|Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook
One night after an embarrassing 9-1 loss on home ice, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (27-11-2) got back on track in Hershey against a struggling Bears team that has just one win in their last 10 games after the 5-1 Phantoms' win Sunday evening at the Giant Center.
The Phantoms scored a pair of goals 31 seconds apart late in the first period and never looked back. T.J. Brennan and Andy Miele had a game-high three assists each, Scott Laughton tallied a goal and an assist and now has eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last eight games and Greg Carey took over the league's scoring lead with his 22nd goal of the season and an assist in the win for Lehigh Valley.
Colin McDonald, Chris Conner and Jordan Weal also tallied goals while Alex Lyon stopped 25 of the 26 shots he faced to improve to 17-8-2 for a share of the league's lead for wins by a goaltender.
The Phantoms have a scheduled off day Monday before resuming practice Tuesday in preparation for their next game Wednesday night at home against the Binghamton Senators. The Phantoms then hit the road next weekend as their home rink - the PPL Center - gets ready to host the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic.
Quick recap of the action after the jump.
Special thanks to Michael Zahn (@miczahn on Twitter) who caught up with some of the guys after tonight's game and shared these with Highland Park Hockey.
Head coach Scott Gordon
On importance of early lead:
It was huge. When you give up that amount of goals (Saturday) the last thing you want to do is give up the first goal of the game. Especially for us playing three games in three nights. It wasn't an easy process but we found a way to get it done. It's a huge two points for us.On Lyon's play:
Alex was awesome tonight. He had stretches of no shots and then all of a sudden made a big save that was huge. He did it every period for us, especially in the first when I thought we were a step behind - a couple breakdowns that led to some quality chances. He was huge.On getting four of six points this weekend:
With the competition we played, if you look at it and say to yourself you'd get 4 out of 6 that's a good weekend. Obviously a huge disappointment Saturday but we have to walk away knowing these were 4 huge points for us. We're in the same shape we were in to start the weekend except for the fact that we're more points ahead of Hershey.Colin McDonald
On the chemistry with his line with Laughton/Leier (combined for game-winner and final goal):
We went through a stretch there where we were playing really well but we just had trouble scoring 5-on-5. We talked a lot, so we can't change the way we play - eventually it;s going to go in and sure enough we are starting to see some good results.On team's ability to bounce back:
It was good. Mental toughness with the way last night went. Guys were already talking about today's game right after last night's game so that tells you that guys forgot about last night and were already focused on today. The 3-in-3 and the travel, good goaltending - a really smart 3rd game of a 3-in-3 for us.Alex Lyon
On being able to bounce back after last night:
It takes a lot. I'm extremely physically and emotionally drained. I think that's what separates the average players from great players. Guys have ability to bounce-back and I think as a team we proved we are capable of that.On getting help from the defense and also bailing them out when needed:
They were great. Outside of that 2-on-1, I don't know if they had a quality opportunity. It speaks to how well they bounced back. I think you could also look at the penalty kill. Outside of that 4-on-3, they were outstanding.On facing Hershey so much and knowing tendancies;
It helps, but it's also - you get sick of it after awhile - to be quite honest. It's a rivalry. When you play a team that many times, you can't take a night off. We weren't going to coast to a win tonight and I think everyone knew that coming in. We ran away with a little, but it was a battle right to the end.
The Bears had the better of play throughout most of the first period, at one point out shooting the Phantoms by a 9-4 margin, but it was Lehigh Valley getting on the board 2:28 before the first intermission to take a 1-0 lead.
On their third power play of the period, Greg Carey took a pass from T.J. Brennan entering the offensive and did the rest - cutting to the middle and sniping one past Joe Cannata for his AHL league-leading 22nd goal of the season. It was also Carey's 14th power play goal, extending his lead in that category. Carey is the only skater with more than 9 power play goals in the league.
The Phantoms weren't done there either. In fact, they made it 2-0 just 31 seconds after Carey's power play tally when Colin McDonald banged home the rebound of Taylor Leier's low and hard shot from the left-wing faceoff circle.Greg Carey takes over the #AHL's lead in goals with his 22nd of the season to put #LVPhantoms up 1-0. pic.twitter.com/h0W9yJJvqF— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) January 22, 2017
The late first period goals changed the dynamic of the game, as the Phantoms dominated the first 12 minutes of the 2nd period - outshooting Hershey 8-0 before the Bears finally got their first shot of the period while on a power play around the midway mark of the period.
The Bears had a late 2nd period push, but much credit to Lyon for standing in there and coming up with some big time stops - including a sliding save on a 2-on-1 with 1:17 left before the 2nd intermission with the Phantoms on the penalty kill.
Something also very noticeable in the middle frame was Robert Hagg, who has seemed to add another element to his game the last few weeks - playing a much more physically-engaging style of play and playing with a bit of a snarl to him that is far different than his calm & cool as a cucumber approach his first two years in the AHL.
The Flyers seem high on Hagg, and it's starting to all come together for the Swedish blue liner. He's become a lot harder to play against in the defensive zone, and his decision-making on the breakout and with the puck on his stick have gotten a lot better too.
Hershey tried to push their back into the game early in the third period, but it only ended opening things up for the Phantoms.
The Bears got into penalty trouble and the Phantoms' power play capitalized - scoring goals on back-to-back power plays to break the game open into a 4-0 lead.
First, Chris Conner picked a corner on Cannata in the slot after the Bears goaltender robbed Carey of his 23rd goal of the year. Then, Jordan Weal deflected a T.J. Brennan shot past Cannata 75 seconds later.
Chris Bourque broke Lyon's shutout bid with 7:17 left in regulation, collecting a pass from Travis Boyd at the center point and ripping one through a screen and in to get Hershey on the board in the 5-1 final.
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
Alex Lyon (25 saves - 26 shots) got the start in net tonight in Hershey. Mark Dekanich served as Lyon's backup as Anthony Stolarz remains out due to injury.
Reece Willcox re-entered the lineup on defense, and Mark Alt got the night off with what is presumably a healthy scratch at the tail end of a 3-in-3 to get some fresh legs on the blue line.
Jordan Weal, who was a late injury scratch Saturday vs. Providence, was back in the lineup as was Radel Fazleev. Boyd Gordon and Nicolas Aube-Kubel were scratched to make room up front.
Scratches: Anthony Stolarz (injured), Mark Alt, Nicolas Aube-Kubel (healthy) and Boyd Gordon (healthy)
Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)
Taylor Leier - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Danick Martel - Jordan Weal - Mark Zengerle
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Cole Bardreau - Radel Fazleev - Corban Knight
T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Will O'Neill - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Alex Lyon - Mark Dekanich
5:16: HER - (PP) Stephenson, minor (slashing)
7:17: LV - (PP) Zengerle, minor (goaltender interference)
10:11: HER - (PP) Mitchell, minor (goaltender interference)
10:27: LV - (PP) Miele, minor (holding)
16:33: HER - (PP) O'Brien, minor (interference)
17:32: LV - PPG Carey (22) - Brennan, Miele
18:03: LV - McDonald (16) - Leier, Laughton
9:17: LV - (PP) Hagg, minor (tripping)
17:36: LV - (PP) Hagg, minor (roughing)
4:10: LV - (PP) Willcox, minor (roughing)
7:00: HER - (PP) Cannata, served by Mitchell (delay of game)
8:02: LV - PPG Conner (11) - Carey, Miele
8:09: HER - (PP) Ness, minor (interference)
9:17: LV - PPG Weal (13) - Brennan, Zengerle
10:54: LV - (PP) Zengerle, minor (high-sticking)
10:58: HER - (PP) O'Brien, minor (interference)
11:42: LV - Laughton (8) - Miele, Brennan
12:03: LV - (PP) Martel, minor (hooking)
12:43: HER - PPG Bourque (10) - Boyd, Stephenson