|Chris Conner re-directs a puck past Vitek Vanecek late in the 1st period Friday night. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook
ALLENTOWN - On a night where there were plenty of penalties, questionable late hits and tempers flaring between the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears it was the Phantoms (24-9-2) who kept their composure and capitalized on the man advantage - tallying a franchise record four power play goals on a record 12 attempts in a 6-2 rout of the rival Bears (18-9-9) Friday night at the PPL Center.
The sellout crowd of 8,710 had plenty to cheer about as the Phantoms got a game-high three points from Cole Bardreau (one goal, two assists) while also getting two points each from Chris Conner (one goal, one assist), Corban Knight (one goal, one assist) and Will O'Neill (two assists) in the blowout win. Anthony Stolarz improved to 7-3-0 on the season, stopping 15 of the 17 shots that came his way.
The Phantoms and Bears meet again tomorrow night at the Giant Center in Hershey in what should be an entertaining affair given the amount of extra curricular activity on the other end of the whistles tonight in downtown Allentown.
Head coach Scott Gordon:
On starting the night 3-for-4 on the power play:
They weren't pretty power plays to watch, but somehow we found a way to score. Even if we weren't clicking on all cylinders, at the end of the day we did a good job of getting the puck to the net on all of those goals and getting rebounds and tips.On getting everyone involved in a special teams affair:
I was actually expecting there would be a big disparity in minutes among our forwards, but I think the timing of when they happened and stretches of four-on-four and penalty kills so the other guys got their ice time. With the exception of Danick, who didn't play much in the 2nd period, and then you got the slash and didn't play at all in the third. But everyone else was fairly even.On how team kept their composure:
I think that's why we were able to get the 12 power plays because we were disciplined. And we talked a little bit about it after the 1st period. Obviously there was a lot of carry over from the last game against them and I think our guys handled it well. It's not an easy thing to do when you have to protect yourself and I guess turn the other cheek. But our guys did it and they got rewarded for it.Defenseman T.J. Brennan
On the power play tonight:
It's always nice to get ahead on the power play and kind of get that momentum. Any time you can capitalize when the other team takes a penalty it's obviously a good thing. Scoring is obviously huge, but like I said just getting the flow and the momentum in our favor is a big thing but cashing is big for the team and gets us ahead.On his decision to tackle Liam O'Brien in the 3rd period to stick up for teammate:
Something like that. I wouldn't say it was out of hand, we just got the better of them this game. When anyone kind of trying to build momentum or get out of line there, just wasn't right. Obviously, for myself to do something like it's maybe a little undisciplined but I think it's something he was kind of expecting. I'm sure we can expect them to come out hard and they don't want to lose a game 6-2 especially to a team that they're right behind in the standings. We can expect them to come out hard tomorrow and play a tough game and be ready to get those two points right back.On the extra curriculars being a product of rivalry:
It's nothing personal. That's part of his game - to try and stir stuff up. We didn't like a couple of his hits and couple things he was doing so I just took an opportunity I saw to do something like that. Like I said, a little undisciplined on my part but it seemed like the game was kind of over at that point especially the way they were showing. We just want to look forward to tomorrow and try to get two more points and make the gap even further.
The Phantoms and Bears both started off tonight's game with a conservative approach. Shots weren't getting through, as both teams were playing extra stingy defensively.
The two teams traded early power plays that were rather uneventful, but the Phantoms gained momentum from their penalty kill and started to generate the game's first real offensive pressure while 5-on-5. In particular, Danick Martel nearly put the Phantoms ahead 1-0 midway through the period but was high-sticked while going to the net for a rebound.
Lehigh Valley cashed in on the ensuing power play to grab the lead, as captain Colin McDonald was parked just outside Vitek Vanecek's crease to tap in a rebound for his 14th of the season.
Some good skating and vision by Taylor Leier behind the net to get the puck into the slot to an open Mark Zengerle, whose quick shot was kicked to the side by Vanecek's right pad. McDonald was in the right place at the right time, pushing the puck past an out-stretched Vanecek for the power play tally and the game's first goal with 6:25 left in the opening period.
The Phantoms seemed to take control of the period in the second ten minutes, possessing the puck in the offensive zone and forcing Hershey to defend. They went on their third man advantage of the period with 3:14 left before the first intermission, and added to their lead before heading back to the locker room.
Andy Miele and Will O'Neill were passing it to each other back and forth from the half-wall to the point, and after a spinning Miele flipped one up to O'Neill at the center point and the Phantoms' defenseman wristed a hard shot on net that was tipped past Vanecek by Chris Conner to extend the Phantoms' lead to 2-0 with 1:55 left in the opening period.
Things got chippy in the later stages of the 1st frame. After a meeting of bodies at the team benches, Hershey enforcer Liam O'Brien immediately targeted O'Neill and challenged him to a fight, which the Phantoms' defender declined. In the previous meeting between these two teams on December 26th, it was O'Neill punching Bears defenseman Darren Dietz after the game ended that resulted in a one-game suspension.
After the 1st period ended, Zach Sanford got into it with Scott Laughton and negated a late 1st period Bears power play - sending the two teams to the 1st intermission with the game's first 4-on-4 hockey on its way to start the middle frame.
The penalty parade continued in the middle frame for Hershey, and the Phantoms made the man advantage count again early in the second period - extending their lead to 3-0 on a brief two-man advantage.
T.J. Brennan got a puck down low to Chris Conner, who sent a perfect pass across the ice to the left-wing for a wide open Jordan Weal. Weal skated in and fired a quick shot low to the blocker side on Vanecek for his 12th of the season to make it 3-for-4 on the power play for the Phantoms just 1:45 into the 2nd period.
Hershey started to give a little push back from there. Despite being out-shot 11-5 at one point in the second period, they rattled off five consecutive shots and got on the scoreboard at the 7:31 mark after some extended offensive zone time.
Christian Thomas and Liam O'Brien worked a loose puck out of a net-front scramble and the puck eventually came out to the top of the right-wing circle for Darren Dietz, who beat a screened Stolarz to make it a 3-1 game.
The Bears were whistled for five minor penalties in the final 7:04 of the middle period, and while the Phantoms didn't get their fourth power play goal of the night in the 2nd frame they added to their lead late in the period on an interesting goal that was, then wasn't then was again.
Will O'Neill's point shot with 2:36 left in the period was tipped past Vanecek by Corban Knight and was almost immediately waved off by the referee in perfect position behind the net, claiming there was incidental contact with the Bears' goaltender. After conferring with the other on-ice officials, the goal stood - giving the Phantoms a 4-1 lead heading to the third period.
But before the 2nd period was able to come to an end, the Bears' frustration started to emerge - particularly after Knight's goal. O'Brien, noted Bears' enforcer, was at it again - first mixing it up with T.J. Brennan behind the net as the two exchanged shoves and wrestled to the ground. Then, after Brennan was assessed a minor on the play, O'Brien came in late after a whistled and put a big hit on Taylor Leier - starting another post-whistle scrum which resulted in a double-minor on O'Brien with 1:15 left before the second intermission.
The game had the feeling that if the score remained lopsided that the final 20 minutes had the potential to get ugly.
The Phantoms didn't score on the carryover power play time to begin the final frame, but made their season-high 11th man advantage count to extend the lead to 5-1with 7:16 gone in the third.
Cole Bardreau was able to tally his 6th of the season atop the crease, pushing a rebound of Mark Alt's shot from the point past Vanecek. Corban Knight added a secondary assist on the power play tally as the goal came two seconds before the penalty was set to expire.
As expected in a lop-sided score between bitter rivals, things got uglier and uglier as the third period wore on. On one specific play, with the Phantoms shorthanded, Taylor Leier nearly made it 6-1 on a shorthanded rush with Scott Laughton. After Leier's shot was stopped and the puck was moved up ice, Leier was blasted from behind by none other than O'Brien. There was no penalty on the play and the Bears actually went up the ice and scored to make it a 5-2 game.
Scott Laughton capped the scoring at 6-2 with a breakaway tally with 1:41 left in regulation but not before O'Brien's antics came to an end with 7:02 left in regulation. After a whistle as the team's started to change lines, Brennan took matters into his own hands and tackled O'Brien to the ice - causing yet another scrum to break out on the ice. Both players were assessed matching ten-minute misconduct penalties, and that was that.
Be sure to tune in here at Highland Park Hockey Saturday night as the Phantoms rematch the Bears at the Giant Center in Hershey.
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
Anthony Stolarz (15 saves - 17 shots) got the start in net tonight for Lehigh Valley. Alex Lyon served as the backup but is slated to get the start Saturday night in Hershey in the rematch.
Reece Willcox remained a healthy scratch on defense, while up front it was Nicholas Aube-Kubel's turn to sit out as the 13th forward for the Phantoms.
Danick Martel didn't play much in the middle frame after taking a slash early in the second period. Martel did not return for the third period and there was no update after the game on his status moving forward.
Scratches: Nicholas Aube-Kubel (healthy) and Reece Willcox (healthy)
Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)
Taylor Leier - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald
Danick Martel - Jordan Weal - Mark Zengerle
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Cole Bardreau - Radel Fazleev - Corban Knight
T.J. Brennan - Mark Alt
Will O'Neill - Robert Hagg
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon
2:29: HER - (PP) Djoos, minor (interference)
5:47: LV - (PP) Fazleev, minor (tripping)
10:58: HER - (PP) Djoos, minor (high-sticking)
12:35: LV - PPG McDonald (14) - Zengerle, Leier
16:46: HER - (PP) Dietz, minor (high-sticking)
18:05: LV - PPG Conner (9) - O'Neill, Miele
19:32: LV - (PP) Conner, minor (high-sticking)
20:00: HER - (PP) Sanford, minor (roughing)
1:34: HER - (PP) Lewington, minor (holding)
1:45: LV - PPG Weal (12) - Conner, Brennan
2:34: LV - (PP) Miele, minor (interference)
7:31: HER - Dietz (3) - O'Brien, Thomas
8:49: HER - (PP) Stephenson, minor (high-sticking)
12:56: HER - (PP) Dietz, minor (holding)
14:37: HER - (PP) Malone, minor (face-off violation)
17:34: LV - Knight (5) - O'Neill, Bardreau
18:33: LV - (PP) Brennan, minor (elbowing)
18:45: HER - (PP) O'Brien, minor (cross-checking)
18:45: HER - (PP) O'Brien, minor (roughing)
5:18: HER - (PP) Galiev, minor (slashing)
7:16: LV: PPG Bardreau (6) - Alt, Knight
10:57: LV - (PP) Bardreau, minor (cross-checking)
12:26: HER - PPG Ness (4) Bourque, Boyd
12:58: HER - O'Brien, ten-minute misconduct
12:58: LV - Brennan, ten-minute misconduct
18:19: LV - Laughton (5) - Bardreau
19:34: HER - (PP) Lewington, minor (charging)
19:34: HER - Lewington, ten-minute misconduct