed.
I think we are working really hard, working pucks into the offensive zone, cycling the puck, getting pucks to the net and getting guys in front of the net. The bounces just aren't going our way right now.

After sending 27 shots on Hershey's goaltender Justin Peters last night in the third period, it took the Phantoms nearly the first half of the first period tonight to register their first shot on net against Hartford's Magnus Hellberg.

The Phantoms surrendered the first six shots of the hockey game, but Anthony Stolarz was able to keep the Wolf Pack at bay in the opening frame - stopping all 11 shots that came his way in the 1st period.

Both teams exchanged brief power plays, but other than that the highlight of the period was a fight between Sam Morin and Kodie Curran after Morin put a big shoulder to shoulder hit on a much smaller 5-9 Ryan Bourque. Curran challenged Morin directly after the hit and the Phantoms rookie went to town on the Wolf Pack defender - also drawing the Phantoms a power play with 2:56 left in the period.

The middle frame was played similarly to the first period, as Hartford had the early jump and chances then Lehigh Valley got into a rhythm.

The Phantoms took a 1-0 lead for the first time in the last five games midway through the period when Sam Gagner connected on a pass to Chris Conner, who tapped one past Magnus Hellberg with 10:14 left in the period. It was Conner's second straight game with a goal, a good sign for him after returning from a five-week injury absence.

The lead was short lived, however, as a few shifts after the Wolf Pack killed off a 2nd period Phantoms power play, Matt Bodie tallied his fourth of the season on a backhander from the slot to even the score at 1-1 with 5:22 left before the second intermission.

Morin was engaged in the physical play all night, but was a little too aggressive on Luke Adam early in the third period as he drove Adam into the boards, who lost his footing and was taking a tumble on the ice. Morin was whistled for boarding and the Wolf Pack cashed in on the power play.

Hartford's All-Star representative Ryan Graves blasted a shot that nailed Stolarz square on in the mask and Adam Tambellini was able to get to the loose puck and put it past the Phantoms' goaltender before he could recover and locate the rebound. The goal made it 2-1 just 1:51 into the final frame and it held up as the game-winner as the Phantoms continued to come close and not get the extra bounce they needed to force overtime.


Anthony Stolarz (26 saves - 28 shots) got the start in net tonight for the Phantoms. After playing last night against Hershey, Jason LaBarbera got the night off.

While the line combinations and defense pairings were a little different, it was the same 11 forward, 7 defensemen lineup for Lehigh Valley tonight against Hartford.

Petr Straka missed his second straight game with likely ill-effects of the slap shot he blocked in Portland two weeks ago.

Aaron Palushaj, Matt Lashoff and Jay Rosehill were again the three healthy veteran scratches for Lehigh Valley.

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 - Sam Gagner
Tyrell Goulbourne - Kevin Goumas - Joe Rehkamp
Chris Conner - Cole Bardreau - xxxxxxxx

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

Anthony Stolarz
- Jason LaBarbera


1st Period

4:43: LV - (PP) Rehkamp, minor (boarding)
5:10: HFD - (PP) Graves, minor (slashing)
17:04: HFD - (PP) Curran, minor (instigator)
17:04: HFD - Curran, major (fighting)
17:04: LV - Morin, major (fighting)
17:21: LV - (PP) McDonald, minor (hooking)

2nd Period

9:46: LV - Conner (7) - Gagner, MacDonald
9:46: HFD - (PP) Brown, minor (hooking)
14:38: HFD - Bodie (4) - McCarthy, Oleksuk

3rd Period

1:05: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (boarding)
1:51: HFD - PPG Tambellini (10) - Graves, Bourque
11:19: HFD - (PP) Oleksuk, minor (holding)
19:58: LV - (PP) Cousins, minor (cross-checking)


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