|Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tim Riday - Twitter
ALLENTOWN - Of the many cliches in pro hockey, there is one that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms can especially relate to after Wednesday night’s tilt at PPL Center.
It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Phantoms jumped out to a 5-1 lead and appeared to be on cruise control for their third straight victory. But the Bridgeport Sound Tigers weren’t going to let a rout come at their expense.
The Sound Tigers erased the Phantoms’ four-goal lead to set up a take-it-or-leave it third period.
Fortunately for Scott Gordon’s group, they didn’t let a dreadful second period cost them two points. The Phantoms (18-7-1-0) showed some resiliency and rallied behind goalie Alex Lyon in the third frame to take down the Sound Tigers (16-9-0-0) for a riveting 8-6 win in Allentown.
Mark Zengerle led the way offensively, collecting a goal and two assists, Travis Sanheim picked up his third and fourth goals of the season and Chris Conner chipped in a goal and an assist of his own. Corban Knight also recorded a multi-point evening with two assists.
A full recap of the action after the jump, complete with reaction from head coach Scott Gordon, defenseman T.J, Brennan and a video interview featuring tonight's number one star Mark Zengerle.
Head coach Scott Gordon:
On the poor effort in the second period:
“What can go right and what can go wrong? It’s one thing to go wrong when it’s self-inflicted. We made two horrible backhand soft plays that there’s no need for. We have other options. We had control of the game right up until they scored the shorthanded goal. There wasn’t anything happening in the second period that we had to be worried. We’re up halfway through the game, we’re up 5-1 and we all of sudden decided we were gonna play a little recklessly.”
On taking foot off the gas:
“I think it’s human nature to think that it’s easier than it is. This is something that we’ve talked to the players about when we’ve had our best periods it wasn’t because it was easy it was because of the work that we did to create turnovers, to put pressure on the opposition. To make changes instead of forechecking. When all of a sudden the ability to do that gets taken away because we wanna make poor decisions with the puck. They’re jumping on turnovers that there’s no reason to make those plays.”
On Alex Lyon:
“It was 5-5 when he made that glove save. When you don’t have, from a numbers standpoint, the kinda night you want - goals against and save percentage - to make that save right there, the rest of the night didn’t matter. That was huge.”
On the team’s mental toughness:
“I don’t think our mentality is to fold. With our personalities, they are a confident group. Whether we played bad or good or great we get chances. We get opportunities to score frequently. I think that, in itself, drives our confidence. Tonight, it might be an instance where, because we’re so confident offensively, that we get a little reckless.”
Defenseman T.J. Brennan:
Thoughts on the wild game:
That game was an absolute roller coaster. Before the game, that would have been a long shot horse to say the game would end 8-6. Sometimes when that happens, which is very far and few between, you just have to go with it and find what’s working. It’s tough, you have to deal with adversity out there… that’s the game of hockey.
On how team regrouped after the 2nd period:
Sometimes you just have to take a step back, and take a deep breath. It’s lucky that you have three periods and you can cut it up and try and do that but sometimes that doesn’t even work. We were lucky they didn’t score at the end of the period and we came into the third 5-5 so we just tried to regroup from there and it obviously ended up working.
The Phantoms made sure the Sound Tigers knew this was going to be their night. If they wanted to steal a win on the road, they were going to have to earn it.
On the very first shift, Scott Laughton, Colin McDonald and Cole Bardreau all threw hard checks on the forecheck. Talk about setting the tone.
That shift alone provided a ton of momentum early in the game. So it wasn't a major shock when Chris Conner opened the scoring just one minute and 28 seconds in. The veteran winger blew past Devon Toews with a power move on the wing and made a great deke to the backhand to get the puck past Eamon McAdam.
Conner continued to stand out a few minutes later, setting up Travis Sanheim off a 2-on-1 rush. Sanheim fired a strong shot on net but McAdam was able to fight it off.
That was really just a sign of things to come. McAdam won the battle but Sanheim won the war in the first.
The Phantoms' rookie defenseman gave his club a 2-0 lead just before the midway point when he tracked a puck that banked off the end boards and put it home. McAdam played the shot poorly and all Sanheim had to do was put it on net. He scored just four seconds after a Lehigh Valley power play expired, too.
Sanheim's dominance was nowhere near done, either. He notched his second goal of the game with 5:08 left in the first frame, when he fired a quick wrister that hit the far post and went in on a Phantoms power play.
Bridgeport responded after Sanheim made it a 3-0 game on the very next shift, however. Josh Ho-Sang won a loose puck in the corner and dished it to Travis St. Denis, who banked his shot from behind the net off Alex Lyon and in. The Phantoms had good coverage in front but it was a leaky goal, one that Lyon would like to have back.
Then the attention went right back to Sanheim. He made an unreal stretch pass from blueline to blueline to a breaking Conner. Conner went in on a breakaway but couldn't fool McAdam with a quick shot blocker side.
Lehigh Valley continued to push the pace offensively toward the end of the frame. Mark Zengerle, on an odd-man rush, cut to the middle of the ice and fired a wicked wrist shot past McAdam with just one minute and 49 seconds remaining to make it a 4-1 game.
The Phantoms also wound up taking a 21-8 shots advantage into intermission as well. It was as one-sided as a one-sided game can get.
But 20 strong minutes means nothing unless you follow through.
The Sound Tigers knew they needed a spark to get something going, so they made a change in net to start the second period. McAdam came out and Stephon Williams went in.
At first, it didn’t look like a swap in net was going to slow the Phantoms.
After a scary collision, Lehigh Valley was awarded a power play when Bracken Kearns steamrolled Lyon. He did nothing to stop himself while he was at full speed on the forecheck and went hard into Lyon, who got up slowly but was OK to stay in net.
The Phantoms made the Sound Tigers pay. Greg Carey made it a 5-1 lead nearly two minutes into the frame on a 5-on-3 advantage. Bridgeport also had a player with a broken stick on the ice. Once Jordan Weal realized that, he made a great pass over to Carey for an easy one-timer. Andy Miele picked up the secondary assist.
Just a few minutes later, Sanheim had another impact moment. He was issued a roughing minor after he stuck up for Lyon in a post-whistle scrum.
Sanheim was that active. He was physical all night and was a hard player not to keep your eyes on.
The Phantoms had a chance to put the nail in the coffin with over 12 minutes remaining. Will O'Neill got into a shove match with Ho-Sang and goaded the youngster into a penalty after taking a cross-check to the chin.
Unfortunately, that was when Lehigh Valley began to get sloppy. Miele tried to force a pass through traffic at center ice and Connor Jones picked it off. Jones went in unchallenged and sniped one past Lyon at the 9:35 mark.
Another bad turnover came back to bite the Phantoms five minutes later. T.J. Brennan made a poor breakout pass that was controlled by the Sound Tigers. That led to a 2-on-1 rush for Scott Mayfield and Tanner Fritz. Brennan left Reece Willcox hanging and Mayfield eventually set up Fritz with a perfect pass for a nice tap-in.
It was all Bridgeport for the rest of the frame. With just five minutes to go, Toews cut the Phantoms’ lead down to one goal. Then Steve Bernier found a juicy rebound in the slot and put a backhander past Lyon to make it 5-5 at the 16:15 mark.
The Phantoms completely unraveled. They were caught with too many men on the ice at 18:42 and were forced to start the third period shorthanded.
It certainly wasn’t looking good for the home team. But all that mattered was that the game was even after two periods. Lehigh Valley crushed it in the first but Bridgeport was the aggressor in the second. Either team could come out on top with 20 more solid minutes.
The Phantoms got off to a strong start in the third by killing off the rest of their bench minor.
But five minutes into the third, Brennan had a shot from the point blocked and he was slow to get back. The Sound Tigers attempted a wraparound pass to the slot but Lyon made a great recovery to stop the shot with his glove hand high in the air.
The Phantoms really seemed to feed off of Lyon’s save. And with 12 minutes to go, they were rewarded for turning their effort up a notch after blowing a four-goal lead.
Miele made a nifty move at the blue line and led a charge up ice. He cut back at the top of the circle and found a breaking Brennan, who fired a laser on net that trickled in to make it a 6-5 lead for Lehigh Valley.
The Phantoms weren’t done.
Zengerle showed some great patience late in the game on a 2-on-1 with six minutes to go. He waited until he got to the bottom of the circle before he sauced a pass over to Radel Fazleev for an easy tap-in.
Nothing would come easy on this night, though. The Sound Tigers, with Williams pulled for an extra attacker, scored with just one minute and five seconds left to again make it a one-goal game.
But the Phantoms managed to close it out. Bardreau blocked a shot, skated the end of the ice and potted an empty-netter after a frantic final minute.
In the end, Lehigh Valley put a pitiful second period behind them and hung on for a 8-6 victory over Bridgeport. It turns out 40 strong minutes was all they needed but they’re not going to enjoy the film review when Scott Gordon dissects what exactly went wrong for the other 20.
T.J. Brennan has two goals and two assists in his last three games. ... Chris Conner has two goals and four assists in his last three games. ... Corban Knight has dished out seven assists in his last five appearances. ... Andy Miele has one goal and seven assists in his last seven games. ... Scott Laughton has been held without a point in five straight contests. ... Radel Fazleev has goals in back-to-back tilts. ... The Phantoms went 2 for 8 on the power play. It was the 12th time this season they recorded at least two power-play tallies in a game.... Greg Carey scored his ninth power play goal of the season tonight, which leads the AHL.
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
Alex Lyon (30 saves - 36 shots) got the start in net for Lehigh Valley tonight. Martin Ouellette served as Lyon's backup.
Defenseman Max Lamarche and forward Steven Swavely re-joined the Phantoms after a weekend stint with the ECHL affiliate Reading Royals. Both were healthy scratches tonight, as the Phantoms rolled with the same lineup from their weekend sweep of Rochester.
Scratches: Steven Swavely (healthy) and Max Lamarche (healthy)
Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)
Cole Bardreau - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Danick Martel - Jordan Weal - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Corban Knight - Radel Fazleev - Mark Zengerle
T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Will O'Neill (A) - Robert Hagg
Alex Lyon - Martin OuelletteGAME SUMMARY
1:27: LV - Conner (6) - unassisted
1:48: LV - (PP) Knight, minor (hooking)
2:36: BST - (PP) bench minor, too many men
7:01: BST - (PP) Cullity, minor (tripping)
9:05: LV - Sanheim (2) - Martel, Zengerle
11:27: BST - (PP) Dal Colle, minor (hooking)
13:29: BST - (PP) Dal Colle, minor (interference)
14:52: LV - PPG Sanheim (3) - O'Neill, McDonald
15:21: BST - St. Denis (5) - Ho-Sang, Toews
18:11: LV - Zengerle (6) - Knight, Willcox
19:19: LV - (PP) Weal, minor (cross-checking)
0:20: BST - (PP) Ho-Sang, minor (slashing)
0:54: BST - (PP) Kearns, minor (goaltender interference)
1:53: LV - PPG Carey (12) - Weal, Miele
2:53: LV - (PP) Sanheim, minor (roughing)
7:26: BST - (PP) Ho-Sang, minor (roughing)
8:35: BST - SHG C. Jones (5) - unassisted
11:53: BST - Fritz (7) - Mayfield
14:55: BST - Toews (4) - C. Jones
16:15: BST - Bernier (9) - Dal Colle, Pulock
18:42: LV - (PP) Bench minor, too many men
1:45: BST - (PP) C. Jones, minor (diving/embellishment)
3:39: LV - Martel, minor (roughing)
3:39: BST - Mayfield, minor (roughing)
7:59: LV - Brennan (9) - Miele, Conner
15:08: LV - Fazleev (3) - Zengerle, Knight
18:55: BST - Rowe (4) - Kearns
19:56: LV - ENG Bardreau (5) - unassisted