Phantoms Frustrated After Back-to-Back Losses This Weekend

Saturday, February 6, 2016
Phantoms drop both games this weekend in frustrating fashion.
After a five-game win streak heading into the All-Star break brought the Lehigh Valley Phantoms back into the playoff conversation, back-to-back losses this weekend including a 5-1 drubbing in Hershey tonight have the Phantoms looking in the proverbial mirror with only themselves to ask if a run towards the postseason is still within reach.

The Hershey Bears are simply playing some great hockey down the stretch, extending their unbeaten in regulation streak to 11 games (8-0-2-1) behind a hat trick performance from Travis Boyd. Chris Bourque added a goal and two assists, while Justin Peters improved to 11-6-5 on the season with 26 saves on 27 shots for Hershey.

The Phantoms lone tally on the night came late in the second period courtesy Aaron Palushaj, which appeared to give Lehigh Valley life before Hershey answered 39 seconds later to re-gain full control.

With 28 games left in the regular season, Lehigh Valley (22-23-2-1) faces an uphill battle down the stretch - currently in 7th place in the Atlantic Division and five points behind fourth place Providence for the final playoff spot. Perhaps the upcoming five-game homestand, and seven of the next eight games at the PPL Center, is just what the doctor ordered to get the Phantoms to make that push towards the postseason


Scott Gordon's thoughts:
We didn't have anything tonight and they're a very good team. They got the power play goal. We expended a lot of energy last night - a few of the guys, not that they didn't want to give the effort but they didn't have any fuel in the tank. We're obviously depleted right now and asking guys to step up. Coming back from break it's not an ideal situation to have the quality of players that we have out right now out. That's what it is.
Aaron Palushaj on the frustration of dropping both games this weekend:
It's frustrating. You let 2 games like this slip away at this time of the season it's going to be hard to come back from. Not saying we can't, but we are going to need to string some wins together.
Palushaj on his goal, shift after:
We had a little bit of life on the bench and then they score that goal. It was a little deflated after that. Four-goal deficit is going to be hard to come back from and beat a team like this especially. 
Palushaj on where the team goes from here:
We just have to take advantage of being at home. Win three, four, five out of five and it will get us right back into the picture. We have to start with Wednesday night, just take care of business. This is clutch hockey now. You have to show up every night, there's not going to be any easy games - any easy shifts. It really differentiates the players who want to play at this time of the year and into playoffs and players who don't. Going into these last 28 games, we have to take it one game at a time but really come out and give it all we have every single night.

The Phantoms actually got off to a good start tonight in Hershey, getting the game's first three shots on net and out-playing the Bears in the opening three and a half minutes. Then, the Phantoms took an early period penalty and it cost them dearly - giving the Bears all the momentum they would need in the opening period.

Chris Bourque took a pass at the center point from Jakub Vrana and faked his shot to draw in the Phantoms penalty killers before dishing it to his left to Travis Boyd, who let loose a hard, quick one-timer that beat Jason LaBarbera to the spot 4:10 into play to give Hershey a power play goal and a 1-0 lead.

From there, the Phantoms had trouble generating much of anything offensively and after Sam Morin broke his stick, the Bears capitalized on a 2-on-1 rush in transition - with Bourque roofing one high glove on LaBarbera with 8:44 left in the opening period to give Hershey a 2-0 lead.

Head coach Scott Gordon took his timeout directly after the Bears' second goal, trying to slow the roll Hershey was on to that point. It nearly worked on the very next shift, as the Phantoms had their best chance of the game to that point and drew themselves a power play of their own to work with 20 seconds later.

The Phantoms weren't able to cash in on the man advantage or a second one they drew a few minutes after, heading to the first intermission down 2-0. They began the second period with a much better effort, but were unable to get on the board before heading back to the penalty box around the midway mark of the contest.

With Kevin Goumas off for hooking, the Bears took a 3-0 lead on a tic-tac-toe passing play from Barber to Vrana to Boyd. Boyd slammed one into what was basically an empty net for his 2nd of the night with 10:42 left in the 2nd period.

Things started to unravel for Lehigh Valley from there, as Jakub Vrana was given too much space coming up the middle of the ice on a 1-on-4 rush - walking into the high slot and picking a corner on LaBarbera with a great shot to extend the Bears lead to 4-0.

Aaron Palushaj got the Phantoms on the board with 3:51 left in the period to end Peters' shutout bid, taking a pass from Goumas in the middle and going high-glove on the Bears goaltender to cut the deficit to 4-1, but that's as close as they would get.

Travis Boyd completed his hat trick 39 seconds after Palushaj's ninth of the season, re-directing an Erik Burgdoerfer point shot past LaBarbera with 16:48 to make it 5-1 Hershey heading into the third period.

Martin Ouellette came on in relief and stopped all 16 Hershey shots he faced in the final 20 minutes, but the Phantoms were unable to mount any kind of a comeback with a depleted roster against a really deep Bears team that was rolling all four lines the entire night without hesitation.


Jason LaBarbera (15 saves - 20 shots) got the start in net tonight for the Phantoms after playing between the pipes for Lehigh Valley last night in Bridgeport. Martin Ouellette, recalled in lieu of Anthony Stolarz's recall to Philadelphia, served as the team's backup goaltender for the second straight night before entering the game to start the third period (16 saves - 16 shots).

The same 11 forwards and eight defensemen took the warm up skate in Hershey tonight.

Maxim Lamarche returned to the lineup on the back end after sitting out last night's game as a healthy scratch. It was Christian Marti/Adam Comrie 's turn to sit out as a healthy scratch and the only lineup change for the Phantoms tonight.

Scratches: Christian Marti (healthy), Kevin Sundher (lower body since 12/27), Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Petr Straka (lower body), Tim Brent (hand/wrist surgery), Jay Rosehill (undisclosed) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Taylor Leier - Phil DeSimone - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Cole Bardreau - Colin McDonald (C)
Tyrell Goulbourne - Kevin Goumas - Aaron Palushaj
xxxxxxxxxx - Joe Rehkamp - Pavel Padakin

Andrew MacDonald (A) - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Davis Drewiske (A) - Maxim Lamarche
Adam Comrie

Jason LaBarbera - Martin Ouellette


1st Period

3:43: LV - (PP) Drewiske, minor (slashing)
4:10: HER - PPG Boyd (11) - Bourque, Vrana
5:44: LV - (PP) Lamarche, minor (tripping)
11:16: HER - Bourque (21) - Stephenson, Leach
11:36: HER - (PP) Camper, minor (tripping)
15:09: HER - (PP) Barber, minor (tripping)

2nd Period

1:39: HER - (PP) Ness, minor (cross-checking)
8:29: LV - (PP) Goumas, minor (hooking)
9:18: HER - PPG Boyd (12) - Vrana, Barber
13:16: HER - Vrana (4) - Djoos
16:09: LV - Palushaj (9) - Goumas, MacDonald
16:48: HER - Boyd (13) - Burgdoerfer, Bourque
17:46: HER - (PP) Barber, minor (tripping)
19:08: HER - (PP) Stanton, minor (elbowing)

3rd Period

6:44: HER - (PP) Leach, minor (tripping)
14:35: LV - (PP) Goulbourne, minor (slashing)


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