Regulation Loss Haunts Phantoms

Saturday, February 27, 2016
Jordan Subban sends Phantoms fans home disappointed. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are probably dreading their last six Saturday night games. After tonight's 2-1 regulation loss to the Utica Comets, the Flyers' AHL affiliate is now 3-13-3 this season when game day is Saturday.

The real story tonight is that the Phantoms simply don't match up well against the Comets' hard and heavy style of play. It was evident two weeks ago when the Comets handed the Phantoms a 5-2 setback and just as present tonight - out shooting the Phantoms 42-22 and controlling large portions of the play.

If not for 40 saves from Anthony Stolarz, making his 6th straight start in net, the Phantoms would have been dead in the water in the third period. Instead, it was a one-goal game heading to the final frame.

"You can't waste two periods when you're in a fight for your life, and that's what we did tonight," a short-breathed Scott Gordon said in his post-game press conference.

It appeared that a fourth straight third period comeback was in the making with 12:23 left when Phil DeSimone beat Comets' goaltender Joe Cannata from the slot to tie the game up at 1-1.

Unfortunately for Lehigh Valley, Jordan Subban stepped into a slap shot from the point with 4:12 left in regulation to re-gain Utica's lead at 2-1 and his ninth tally of the season held up as the game-winner.

Tonight's Phantoms loss combined with Bridgeport's win over Providence pushes the Phantoms eight points back of the final playoff spot. Tomorrow's game in Sunday is about as much of a must-win scenario as it gets.

Thoughts from a frustrated Scott Gordon and Colin McDonald after the jump.


Scott Gordon on not matching up well with Utica:
In the third period we were out shot 19-11 so it was all three periods. It's not a question of two periods, they are a big heavy team and we didn't compete enough to give ourselves a chance.
Gordon on Stolarz keeping them in it:
He made some big saves and we didn't take advantage of that. 
Gordon on Sunday's game being a must win for Phantoms:
Yeah, they are all getting to be that way. There aren't any nights off for us. The way the first two periods we were mentally into the game. Look no further than the amount of turnovers we had.
Colin McDonald on the regulation loss:
It's just still not good enough. You're trying to find positives in the game but at this point in the year it's about wins. It doesn't matter how pretty or ugly or how well we play we have to find ways to win games. We were already in a tough spot and now we are making it tougher on us, it's frustrating.
McDonald on Sunday being a must win:
Yeah, we know. We look at the standings every day. They are [on the wall outside locker room] for a reason. We know what we are up against, it's a must win. 

The Phantoms and Comets played to a scoreless first period thanks to 12 stops from Anthony Stolarz, making his 6th straight start in net for Lehigh Valley. The Phantoms managed just three shots in a bit of a one-sided first frame, but Stolarz kept Utica off the score sheet to send the two teams into the middle frame scoreless.

After the horn sounded for the end of the first period, Colin McDonald was involved in a scrum with a Comets defender and whistled for cross-checking - sending the Phantoms to the PK to start the 2nd period.

Fortunately for the Phantoms, Ronalds Kenins hooked Kevin Goumas 16 seconds into the middle frame to negate Utica's power play. Unfortunately for the Phantoms, Kenins exited the penalty box and set up Alexandre Grenier on a 2-on-1 rush to give the Comets a 1-0 lead 2:28 into the middle frame.

Much like the first period, the Phantoms had trouble generating much offensively. They were credited with eight second period shots, but at least half of those came in the final few shifts of the period. Down 1-0 and out shot 23-11 through 40 minutes, the Phantoms were being out-played but entered the third period in a one-goal game.

The Phantoms appeared to be making their fourth straight third period comeback midway through the third period as Phil DeSimone collected an excellent backhand saucer pass from Chris Conner and from the slot fired one past Comets' goaltender Joe Cannata to even the game at 1-1 with 12:23 left.

Lehigh Valley had a chance to take the lead on a power play with 6:45 left in regulation and had several chances, but were unable to net the go-ahead goal.

Instead, the Comets killed off the penalty and took the lead back with 4:12 left to play. Brendan Prust won a puck battle in the Phantoms' defensive zone and left it at the point for Jordan Subban who stepped into one and blasted a slap shot past a screened Stolarz to give Utica the 2-1 lead.

Another bitter loss for the Phantoms to swallow, which combined with a Bridgeport win tonight pushes the Phantoms to eight points back of the final playoff spot with 20 games left on Lehigh Valley's schedule.


Anthony Stolarz (40 saves - 42 shots) got the start in net for the sixth straight game. Jason LaBarbera has been battling a nagging injury over the last two to three weeks, but took a puck on his hand while sitting on the bench in last night's game. Martin Ouellette was called up and is expected to back up Stolarz in net.

Max Lamarche did not play tonight with what is being termed as the flu, which is running its course on the locker room. Lamarche likely would have been a scratch tonight regardless after having a turnover-filled game last night.

Jay Rosehill re-entered the lineup for the Phantoms after playing the final two games of last weekend's three-in-three.

Dalton Smith took warm ups tonight for the first time as a member of the Phantoms but was a healthy scratch.

Scratches: Kevin Sundher (lower body since 11/27), Colin McDonald (upper body), Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Dalton Smith (healthy), Jay Rosehill (healthy), Tim Brent (hand/wrist surgery) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Petr Straka - Cole Bardreau - Colin McDonald
Taylor Leier (A) - Phil DeSimone - Chris Conner (A)
Danick Martel - Kevin Goumas - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Joe Rehkamp - Jay Rosehill

Davis Drewiske (A) - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Adam Comrie - Christian Marti

Anthony Stolarz - Martin Ouellette


1st Period

20:00: LV - (PP) McDonald, minor (cross-checking)

2nd Period

0:16: UTI - (PP) Kenins, minor (hooking)
2:28: UTI - Grenier (9) - Kenins
11:30: LV - (PP) Comrie, minor (interference)
19:38: LV - Goumas, minor (cross-checking)
19:38: UTI - Cassels, minor (roughing)

3rd Period

0:19: LV - (PP) DeSimone, minor (holding)
7:27: LV - DeSimone (4) - Conner, Hagg
13:15: UTI - (PP) Bancks, minor (tripping)
15:48: UTI - Subban (9) - Prust, Pedan


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