Phantoms Come Up Short Saturday Against St. John's

Saturday, February 11, 2017
Mark Zengerle scored a goal in traffic at the net front in the second period. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
IceCaps slip past Phantoms with late third period tally

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (32-14-2) have been a third period team all season long. No one in the AHL has scored more third period goals than the Phantoms this season, and only the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have as many third period comebacks (five) as Lehigh Valley does in 2016-17.

So when the Phantoms entered the final frame down 3-2, it wasn't too big of a surprise to see the home team forcing the issue and tying the game at 3-3 with 7:11 left. It was a blown coverage that head coach Scott Gordon referred to as a play the team will have covered 99 percent of the time that was the surprise ending tonight in a 4-3 regulation loss.

The duo of youngsters on the opposing side - Nikita Scherbak and Charles Hudon - tallied a goal and two assists each and connected one last time with 4:33 left to play to give St. John's the game-winner.

Mark Zengerle (one goal, one assist), Colin McDonald (one goal, one assist) and Will O'Neill (two assists) led the Phantoms' offensive attack, but they ultimately came up short on Saturday and have now lost their last five Saturday games. The day hasn't been overly kind to the Phantoms this season, as they are now under .500 on Saturdays in 2016-17 at 7-8-1 for whatever that's worth.

After the jump, a full recap of tonight's action complete with post-game reaction from head coach Scott Gordon and video interviews with Mark Zengerle and Will O'Neill. And a new addition to our Phantoms' coverage - goal GIFs!


Head coach Scott Gordon

On second period proving costly:
I think they capitalized on us being too far up in the play on the 2-on-1. It was a bad seven minutes. That's the bottom line, the difference in the game really. I don't think the rest of the second period or the third period - I thought we did a good job of spending time in the offensive zone and trying to generate chances. But that seven minutes killed us.
On tying game in third period:
Yeah, but we shouldn't be in that situation to have to come from behind in the third period. That was probably one of our better first periods, and then the next thing you know we are down 3-1 and that's now become a waste. We got through the second period and scored the goal, and were pressing pretty good getting some in zone time, wearing them down. They score a goal on a missed coverage that probably 99% of the time we are going to have coverage on that guy in the slot and we didn't [tonight] for whatever reason. 
On Laughton and Leier's status moving forward:
Nothing on that. Nothing on the injuries. We'll wait and see where we are at on Monday and go from there.


It was a much better start for the Phantoms in the first frame Saturday against the IceCaps than the night before. The passes were crisp on the breakouts, the team was entering the neutral zone with speed and carrying that into the offensive zone - either off the rush or setting up the forecheck.

Lehigh Valley headed to the PK 4:38 into the contest, but extended their consecutive penalties killed streak up to 14 - keeping the IceCaps man advantage unit to the outside and not allowing many grade-A chances against in the two-minute kill.

The Phantoms started to turn it on in the second half of the period - out shooting the IceCaps 6-2 in the final 9:41 of the period. If not for some sharp saves from Yann Danis or some more finish on some near-misses the Phantoms would have been way out in front.

As the first period clock was getting closer and closer to 0.0, the Phantoms intensity and pressure increased. Lehigh Valley was dominant in the final five minutes of the opening period, and were rewarded for their efforts in the final minute of play before the first intermission.

In quick transition, Chris Conner got a puck through the neutral zone up to Andy Miele, who with speed stopped on a dime just inside the blue line - hitting Robert Hagg entering the offensive zone as the trailer. Hagg skated down broadway and fired a shot that trickled through past Danis to give the Phantoms a 1-0 lead with 34.8 to play in the period.
Hagg has been playing well for weeks now, and the offensive production he's experiencing the past few games (two goals and two assists in his last three games) is a product of him doing things right away from the puck and making the right reads on when to join the rush.

The IceCaps were assessed an interference minor on the ensuing faceoff after Hagg's fifth of the season, giving Lehigh Valley 1:37 of carryover power play time entering the middle frame.

St. John's put together a strong first half of the middle frame, killing off the carryover penalty time before tallying three goals in a span of 4:53 to turn the tides and put the Phantoms into a two-goal hole.

First, Nikita Scherbak tallied his 11th of the season on a series of rebound attempts that eventually had one find its way past Lyon 2:33 into the period to tie the game at 1-1.
The IceCaps took the lead 1:32 after Scherbak's goal while on a power play. With Hagg in the box for slashing, St. John's started their man advantage with a face-off win and were able to work the puck across the top of the zone - with Scherbak feeding Zach Redmond before Redmond set up Chris Terry with a quick one-timer from the right-wing circle that beat Lyon to the spot to give the IceCaps the 2-1 lead.
Lehigh Valley had a power play of their own shortly after, but they were unable to tie the game back up at 2-2. Instead, Jacob de la Rose exited the penalty box and nearly scored on a breakaway - beating Lyon but catching the inside of the post.

St. John's did extend their lead to 3-1 moments later though after T.J. Brennan got himself caught too far up into a Phantoms' break up the ice. Anthony Camara stole a puck and on the ensuing 2-on-1 rush sent a perfect pass across to Mark MacMillan that Lyon had no chance to stop.
The Phantoms would make it interesting - scoring midway through the second period to make it a one-goal game heading into the third period on a goal that quite frankly probably shouldn't have counted.

While the Phantoms had a questionable incidental goalie interference call negate one of their goals Friday night, Lehigh Valley might have gotten away with one tonight when Mark Zengerle batted a puck past Danis going up and over him with his stick to get the bouncing puck in the crease into the back of the net.
The goal counted, giving Zengerle 10 goals on the season and four points (two goals, two assists) in his last three games since getting an extended look further up the forward rotation with the injuries/call ups this week.

Lehigh Valley really took it to the IceCaps in the first 13 minutes of the third - tying the game on a great series of tic-tac-toe passes between Zengerle, O'Neill and McDonald with the captain burying one past Danis at the side of the net with 7:11 left to play to tie the game at 3-3.
The game didn't remain deadlocked for long though, as a blown coverage play in the Phantoms' defensive zone led to Scherbak spotting an open Hudon in the slot for a quick shot over Lyon's shoulder with 4:33 to play to seal the deal in the Phantoms' 4-3 loss.


Tonight marked the 100th Lehigh Valley Phantoms home game at the PPL Center.... There were absolutely zero updates from head coach Scott Gordon after tonight's game on any of the injured forwards after he was on the record Friday night saying there would be an update on Scott Laughton today.... St. John's second period power play goal ended a streak of 14 consecutive penalties killed by the Phantoms dating back to last Friday's game in Albany... Robert Hagg extended his points scoring streak to three games and has two goals and two assists in that span.... Mark Zengerle also has two goals and two assists in his last three games in a pair of 1G-1A games Wednesday and Saturday....


1st Period

4:38: LV - (PP) McCarthy, minor (hooking)
7:18: STJ - (PP) Veilleux, minor (hooking)
19:36: LV - Hagg (5) - Miele, Conner
19:38: STJ - (PP) Farnham, minor (interference)

2nd Period

2:33: STJ - Scherbak (11) - Parisi, Hudon
3:56: LV - (PP) Hagg, minor (slashing)
4:05: STJ - PPG Terry (16) - Redmond, Scherbak
4:17: STJ - (PP) de la Rose, minor (tripping)
7:26: STJ - MacMillan (3) - Camara, Hudon
11:00: LV - Zengerle (10) - O'Neill, McDonald

3rd Period

1:15: STJ - (PP) Veilleux, minor (high-sticking)
2:09: LV - (PP) Miele, minor (holding)
10:42: STJ - (PP) Camara, minor (slashing)
12:49: LV - McDonald (17) - O'Neill, Zengerle
15:27: STJ - Hudon (16) - Scherbak, Terry


LV - Alex Lyon ( 17 saves -  21 shots)
STJ - Yann Danis ( 25 saves - 28 shots)

Power Play

LV: 0-for-5
STJ: 1-for-3

Penalty Kill

LV: 2-for-3
STJ: 5-for-5

Attendance: 8,450 - 9th sellout at PPL Center this season


Alex Lyon (17 saves - 21 shots) got the start in net tonight against St. John's, coming off a 27-save shutout Wednesday night against Binghamton. Anthony Stolarz will likely get the nod tomorrow night in the rematch.

Scott Laughton did not play tonight for Lehigh Valley after an awkward collision with his own teammates in the 2nd period caused him to miss the third period Friday night.

Taylor Leier did not play this weekend, missing his  fifth straight game with an undisclosed injury he re-aggravated before last Friday's game in Albany. He hasn't played in a game since before the AHL All-Star Classic at the end of January.

Boyd Gordon, who left in the 1st period of Wednesday's win against Binghamton after a sliding BSens' forward crunched into his legs in the corner boards, appears to be out of the lineup for the time being. Call it a week-to-week lower body injury.

Scratches: Taylor Leier (undisclosed injury), Boyd Gordon (lower body), Reece Willcox (healthy) and Scott Laughton (undisclosed injury)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Mark Zengerle - Corban Knight - Colin McDonald
Danick Martel - Chris McCarthy - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Greg Carey - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Steven Swavely - Radel Fazleev - Cole Bardreau

T.J. Brennan - Robert Hagg
Will O'Neill - Mark Alt
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim

Alex Lyon - Anthony Stolarz


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