Frustrated Phantoms Fall in Hartford

Saturday, March 12, 2016
Hartford might have dealt the final blow to Lehigh Valley's playoff aspirations.
For the second straight game, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (27-29-3-3) got off to a good start and took an early lead. For the second straight game, the Phantoms squandered a multi-goal lead in more than frustrating fashion. Tonight's 4-2 regulation loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack at the XL Center might just be the final blow to the Phantoms' playoff hopes.

The Phantoms took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on goals from Chris Conner and Colin McDonald, but two goals by Hartford in both the second and third periods turned the game around for the Wolf Pack on their way to a regulation win that improves their playoff hopes.

With the win, Hartford trails the final playoff spot by four points while the loss keeps Lehigh Valley eight points back. That deficit for the Phantoms could rise to as many as 10 points depending on the outcome of Bridgeport's game in Wilkes-Barre tonight against the Penguins.

Post-game thoughts from team captain Colin McDonald after the jump, as head coach Scott Gordon was nowhere to be seen after the loss.


Colin McDonald on things getting away from them in final two periods:
That's exactly right. We are getting away from what's making us successful and putting us in those leads. You think we would have learned from Wednesday night. I'm not sure what it is. Obviously if we had the answer we wouldn't be doing it in back-to-back games.
McDonald on approach to final 14 games:
You just have to continue to move forward. This is a tough part of the year where you're pretty much out of it. The easy thing to do is just kind of quit on the year but it's my job to make sure that doesn't happen.
McDonald on frustration of blown leads in back-to-back games:
It's exactly what you want to have happen to have an opportunity to redeem yourself. We got the early lead and I was looking forward to seeing how the guys responded. It just wasn't there for whatever reason. Again, I don't have the answer.
McDonald on what his message to team will be Monday morning:
It has to be one game at a time. It's going to be a pretty long last month of the season if we don't figure it out pretty quick. That's going to be my message to the guys next week. 

The Phantoms and Wolf Pack started off with a bang, literally. Dalton Smith dropped the gloves 1:28 into the contest with Hartford's Nick Tarnasky in a spirited bout to open the game.

From there, the game featured end to end action with both teams exchanging chances until the Phantoms earned the game's first power play at the 6:07 mark. Petr Straka had his stick smacked out of his hands by Chris Summers.

Lehigh Valley didn't convert on the man advantage, but took a 1-0 lead shortly after when Tim Brent connected on a stretch pass to Chris Conner. Conner snuck behind the Hartford defense and beat Jeff Malcolm on the breakaway 9:48 into the contest.

After some more back-and-forth action, a heads up play in the neutral zone by Petr Straka caught Hartford on a line change. Straka fed it to Bardreau with speed in transition, who found Colin McDonald in the slot for a hard shot that Malcolm got a piece of but not enough to keep it from crossing the line and giving the Phantoms a 2-0 lead with 3:10 left before the first intermission.

The Wolf Pack got to their game in the middle frame, out shooting Lehigh Valley 19-8 and scoring back-to-back goals to send the game to the third period tied at 2-2.

First, former Phantom forward Tyler Brown took a banked pass off the boards in front of the team benches and beat Jason LaBarbera low to the blocker side on a breakaway chance to make it a one goal game midway through the hockey game.

Then while on a power play, Jayson Megna finished off the rebound of Mat Bodie's shot from the slot - roofing a puck past LaBarbera while the Phantoms' goaltender was still in a split from making a sharp pad save. The game-tying goal was Megna's 12th of the season and his 5th point against Lehigh Valley in four meetings this season.

For the second straight game, the Phantoms surrendered an early lead in the third period. Hartford completed the comeback on what looked like a puck tipped in by the high-stick of Marek Hrivik six minutes into the third frame. The Phantoms argued the call, but to no avail. The goal stood as called and put the Phantoms behind 3-2 with 14:00 left in regulation.

The Phantoms had a chance to tie things up midway through the third on a power play opportunity, but instead the Wolf Pack struck shorthanded to take a 4-2 lead on Mat Bodie's unassisted tally.


Anthony Stolarz was recalled by the Philadelphia Flyers on an emergency basis, announced just hours before the Phantoms took to the ice today in Hartford. The Phantoms quickly recalled Martin Ouellette from Reading (ECHL), who luckily for Lehigh Valley was in nearby Manchester, New Hampshire as the Royals were playing a weekend set in Manchester.

Jason LaBarbera (43 saves - 47 shots) got the start in net today, his first action since mop up duty for Stolarz on February 13th against Utica. It was his first start since 2/12 against Portland.

Newly added forward Steven Swavely will make his pro debut today in Hartford. centering fourth line.

Defenseman Mark Alt, who missed the team's last two games, told The Home News after practice that he's feeling better and is good to go today.

Up front, Tim Brent is ready to return to the lineup after missing the last 19 games following surgery to repair an ailment he tried to play through earlier this season.

With the return of Brent and the addition of Swavely, the Phantoms sent forwards Kevin Goumas and Kevin Sundher to Reading (ECHL).

Goumas was the team's third line center, but that looks to be filled by Brent.

Sundher hasn't played since suffering a lower body injury on November 27th, but he's been skating with the Phantoms at practice the last two weeks and has been cleared for full contact.

Scratches: Christian Marti (healthy), Michael Parks (upper body since 10/17), Jay Rosehill (healthy), Joe Rehkamp (healthy) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely).

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics):

Petr Straka - Cole Bardreau - Colin McDonald (C)
Taylor Leier - Phil DeSimone - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Tim Brent (A) - Aaron Palushaj
Tyrell Goulbourne - Steven Swavely - Dalton Smith

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

Jason LaBarbera - Martin Ouellette


1st Period

1:28: LV - Smith, major (fighting)
1:28: HFD - Tarnasky, major (fighting)
6:07: HFD - (PP) Summers, minor (slashing)
9:48: LV - Conner (13) - Brent
10:40: HFD - (PP) Skjei, minor (illegal check to the head)
11:31: LV - (PP) Palushaj, minor (interference)
16:50: LV - McDonald (12) - Bardreau

2nd Period

4:16: HFD - (PP) Megna, minor (high-sticking)
7:03: LV - (PP) Smith, minor (tripping)
10:05: HFD - Brown (2) - Skjei, Summers
10:35: HFD - (PP) Oleksuk, minor (hooking)
16:44: LV - (PP) Smith, minor (slashing)
17:55: HFD - PPG Megna (12) Bodie, Nehring

3rd Period

2:21: LV - Martel, minor (embellishment)
2:21: HFD - Summers, minor (high-sticking)
6:00: HFD - Hrivik (8) - Summers, Diaz
8:34: HFD - (PP) Graves, minor (tripping)
10:14: HFD - SHG Bodie (6) - unassisted
12:15: LV - (PP) Bardreau, minor (tripping)
15:32: LV - (PP) Alt, minor (slashing)


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