|Phantoms continue to rack up the wins in November. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tim Riday - Twitter
ALLENTOWN - In hockey, there are nights where it looks like a goaltender is unbeatable.
You'll see it a few times a season. A goalie gets hot and steals a win or two.
But not even a goalie on the top of his game can slow down Lehigh Valley at this point.
The Phantoms (9-3-1) claimed their seventh consecutive victory with a decisive 4-1 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (10-3-1), one of the top teams in the AHL, at PPL Center on Wednesday evening.
Though initially difficult to crack, Pens goalie Tristan Jarry eventually fell victim to the Phantoms' enviable depth.
Corban Knight, Greg Carey and Taylor Leier all found the back of the net and T.J. Brennan iced the game with an empty-netter from Lehigh Valley's zone.
Alex Lyon, in the first game since No. 1 goalie Anthony Stolarz's call-up, was sound in net. He turned aside 30 shots and has now allowed just one goal in each of his last three starts.
During the seven-game win streak, the Phantoms have lit the lamp 32 times and have surrendered just 11 markers.
Full recap after the jump.
Head coach Scott Gordon
On the winning streak
“You play three games in a row against Hershey, Toronto and Wilkes-Barre, that’s the making of a potential losing streak. To get three in a row, obviously for our team, there certainly hasn’t been any easy games, to play the amount of hockey that we’ve played over the last two weeks, to go out and play, at the time, what is the first-place team, it’s pretty impressive by our guys to be able to do that.”
On Alex Lyon
“He had a lot of traffic. A lot of pucks just thrown to the net. Whether it was a situation where it was off the wing and they could easily funnel to the front of the net, I thought he did a really good job of making sure the pucks didn’t go to the front of the net. Directing them, tying them up. They did a pretty good job of getting traffic to the net and I thought he fought through that really well.”
On the offensive depth
“I think in every game we’ve played, I think we’ve done a really good of generating offensive chances. Last year, we were basically a one and a half line team. Maybe two and best. This year, we’re a four-line team that can score.”
On the penalty kill
“One of the things, earlier in the year, with the exception of the two 5-on-3s, we’re doing a good job but we’re spending more time in our zone. Time in the zone is always OK as long as it’s scrums in the corner and battles and the opposition can’t get position on the puck. What I really liked on the last power play was our guys not really allowing them to have a lot of possession time. That’s one of the areas we’ve talked about. Last year, I think the first 15 games we were something like 65 percent on our penalty kill. Coming into this year, I put an emphasis on making sure our penalty kill was up to par in the beginning of the year.”
Defenseman Travis Sanheim
On the team gelling
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start there to start the season. I think we’re starting to come together as a group. If we’re good enough to shut the other teams down defensively, we’re gonna score goals.”
On the overall defense
“I think we’ve been working on it in practice. We’re coming together as a group. We’re starting to communicate and understand where the other guys are gonna be.”
On the penalty kill
“Sticking to our system. Not shying away too much. I think early on, we gave up quite a few 5-on-3 goals. As of late, we’ve been good enough to not take those penalties when we’re down a man already.”
There wasn't much flow to the game for the first five minutes. The lone noteworthy play came a minute and a half in, when Sam Morin made a brilliant pinch in the neutral zone to create a scoring chance for Greg Carey off the rush. The Phantoms crashed the net hard but failed to poke in the rebound.
Lehigh Valley eventually began to dominate the play, however. Right before the halfway mark, Penguins netminder Tristan Jarry was forced to make back-to-back stops on Phantoms defensemen T.J. Brennan and Reece Willcox from the low circle and point, respectively, after a good offensive sequence.
Jarry continued to frustrate the Phantoms after a strong breakout led by Brennan. He made a crisp pass from the defensive zone to Radel Fazleev, who cut to the middle of the ice before making a drop pass to Danick Martel. Martel fired a quick wrister but Jarry fought it off with his shoulder.
At the 12:28 mark, the Phantoms caught a huge break. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton appeared to take an early lead but the goal was quickly waved off by the officials. The call on the ice was incidental goaltender interference, though it didn't look like there was much contact between the Penguin forward in the crease and Lehigh Valley goalie Alex Lyon.
Fortunately, Scott Gordon's group didn't let the play affect the pace. They can thank Travis Sanheim for that.
The rookie defenseman made a really smart decision with the puck at the blue line with nine minutes to go, banking a pass of the back boards to a waiting Colin McDonald on the back post. McDonald wasn't able to convert but it was a quality opportunity.
Just 47 seconds later, Sanheim continued to put on a clinic. He fired a hard, low shot on Jarry that Scott Laughton almost got a piece of before making two keeps at the blue line. On the second keep, he displayed some impressive footwork a la Shayne Gostisbehere.
The first penalty of the night was called with six minutes and 32 seconds remaining in the frame. Jordan Weal was forced to haul down Penguins forward Oskar Sundqvist, who was breaking to the slot with no Phantom in sight. Sometimes when you look at box scores, it's assumed hooking penalties are lazy. This one wasn't.
Lehigh Valley made sure to repay Weal, too. It was a fantastic penalty kill in which the Phantoms didn't surrender a single shot on Lyon. They were aggressive on the puck and it led to two clears down the ice, one by Laughton late in the kill, to eliminate valuable attack time for the Penguins.
When the play went back to five-on-five, Laughton turned on the jets toward the end of his shift for a mini-breakaway. He just missed on a backhander that Jarry might've gotten a piece of.
Though the first period ended deadlocked at 0-0, Lehigh Valley closed out the frame strong. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Cole Bardreau and Mark Zengerle pinned Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and created a lot of chances in the dangerous areas. Aube-Kubel found Badreau breaking in the slot but Bardreau's shot attempt went just wide. Then, Aube-Kubel fired a laser of his own that Jarry was able to cover for a much-needed stoppage.
The second period was a different story.
The Penguins were buzzing from the second the frame started. Lyon was initially up to the task, making two key saves in the first 60 seconds.
Then Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finally broke the tie. At the 17:37 mark, Thomas Di Pauli, crashing the net hard and appearing to interfere with Lyon, collected his first goal of the season.
The officials reviewed it but the call on the ice stood. That early break came back to bite the Phantoms.
About a minute later, Lehigh Valley had a golden opportunity to get it back, however. They went on the power play after David Warsofsky was whistled for tripping.
The Phantoms had an early miscue after Sanheim shifted toward the middle of the ice. Zengerle was facing the boards and didn't see Sanheim's maneuver, sending the puck to an empty point that eventually made its way all the way down the ice. That wasted a good 25 seconds.
McDonald made things interesting late in the man advantage. Will O'Neill fired a blast and McDonald quickly corralled the rebound to put a shot on net but Jarry, again, said no.
Some time passed before the next noteworthy play of the frame. Carey was assessed a two-minute penalty for boarding at 10:26, even though it was really a cross-check. Either way, it was a penalty.
On the ensuing power play for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Chad Ruhwedel rung a shot off the crossbar early on. Then Lehigh Valley shut things down. The PK has been spectacular over the last seven games.
After a lull in play, the Phantoms finally solved Jarry. Martel and Fazleev led a ferocious forecheck to win a key puck battle late with two minutes and 30 seconds to go in the second.
Fazleev then found a wide-open Corban Knight at the top of the crease. Knight deked to his backhand but his original attempt was turned away. The rebound popped up in the air but Knight grabbed it, put it down and deposited it to the back of the net for a highlight-reel worthy goal.
It was a phenomenal play all around and it knotted the game at 1-1.
The Phantoms were forced to go on the kill yet again early in the third period when Knight was sent to the penalty box for tripping. It was a chincy call considering all Knight did was throw a clean check on the puck carrier.
Lyon wasn't really tested but turned aside two shots to keep the game even.
That paved the way for Carey's go-ahead goal with 14:03 remaining in the frame. A bouncing puck gave Jarry trouble and Carey smartly jumped all over the rebound for his team-leading eighth marker of the season.
The bounces continued to go the Phantoms way with 13:09 remaining. Taylor Leier roofed a rebound over Jarry's shoulder to give his club a 3-1 lead. Sanheim and Laughton earned well-deserved assists on the play.
Carey found himself heading to the box yet again right before the halfway mark. The Penguins were firing at will but Lyon remained calm and made a few stellar stops.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton began to unravel a bit and it led to a brief 5-on-3 advantage for Lehigh Valley. Brennan and O’Neill got shots on net but there was little to no traffic. The Penguins breezed by unscathed.
The Phantoms were on the wrong end of another bad call with 5:05 remaining. Chris Conner was given a penalty for high sticking when his stick didn’t even make contact with the Penguins’ defenseman. Conner was dumping the puck on the rush and the two players collided head to head when Conner cut to the outside.
Not that it really mattered. Lehigh Valley was utterly dominant on the PK and killed off the final minor of the night with relative ease.
Brennan put the final nail in the coffin with 25.2 seconds to go. He scored, from the Phantoms’ zone, on the empty net to make it a 4-1 final.
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
Alex Lyon (30 saves - 31 shots) got the start in net for Lehigh Valley tonight. Martin Ouellette, recalled from ECHL Reading after Anthony Stolarz went up to Philadelphia, served as the team's backup.
Robert Hagg (head) and Andy Miele (undisclosed upper-body) were still non-participants in practice this week. Head coach Scott Gordon confirmed after Tuesday's practice that neither would play this week but both were getting close to returning to the ice for practice.
Tyrell Goulbourne has been the odd-man out since the beginning of the month, spending his seventh straight game as the team's 13th forward and a healthy scratch.
Scratches: Robert Hagg (head), Tyrell Goulbourne (healthy) and Andy Miele (undisclosed upper body)
This is the first time the Phantoms have won seven straight since December of 2008. That was the final year at the Spectrum and 20-year-old Claude Giroux had a seven-goal, five-assist point streak during that run. ... The Phantoms have successfully killed of 21 of their last 22 shorthanded situations over the last seven games. ... Radel Fazleev extended his point streak to four games. He has one goal and three assists during that stretch. Greg Carey has five goals and one assist over his last six games. ... Corban Knight has three goals and two assists in his last five games. ... Taylor Leier has four goals and two assists over his last five games.... Jordan Weal left the game after taking a big hit in the second period and did not return. There wasn't an update on his status moving forward.
Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)
Taylor Leier (A) - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Greg Carey - Jordan Weal - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Radel Fazleev - Corban Knight
Mark Zengerle - Cole Bardreau (A) - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Will O'Neill - Max Lamarche
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Alex Lyon - Martin Ouellette
13:28: LV - (PP) Weal, minor (hooking)
2:23: WBS - Di Pauli (1) - Sundqvist
3:22: WBS - (PP) Warsofsky, minor (tripping)
9:34: LV - (PP) Carey, minor (boarding)
17:29: LV - Knight (4) - Fazleev, Martel
2:54: LV - (PP) Knight, minor (tripping)
5:57: LV - Carey (8) - Zengerle, Conner
6:51: LV - Leier (4) - Sanheim, Laughton
8:52: WBS - (PP) Kostopoulos, minor (tripping)
10:14: WBS - (PP) Sundqvist, minor (holding)
14:55: LV - (PP) Conner, minor (high-sticking)
19:35: LV - ENG Brennan (4) - unassisted
QUOTES FROM THE PENGUINS PERSPECTIVE
WBS head coach Clark Donatelli
That's a good team over there. A lot of good players. You can't give a team like that too many chances. It's going to end up in the back of the net. Unfortunately for us, that's what happened.
That's a long way away, I don't know. You never know. They're a good team, they're going to be there that's for sure.
They have some skill over there. Guys that can put the puck away. They're really good. Guys like Weal, Conner and those guys. What's that, their seventh in a row? They're a good hockey team.