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Written by: Tony Androckitis, Twitter/Facebook
HARTFORD - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (2-1-1) put forth their best 60-minute effort on the young season in a dominating 5-1 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack (3-3-0) to kick off the three-game road trip this weekend.
Jordan Weal led the way with a game-high four points (EDIT: A scoring change took away one of Weal's assists, giving both him and T.J. Brennan three points each on the night), while Greg Carey tallied a pair of goals and Anthony Stolarz stopped all but one of the 33 shots he faced to pick up his second win of the season.
The Phantoms scored early and often, and it was aided by a 3-for-6 night on the power play. Lehigh Valley's high-end skill was on full display and the man advantage units were clicking.
All in all, a great start to the Phantoms' season-high five game road trip which continues Saturday night in Bridgeport.
Post-game reaction from assistant coach Riley Cote, forward Greg Carey and a video interview with tonight's number one star of the game Jordan Weal after the jump.
Forward Jordan Weal
Assistant coach Riley Cote
I thought right from the start we played the game the right way, scored early and the power play clicked - lots of good things for sure. On the road, you try to keep things simple. I think when we did that, we generated more opportunities. I thought it was a good effort all around.On the power play clicking:
Obviously, you look at our two units and we have some high-end skill. The execution has to be there. A couple of those goals, there was some good passing that opened up their box a little bit. When we shoot, we capitialized on it. We aren't going to score three (power play goals) every night, but we had some other opportunities that we didn't score on. As long as we have that mentality of getting pucks to the net and the execution and passing is on and we are not over-handling the puck or over-passing we're in pretty good shape.On importance of starting the road trip with the win.
It's huge. you have to go one game at a time. You win tonight and it sets up a possible great weekend - not looking too far ahead - but we're on the road here. We have to establish an identity and just not over-complicate the game. Do what works and what's in our skill set. It's not a complicated game, just shooting pucks and not turning pucks over. Making good decisions.Forward Greg Carey
On first road game of the year:
It feels good. First road game of the year. I thought we came out with energy right away in the first. Gordo worked us hard all week in practice, we knew we had to come out and be better. We hadn't been very good the last two, and I think we came out and did it.On the power play:
We got a ton of skill on both power play units - they're both #1 units. Sometimes it takes a little time for guys to gel. Guys are trying to be a little too cute and what you saw tonight - shoot the puck and good things happen. I'm happy with it, and hopefully we can get that momentum and keep it going. We have enough skill that the power play shouldn't be an issue for us.On his first of two PPG's on the night, beautiful passing play:
On soon as the puck came through, I was amazed. That's what they brought Andy Miele in for - he's got incredible vision, super skilled. That's a pretty one. I'm hoping that one might make the year end video. It was a bit of gift - an incredible play by two great players.Importance of starting road trip with the win:
You have to establish yourself on the road, and if you can be over .500 on the road - you're going to be in a good spot come playoff time. Just have to keep it going, but we can't be content - it's only one game.RECAP
Tempers flared early tonight with several post-whistle extra curricular activities in the opening minute, but the two teams settled in from there for a Friday night match up at the XL Center in downtown Hartford, Connecticut.
The Hartford Wolf Pack registered the first four shots on goal and had the early momentum in the opening few shifts, but it was Lehigh Valley taking the early 1-0 lead after some great back-checking by the third line.
Danick Martel and Chris Conner used their speed to create a turnover in the offensive zone, and they cashed in. Conner got to the loose puck behind the net and Martel cut to the net, getting a stick on Conner's feed in front past Magnus Hellberg for Martel's team-leading third of the season at 4:14.
Lehigh Valley had a chance to extend their lead shortly after on the game's first power play, but despite several quality chances Hellberg and the Wolf Pack were able to kill off Chris Summers' roughing minor.
The Phantoms headed to the penalty kill midway through the period, but made quick work of the Wolf Pack's first man advantage of the night. In fact, after Martel exited the box to complete the Phantoms' successful penalty kill, they took a 2-0 lead.
T.J. Brennan got a puck across the top of the zone to Will O'Neill and although O'Neill's shot from the left point was stopped by Hellberg, the puck bounced out to the right-wing face-off circle where Jordan Weal buried the rebound for his first as a member of the Phantoms to extend the lead with 5:43 left before the first intermission.
About as good a first period the Phantoms could have hoped for to start the road trip saw them skate to the locker room with a 2-0 lead and an 11-8 shots advantage.
Picking up where they left off, the Phantoms dominated the early portion of the middle frame before taking a bench minor for too many men. After killing off the penalty, Brennan was blasted from behind into the boards just inside the Phantoms' offensive zone - causing a scrum and resulting in a power play chance for Lehigh Valley.
The passing displayed on the ensuing power play was a thing of beauty, and it didn't take long (roughly 26 seconds) for the Phantoms to find the back of the net and a 3-0 lead. Andy Miele and Jordan Weal teamed up with some quick hands and crisp passes that allowed Greg Carey to sneak to the back door uncontested. Tic. Tac. Toe.
That marked the end of Hellberg's night, as Hartford head coach Ken Gernander decided to switch goaltenders in an attempt to give his team a spark. Tough to pin any of the Phantoms' three goals on Hellberg, but the big Swedish goaltender's night ended with three goals on 16 shots in 27:50 of work. Mackenzie Skapski came on in relief.
The Phantoms' power play wasn't done there either, as less than two minutes later they found themselves back on the ice. This time, Mark Zengerle got a puck to Weal who then set up Brennan for a point blast that eluded everyone on it's way past Skapski to break the game open to the tune of a 4-0 Phantoms lead.
The WolfPack took their timeout following Brennan's goal, but it didn't keep them from continuing their regular visit to the penalty box. Unfortunately for the Phantoms, this time the puck ended up in the back of their net - ending Anthony Stolarz's shutout bid with 5:30 left in the 2nd period.
At the tail end of the Phantoms' power play, Marek Hrivik cheated up ice and caught a stretch pass from Nicklas Jensen - springing himself to a breakaway that he'd convert on Stolarz with seven seconds left on Lehigh Valley's man advantage.
From there, Hartford got some momentum and nearly made it a 4-2 game if not for a big stop by Stolarz and a rebound pushed just wide. Sam Morin took a slashing minor with 2:44 left the middle frame and gave the Wolf Pack a chance to get back into the game before the end of the period, but the Phantoms penalty kill stood tall, led by Stolarz, and Lehigh Valley took the 4-1 lead into the third period.
Lehigh Valley took care of business in the third, largely led by Stolarz who stopped all 14 shots he faced in the final frame to preserve the win - including a highlight reel glove stop in the final minute.
The Phantoms' power play clicked for a third time with 3:52 left as Carey netted his second goal of the contest on a quick release from atop the left-wing circle to complete the 5-1 final score.
Anthony Stolarz (32 saves - 33 shots) got the start in net tonight for the Phantoms. Alex Lyon served as the team's backup tonight and is expected to get the start Saturday in Bridgeport.
Tyrell Goulbourne (lower body) was injured in Wednesday's practice, but skated Thursday before taking a puck and feeling tightness that caused him to leave the practice early.
Cole Bardreau returned to the Phantoms' lineup and made his regular season debut following an off-season abdominal surgery.
Phantoms Scratches: Tyrell Goulbourne (lower body), Max Lamarche (healthy) and Petr Straka (healthy)
Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Colin McDonald (C)
Taylor Leier (A) - Mark Zengerle - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Danick Martel - Jordan Weal - Chris Conner
Corban Knight - Cole Bardreau - Radel Fazleev
Will O'Neill - T.J. Brennan
Robert Hagg - Travis Sanheim
Sam Morin - Reece Willcox
Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon
4:14: LV - Martel (3) - Conner
6:50: HFD - (PP) Summers, minor (roughing)
11:44: LV - (PP) Martel, minor (slashing)
14:17: LV - Weal (1) - O'Neill, Brennan
4:14: LV - (PP) bench minor, too many men (served by Aube-Kubel)
6:58: LV - Leier, minor (roughing)
6:58: HFD - Glass, minor (roughing)
6:58: HFD - (PP) Stromwall, minor (boarding)
7:50: LV - PPG Carey (2) - Weal, Miele
9:48: HFD - (PP) Tambellini, minor (slashing)
10:14: LV - PPG Brennan (2) - Weal, Zengerle
12:37: HFD - (PP) Brown, minor (roughing)
14:30: HFD - SHG Hrivik (3) - Jensen
17:16: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (slashing)
4:39: LV - Martel, minor (roughing)
4:39: HFD - Paliotta, minor (roughing)
4:39: LV - (PP) Brennan, minor (roughing)
11:24: HFD - (PP) Carey, minor (cross-checking)
12:48: LV - (PP) Brennan, minor (hooking)
14:58: HFD - (PP) Brown, minor (unsportsmanlike conduct)
14:58: HFD - Jensen, ten-minute misconduct
16:08: LV - PPG Carey (3) - Miele, Brennan