|Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis, Twitter/Facebook
UTICA, NY - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (6-3-1) got off to a great start on the three-game weekend, jumping out to a 4-0 lead and never looking back in a lopsided 4-1 win over the Utica Comets (2-8-1) Friday night at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. It marked the team's fourth straight win.
Corban Knight got the Phantoms off to a hot start 2:19 into the contest and his strong play continued in a second period that saw Lehigh Valley add three more goals - including Reece Willcox's shorthanded goal set up by Knight. Colin McDonald scored off a turnover and Nicolas Aube-Kubel scored on a nifty move on a penalty shot goal to pave the way for Lehigh Valley's offensive attack.
Lehigh Valley got into penalty trouble at the beginning of both the second and third periods, but were able to avoid danger behind a strong performance from the penalty killers and rookie goaltender Alex Lyon. Lyon picked up his first win of the season to improve to 1-1-1, stopping 26 of the 27 shots he faced.
The Phantoms return home to host the Toronto Marlies Saturday night at the PPL Center in downtown Allentown, Pa.
Full recap after the jump.
Head coach Scott Gordon
On getting a solid road win to kick off the weekend:
I thought as a team game, we played really well. Everyone was where they had to be. Outside of a little sloppiness with the puck at times, I thought our game without the puck is very good.On the PK being the difference:
Our guys did a really good job. I don't know we gave up a decent chance on that 5-on-3. And that's a team who is pretty good on the power play so that was nice to see.On Lyon:
In defense to him, we haven't given him a good game in front of him. For me, it was a just reward. In pre-game skate he looked really locked in. I told him last week just be patient and you'll get in there.On the forecheck:
That's our point of emphasis every game. I showed the guys yesterday our third period from the Springfield game. We didn't score on the forecheck in that period, but it brought us power plays which led to two goals to be able to get the winning. All the work was done in the first 10 minuteson those forechecks. You put pressure on the opposition and force them to stop playing offense because of that pressure and then they ware down and take penalties.On getting these wins early in the year, four-game win streak:
The best thing you can do is win the first game. It takes that pressure off you that you have to make something out of the weekend. If you go into every 3-in-3 and get two wins that's a pretty good weekend. Now we have one, and two chances to get one more and that's not to say we can't get three. You can get three if you don't win the first one.Goaltender Alex Lyon
On getting his first win:
I think it's more relieving than anything else. It's a huge weight off my shoulders. The guys played so well tonight.On making timely saves, the 5-on-3:
I don't know that they had that many great opportunities, but it felt good. Everytime the PK just took to it.On gaining confidence:
Just more confidence. Outside of the first period I felt really good, so just looking to build on it.I think the first two games I didn't feel bad, but wasn't getting the results I wanted. It's huge. Confidence is 50% of the game.
Some early energy in the opening shifts of the contest set the tone for Lehigh Valley to take a 1-0 lead.
Radel Fazleev sent a puck down low in the offensive zone and Utica's Mike Zalewski sent an ill-advised pass from behind the net up the middle of the ice. Corban Knight came flying into the zone and one-timed a shot past Comets' goaltender Richard Bachman to give the Phantoms the early lead 2:19 into the game.
Utica nearly tied it on the next shift if not for a stick check in the slot. Despite only recording three shots in the opening 6:14 of the first period, the Comets had several dangerous chances on Alex Lyon including a Colby Robak breakaway attempt that hit the inside of the post midway through the first period.
Overall, good end to end action in the first period between the Phantoms and Comets. Both teams were able to generate some grade-A scoring chances both off the rush and with sustained offensive zone time.
The Phantoms got into penalty trouble early and often in the 2nd period, whistled for three minor penalties in the first 5:21 of the middle frame including a stint of 5-on-3 shorthanded time. Luckily for Lehigh Valley, they were able to not only kill off the two-man advantage but also extend their lead with a shorthanded goal.
Jordan Subban flubbed a point shot at the tail end of the 5-on-3, which sent Knight up ice with numbers. Knight was able to weave his way to the net and get a shot on Bachman. The Comets' goaltender was unable to hold onto the shot and Reece Willcox, who had joined the rush, was able to push the rebound into the net to give the Phantoms a 2-0 lead.
Lehigh Valley made it a 3-0 game near the midway mark of the period, with Colin McDonald picking up a turnover in the offensive zone and firing one past Bachman from the left-wing circle.
It didn't stop there for the Phantoms in the second period either. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was grabbed on a breakaway attempt and awarded a penalty shot. Aube-Kubel's move on the penalty shot was nothing short of spectacular, freezing the goaltender and allowing him to go to his backhand to lift one up and into the net to make it a 4-0 game.
The rout was on, but Utica didn't pack it in. Instead, the Comets got on the board with 2:44 left before the second intermission - ending Alex Lyon's shutout bid. Lyon stopped a John Negrin point shot, but the rebound went to the side of the net where Carter Bancks was waiting to tap home the loose puck into what was basically an empty net.
The Phantoms put themselves shorthanded early in the third period, but again were able to hold strong on the penalty kill led by Lyon.
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
Alex Lyon (26 saves - 27 shots) got the start in net for Lehigh Valley tonight in Utica. Anthony Stolarz served as the team's backup goaltender.
Robert Hagg (head) sat out tonight's game and isn't expected to play this weekend. You might remember he took a point shot underneath his visor last Saturday against Springfield. He didn't return to that game, and also did not practice this week.
Andy Miele (upper body) received a hit up high in the Phantoms' last game Saturday against Springfield and wasn't seen much, if at all, after the hit. Miele also was a non-participant in practice this week and was scratched tonight.
Scratches: Robert Hagg (injured), Tyrell Goulbourne (healthy), Andy Miele (injury) and Petr Straka (healthy)
Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)
Taylor Leier (A) - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Greg Carey - Jordan Weal - Chris Conner
Mark Zengerle - Cole Bardreau - Danick Martel
Radel Fazleev - Corban Knight - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Will O'Neill - Max Lamarche
Alex Lyon - Anthony Stolarz
2:19: LV - Knight (3) - Fazleev, Zengerle
10:06: UTI - (PP) Negrin, minor (unsportsmanlike)
1:33: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (cross-checking)
4:08: LV - (PP) bench minor, too many men (served by Aube-Kubel)
5:41: LV - (PP) Laughton, minor (hooking)
6:16: LV - SHG Willcox (1) - Knight
7:45: LV - Martel, minor (interference)
7:45: UTI - Cassels, minor (slashing)
9:50: LV - McDonald (6) - Laughton
14:37: LV - Aube-Kubel (3) - Penalty shot
17:44: UTI - Bancks (3) - Negrin, Grenier
0:14: LV - (PP) Leier, minor (tripping)
3:15: LV - (PP) McDonald, minor (cross-checking)
6:51: UTI - (PP) Valk, minor (holding)
13:54: UTI - (PP) Bancks, minor (hooking)