Veteran Players Step Up To Help Phantoms End Skid

Friday, March 25, 2016
Chris Conner led the way tonight with a pair of goals. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
For the first time since March 2nd, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (28-32-4-3) came away from a game with two points. A fast start by the home team two nights after an 8-0 drubbing to the Hershey Bears propelled the Phantoms to a 4-3 win over the Providence Bruins Friday night at the PPL Center - snapping an eight-game winless streak and perhaps instilling some confidence and morale in the locker room.

Chris Conner tallied three  points (two goals, one assist) to lead the way for Lehigh Valley in a game where the veteran players really stepped up and stood out. Tim Brent and Davis Drewiske each tallied first period goals sandwiched in between Conner's tallies, and captain Colin McDonald set the tone early with his physical play while also drawing his team the early power play that netted them their 2-0 lead.

While the Phantoms are all but out of mathematical contention for the postseason - 12 points out of the final spot with nine games left - the win tonight gives Lehigh Valley life heading down the stretch and an increased motivation to continue playing for each other and their fan base, which sold out the PPL Center for the 21st time this season including 10 in a row.

The Phantoms conclude their four-game home stand Saturday night when they host the Hartford Wolf Pack. Thoughts from a much happier Phantoms locker room after the jump.


Scott Gordon:
It was obviously a huge bounce back. The end result the other night, 8-0 at home, is quite honestly disgraceful. We played hard in that game when we had the puck, but didn't defend well or play with enough bite, battle and compete and that's what we had tonight. Guys played physical, there were second efforts, they weren't sleeping on the bench. Thursday was a productive day with the captains, on the ice with the players and the individual meetings. They responded well and that's nice to see.
Chris Conner on the win:
We had not been playing our best hockey lately, especially after the last game we were really embarrassed about it. I thought we did a good job of coming out and playing strong.
Davis Drewiske on his timely shorthanded tally in 1st period:

I just think we had the right attitude all night, even when they pushed back we didn't get discouraged and get off our game. We kept playing hard, which is something we haven't been doing lately.

After some early pressure by the Bruins in the opening three and a half minutes, a puck-handling gaffe by Providence netminder Jeremy Smith gave the Phantoms an early 1-0 lead. Behind his own net, Smith tried to bank one off the corner boards and out of the zone. Instead he shoveled it right to Chris Conner who, from a bad angle, sent one into the empty net 3:58 into the contest. Conner's unassisted goal was his 15th of the season for Lehigh Valley.

Captain Colin McDonald opened tonight's game with a big hit on Matt Irwin and was at it again shortly after the Phantoms took the lead. This time he lined up Colton Hargrove and the PBruins rookie took offense to the hit, taking a roughing minor and sending the Phantoms to the power play.

On the ensuing man advantage, Tim Brent picked up the rebound of McDonald's shot and from the left-wing circle beat Smith five-hole to give Lehigh Valley a 2-0 lead 6:44 into the opening period. Conner picked up a secondary assist on the power play goal.

Providence answered a little over four minutes later to cut the Phantoms' lead in half and appeared to have momentum on their side, heading to a power play on the next shift. Instead, a big shorthanded goal by Davis Drewiske put the Phantoms back ahead by two goals. Taylor Leier and Cole Bardreau rushed up ice 2-on-1 and Leier spotted Drewiske trailing the play and sent a perfect saucer pass to the middle to the veteran defenseman. Drewiske did the rest, sniping one past Smith with 8:05 left in the 1st frame for his fourth of the season.

That spelled the end for Jeremy Smith, who was pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots. Last night, it was the Phantoms changing goaltenders down 3-0 with 8:00 left in the first period. Tonight, it was the visitors changing goalies down 3-1 with 8:05 left in the 1st. What a difference a day makes.

The PBruins closed the gap back to one with 3:23 left before the first intermission, as Justin Hickman caught the Phantoms heading up ice and in quick transition skated down the wing and beat Martin Ouellette high to the short side.

The scoring pace slowed down in the middle frame, but not before Providence evened the score at 3-3. After failing to score on an early 2nd period power play, former Flyers forward Max Talbot sent Brian Ferlin up ice on a 2-on-1 that he would convert on, snapping a backhander over Ouellette's glove 3:35 into the middle period to even things up.

It wasn't until late in the period, with 3:45 before the second intermission, that the Phantoms re-took the lead on what is one of the weirdest goals you will ever see. Aaron Palushaj got the puck in deep behind the net to Conner, who sent one off the bottom of the back of the net. It hit the back of the net and popped straight up into the air - going up and over the net and striking PBruins goaltender Zane McIntyre on his back by his nameplate before crossing the line. Conner's second of the night and 16th of the season restored the Phantoms' lead heading into the third period.

In the final frame, the Phantoms held on behind 33 saves from Martin Ouellette.


Martin Ouellette (33 saves - 36 shots) got the start in net tonight for Lehigh Valley, after being pulled 12 minutes into Wednesday's game following three goals on six shots. Jason LaBarbera is going to be out for a bit with a nagging lower body injury, so the Phantoms must continue on with a duo of Knapp and Ouellette.

The only lineup change was on the fourth line, where Dalton Smith looks to replace Pavel Padakin.

The only injured players - goaltender Jason LaBarbera and forward Michael Parks - are considered long term. LaBarbera will be out for a little bit, said head coach Scott Gordon. Michael Parks is out for the season after shoulder surgery mid-season.

Scratches from Wednesday's Game: Jason LaBarbera (lower body), Michael Parks (upper body), Max Lamarche (healthy), Pavel Padakin (healthy), Jay Rosehill (healthy), Reece Willcox (healthy) and Logan Pyett (out indefinitely)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics):

Petr Straka - Tim Brent - Aaron Palushaj
Taylor Leier - Cole Bardreau - Colin McDonald
Danick Martel - Phil DeSimone - Chris Conner
Tyrell Goulbourne - Steven Swavely - Pavel Padakin

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

Martin Ouellette - Connor Knapp


1st Period

3:58: LV - Conner (15) - unassisted
5:59: PRO - (PP) Hargrove, minor (roughing)
6:44: LV - PPG Brent (7) - McDonald, Conner
11:05: PRO - Hargrove (14) - Blidh, Cave
11:28: LV - (PP) Goulbourne, minor (unsportmanlike)
11:55: LV - SHG Drewiske (4) - Leier
16:37: PRO - Hickman (5) - unassisted
16:50: LV - Leier, minor (roughing)
16:50: PRO - Casto, minor (roughing)

2nd Period

0:35: LV - (PP) Bardreau, minor (interference)
3:35: PRO - Ferlin (4) - Talbot, Irwin
16:15: LV - Conner (16) - Palushaj, Alt

3rd Period

0:36: PRO - (PP) Breen, minor (tripping)


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