|Alex Lyon put in two strong performances over the weekend. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook
ALLENTOWN - What a difference a few days make.
Entering last weekend's games, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms had goaltender Anthony Stolarz looking for his fifth straight start and fourth straight win. Instead, head coach Scott Gordon turned to Alex Lyon in net Friday night in Utica against a struggling Comets team.
"When I looked at the schedule last week I wanted Alex to go back into the net into a situation that would be good for him," Gordon explained after Tuesday's practice, adding, "Having had some time off, to play a team like Utica that had some guys out of the lineup and not been able to get their game going yet."
The move by Gordon paid off in a major way. And little did the Phantoms' bench boss know then that it would be instrumental in building his confidence prior to Michal Neuvirth's injury in Philadelphia the next night.
Stolarz came in Saturday night against Toronto and got his fourth straight win, but with the looming recall to Philadelphia it was Lyon drawing the start in net Sunday in Hershey. Not only did Lyon perform ably in a tough place to play at the tail end of a three-in-three, he lifted Lehigh Valley to a 3-1 win - stopping 35 of 36 shots in the process.
"Especially going through the first two-three weeks, I was really battling hard and maybe not finding my groove," Lyon said. "I didn't think I was playing bad, but it's nice to get a little success. It feels like the hard work finally paid off this [past] weekend."
While Lyon's confidence is soaring now, he admitted that the first period of Friday's game was a little unnerving.
"Coming off the two games I had before, I didn't feel poorly but you let in five goals in a game you don't come away feeling good about it ever," Lyon explained. "Yeah, I was a little nervous (entering Friday's game) because there just that much more pressure when you come off games like that."
Luckily for Lyon and the Phantoms, the guys in front of the goaltender played a strong road game in a 4-1 win.
"It was a perfect game for me because the guys didn't give up any really good chances and they put a few in for me which was very comforting," Lyon added.
"That's the type of situation that it's a lot easier for a goaltender to be in versus the two games he played prior," Gordon said. "Those were lousy situations to play your first two professional games. I'm sure if you asked him, he would take the Friday and Sunday game every night of the year."
Sunday in Hershey, the Phantoms took a 2-0 lead into the third period. Despite being largely out-shot and out-chanced in the final frame, Lyon stood tall and lifted Lehigh Valley to their sixth straight win.
"We gave up 36 shots but I think it was one of our best games as far as quality chances given up," Lyon recalled. "We really limited them especially because they have so many dangerous forwards. Sometimes you just have to battle and you rally around each other. Sometimes that's how you win games. It was a fun experience for sure."
With Stolarz gone to Philadelphia for the foreseeable future, it will be Lyon leading the Phantoms onto the ice Wednesday night against rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"I can't speak enough to Anthony. Sometimes you get put into a situation where the other goalie is hot. And he started off the season in spectacular fashion. You can't be upset about that," Lyon answered. "Neuvirth, obviously wish him the best and hope he can return quickly. That being said, it's also a great opportunity for me and [Stolarz] as well so I'm really looking forward to it."
Time will tell, but it'll be interesting to see how Lyon responds to now being the number one option in net for Lehigh Valley.
Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon explained the situation perfectly.
"To me, it was just a natural order of events. It was good timing for everything all the way around."