|Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey|
Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook
The last time the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (25-10-2) and Springfield Thunderbirds (15-15-5-2) met, back on November 5th, the Phantoms found themselves down by two goals entering the third period. Lehigh Valley stormed back with a dominant third period in that one - scoring four unanswered goals in a 6-4 come from behind win.
In a rare 1:05 p.m. ET Monday afternoon game in Springfield, the Phantoms again found themselves entering the final 20 minutes of regulation with a two-goal deficit to the Thunderbirds - this one a 3-1 hole.
They did it again.
Scott Laughton made it a one-goal game with 5:31 left on an expert deflection of a Robert Hagg point shot, then Jordan Weal was tripped on the next shift - giving the Phantoms a power play.
Weal won the ensuing face-off to begin the man advantage back to T.J. Brennan, who slid a pass across to Greg Carey who blasted a one-timer past Thunderbirds' goaltender Reto Berra to tie the game 27 seconds after Laughton's tally.
The Phantoms got the go-ahead goal with 1:38 left to play, as Danick Martel got a puck in behind the net to Chris Conner. Conner skated away from the corner to avoid a Thunderbirds defenseman and did his patented blind pass out in front to Andy Miele as he faked the wrap around bid.
Miele didn't get much on the shot but it was just enough to go up and over Berra's leg pad and bank into the net off his butt to give the Phantoms a 4-3 lead that they held onto to steal a regulation win away from Springfield.
It was a rough start to the hockey game for the Phantoms, as an early hooking minor proved costly in the opening two minutes of the contest.
With Sam Morin - one of the team's best penalty killers - in the box for hooking, the Thunderbirds made quick work of their first man advantage of the game needing only nine seconds to take a 1-0 lead.
A puck was rimmed around the Phantoms' defensive zone and made it back to the blue line on the opposite side of the ice, where Matt McKenzie's big shot beat Anthony Stolarz high to the blocker side - hitting the back bar and popping out of the net so quickly it initially wasn't deemed a goal. A whistle a few seconds later allowed the referees to take a look and determine it was in fact a good goal just 1:26 into play.
The Thunderbirds had the early jump and momentum resulting from the early goal, rattling off six of the game's first seven shots on net. Again, the Phantoms headed to the box - Taylor Leier for hooking 5:53 into the period - and again the Thunderbirds took advantage - scoring just 10 seconds into the ensuing man advantage to take a 2-0 lead.
Jayce Hawryluk's shot from the slot hit the far side post, but Sena Acolatse was in position to finish off the play with an easy tap in goal 6:03 into the game to extend Springfield's lead to 2-0.
Despite going just 1 for their last 26 on the power play coming into today's game, the Thunderbirds were 2-for-2 on the man advantage to start this one.
The Phantoms started to generate some offensive chances in the second half of the opening period, but entered the first intermission down 2-0 and being out shot 9-7.
Lehigh Valley continued their momentum from late in the first period into the middle frame, using their speed to create offensive chances and Chris Conner drew a holding penalty less than two minutes in.
Carey and Conner worked a give-and-go play to perfection on the man advantage, with Carey deking fore-hand to backhand on Berra before finishing off his own rebound to get the Phantoms on the scoreboard and within a goal at 2-1. Andy Miele picked up a secondary assist.
Similar to their attempt at a comeback in Hershey, after getting back into the game this afternoon they allowed a goal 40 seconds later to put Springfield back ahead by two goals at a 3-1 score. Kyle Rau's quick shot off the rush beat Stolarz.
Springfield was able to grab back momentum and had 15 shots in the middle frame, but Stolarz stood tall to keep it at a 3-1 deficit heading into third for Lehigh Valley.
The Phantoms had their work cut out for themselves entering the third period trailing the Thunderbirds 3-1. The road team decided to turn in one of their best periods of the season, and although it took almost 14 and a half minutes of near constant pressure to make it a one-goal game the tying goal wasn't far behind.
The Phantoms simply dominated the third period, out shooting the Thunderbirds by a 13-4 margin. It wasn't until there was just 5:31 left in the regulation that the Phantoms were able to get one past Berra to make it a one goal game.
Captain Colin McDonald dug out a loose puck down in the corner and as he was being cross-checked and fell to the ice he was able to push the puck up to the point to Robert Hagg. Hagg's shot was re-directed past Berra by Scott Laughton - sparking the comeback.
On the next shift, Weal was tripped in the corner by former Phantoms forward Shane Harper and Weal won the ensuing face-off to Brennan who set up Carey for his second of the game on a big one-timer less than 30 seconds after Laughton's goal. Carey's second power play goal of the night was his league-leading 13th power play tally while his 21st of the season also tied him for the league's lead in goals.Here's a replay of Laughton's deflection goal that got the 3rd period comeback started for #LVPhantoms. pic.twitter.com/sZBnwAFP5x— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) January 16, 2017
Lehigh Valley continued to press before getting the game-winning goal with 1:38 left to play on a patented Conner play behind the net. His blind pass against the grain came out to Miele and although the shot didn't have much on it, it had just enough to get past Berra to lift Lehigh Valley to the 4-3 lead.REPLAY: Here's Greg Carey's one-timer 27 seconds after Laughton's goal to tie things up. #LVPhantoms pic.twitter.com/ZyyYMdDjhK— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) January 16, 2017
Anthony Stolarz needed to be sharp in the final 90 seconds after not seeing any action the entire period. He made a few saves late to preserve the comeback win for Lehigh Valley.Better look at Conner's patented move. @Andy_Miele barely got enough on it to get it past Berra but the hard work for #LVPhantoms paid off. pic.twitter.com/M5nbSbMsXc— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) January 16, 2017
ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms
Anthony Stolarz (25 saves - 28 shots) got the start in net for Lehigh Valley this afternoon. Alex Lyon served as the team's backup goaltender.
Reece Willcox and Danick Martel were back in the Phantoms' lineup, with Will O'Neill and Radel Fazleev scratched to make room.
Boyd Gordon did not travel with the Phantoms to Springfield Sunday. He cleared waivers Saturday at noon, but the Phantoms were already on their way to Hershey for that night's game at Giant Center. Then the Phantoms had a travel day Saunday, so he hasn't had a chance to practice with the team yet.
Scratches: Will O'Neill, Radel Fazleev and Boyd Gordon
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 - Corban Knight - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
T.J. Brennan - Mark Alt
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim
Robert Hagg - Reece Willcox
Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon
1:15: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (hooking)
1:26: SPR - PPG MacKenzie (2) - Harper, Regner
5:53: LV - (PP) Leier, minor (hooking)
6:03: SPR - PPG Acolatse (5) - Hawryluk, Weegar
14:40: SPR - (PP) Balisy, minor (holding)
1:54: SPR - (PP) Downing, minor (holding)
2:58: LV - PPG Carey (20) - Conner, Miele
3:38: SPR - Rau (3) - Acolatse, Weegar
6:11: SPR - (PP) Weegar, minor (hooking)
6:45: SPR - Acolatse, ten-minute misconduct
6:45: SPR - MacKenzie, minor (roughing)
6:45: LV - Aube-Kubel, minor (roughing)
14:29: LV - Laughton (6) - Hagg, McDonald
14:52: SPR - (PP) Harper, minor (tripping)
14:56: LV - PPG Carey (21) - Brennan, Weal
18:22: LV - Miele (4) - Conner, Martel