Puck Luck (Again) Dooms Phantoms in Loss to Portland

Friday, February 12, 2016
Phantoms and Pirates on a Friday night in Allentown.
A season-high 46 shots on goal for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms was not enough tonight against Portland in a 3-1 loss to the Pirates. Despite dominating much of the play, the Phantoms came out with zero points.

Portland was opportunistic, scoring on their first shot of the first period which came over eight minutes into the game. After being out-shot 14-0 in the second period, they were able to re-gain the lead late in the period and ultimately rode their goaltender Mike McKenna to two points.

McKenna stole the show, not only stopping 45 of the 46 shots he faced but also adding two assists in the win for Portland which snapped their three-game losing skid.

Chris Conner scored the lone tally for Lehigh Valley, who desperately need points heading down the stretch seven points behind fourth place Providence with 26 games left on their regular season schedule. The Phantoms host Utica Saturday night at the PPL Center at 7:05 p.m. ET.

Thoughts from head coach Scott Gordon, Chris Conner and Andrew MacDonald after the jump.


Scott Gordon:
I think we just have to put it to rest and come out ready to play to tomorrow. When it's all said and done, if you play like that every night you give yourself a chance to win and we certainly did tonight.
Chris Conner:
It was one of those games where we got a lot of pucks to the net. At this time of the year, these are big points that we need to get everything we can. We have to move and get ready for tomorrow.
Andrew MacDonald:
It's frustrating. Obviously their goaltender made some pretty big saves. I don't think we can fault ourselves for a lack of effort. We have to take advantage of those opportunites, but then again when a goaltender plays well like that there isn't too much you can do. A loss is a loss at the end of the day.

After a brief delay to the opening face-off due some questions with the ice, the Phantoms had the early jump - taking the first six shots of the contest and playing in the offensive zone for most of the first eight minutes of play.

However, Portland took a 1-0 lead 7:57 into the period on their first shot of the game. Rocco Grimaldi won a puck battle behind the net and sent it out in front to rookie forward Kyle Rau, who beat LaBarbera with a quick shot. Mike Matheson added a secondary assist.

The Phantoms had several good chances, but All-Star goaltender Mike McKenna was up to the task - stopping all 13 first period shots from Lehigh Valley to get Portland into the first intermission with a 1-0 advantage.

Lehigh Valley continued to pour it on in the second period, firing the first eight shots of the middle frame on Mike McKenna. They simply dominated the first eight minutes of the period for the second straight period. This time they were rewarded.

With Matheson in the box for holding, the Phantoms took advantage and tied things up on Chris Conner's 12th goal of the season. Andrew MacDonald shuffled a puck across the blue line to Taylor Leier, who skated in and spotted Conner cutting to the net. Leier fired a hard pass in the vicinity and Conner re-directed it past McKenna to tie the game at 1-1 with 11:07 left in the 2nd.

The Phantoms went on to out-shoot the Pirates 14-0 before Portland was credited with their first shot of the period with 6:08 left in it. Moments before, Rau nearly tallied his 2nd of the game, but after a goal review it was deemed his shot his the crossbar and did not cross the line.

Lehigh Valley had a golden opportunity to take the lead late in the middle frame, as Grimaldi was sent to the box for interference. They had several chances, but were unable to score. Instead, Grimaldi came out of the box and joined an odd-man rush with Wayne Simpson. Simpson's initial shot was stopped by LaBarbera's pad, but the Phantoms' netminder kicked it out right to Grimaldi who buried it with 2:20 left to give Portland a 2-1 lead heading into the third period.

Despite out-shooting their opponent 21-5 in the middle frame and 34-12 after 40 minutes, the Phantoms found themselves entering the third period trailing by one.

It was much of the same for Lehigh Valley in the final frame. They did everything but score. After a delay of game penalty gave the Phantoms a late power play chance in the final minute of regulation, McKenna nearly scored on the Phantoms' empty net from the goaltender position before Greg McKegg finished it off with the tally in a 3-1 loss for the Phantoms.


Jason LaBarbera (19 saves - 21 shots) got the start in net tonight for Lehigh Valley. Anthony Stolarz was re-assigned from Philadelphia Thursday afternoon and served as the Phantoms' backup tonight. Stolarz is expected to get the start in net tomorrow against Utica.

The only lineup change for the Phantoms came on defense as Robert Hagg took his turn sitting as the healthy scratch on the back end. Max Lamarche, who sat out Wednesday against Binghamton, was back in the lineup.

Scratches: Robert Hagg (healthy), Kevin Sundher (lower body), Michael Parks (upper body), Pavel Padakin (healthy), Tim Brent (hand/wrist), Jay Rosehill (healthy) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Petr Straka - Cole Bardreau - Colin McDonald
Taylor Leier - Phil DeSimone - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Kevin Goumas - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Joe Rehkamp - xxxxxxxxx

Andrew MacDonald - Christian Marti
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Davis Drewiske - Maxim Lamarche
Adam Comrie

Jason LaBarbera - Anthony Stolarz


1st Period

7:57: POR - Rau (16) - Grimaldi, Matheson
11:51: POR - (PP) Schremp, minor (hooking)

2nd Period

8:08: POR - (PP) Matheson, minor (holding)
8:53: LV- PPG Conner (12) - Leier, MacDonald
15:18: POR - (PP) Grimaldi, minor (interference)
17:40: POR - Grimaldi (10) - Simpson, McKenna

3rd Period

0:32: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (hooking)
6:09: POR - (PP) Matheson, minor (high-sticking)
19:16: POR - (PP) Megan, minor (delay of game)
19:49: POR - ENG (SH) McKegg - McKenna


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