Busted By Bridgeport - Phantoms Unable To Inch Closer To 2017 Playoff Berth

Friday, March 31, 2017
Anthony Stolarz had an adventurous night between the net in a 34-save effort. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Phantoms fall in regulation against Sound Tigers

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms didn't give much for their home fans at PPL Center to cheer about Friday night in the team's fan appreciation night game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

A disappointing 3-1 regulation loss in a game where a Phantoms' win would have put the Sound Tigers' playoff chances on the ropes sets up a pair of tough road contests in back-to-back nights in Wilkes-Barre and Hershey for Lehigh Valley, who squandered a chance to inch closer to clinching a playoff spot of their own.

"We have to clean things up back there. Stolarz bailed us out a couple of times," Phantoms' assistant coach Riley Cote told TV2Sports' Kristi Fulkerson after the 1st period in a between periods TV interview.

"They're a hard working team, but we aren't playing the way we need to play," Colin McDonald said in response to Fulkerson's question between the second and third periods.

For whatever reason tonight, the  Phantoms did not match the desperation and intensity from a Bridgeport Sound Tigers team that entered Friday night's game on the outside looking in in the Atlantic Division playoff picture.

Colin McDonald scored the lone Phantoms' goal, and the home team got a strong performance in net from Anthony Stolarz (34 saves) but it wasn't enough as the Sound Tigers' hard work and desperation paid off.

Full recap of tonight's game complete with post-game reaction from head coach Scott Gordon along with video interviews with Colin McDonald and Anthony Stolarz after the jump.

Phantoms' Playoff Update - The Phantoms' loss combined with the Sound Tigers' win prevents the Phantoms' magic number from getting any lower after Friday's games.

Luckily for Lehigh Valley, the first place Penguins lost in regulation in Springfield and  Hershey fell in Hartford - keeping the Phantoms within striking distance of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton heading into tomorrow night's matchup. Providence's win moves them into third place in the division entering Saturday's schedule.

Atlantic Division Standings through 3/31's games:
WBS (95 points, 8 games remaining) 
LV (90, 8 GR) 
PRO (89, 8 GR) 
HER (87, 7GR)
BST (86, 7GR)
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' magic number to clinch a berth in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs is currently at [  ] points. You can also keep track of the playoff races in the AHL's daily Playoff Primer.

Phantoms' Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Cole Bardreau - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald (C)
Taylor Leier (A) - Andy Miele (A) - Chris Conner
Danick Martel - Corban Knight - Mark Zengerle
Tyrell Goulbourne - Radel Fazleev -  Nicolas Aube-Kubel

T.J. Brennan - Max LamarcheSam Morin - Mark Alt
Robert Hagg - Travis Sanheim

Anthony Stolarz - Alex Lyon

Bridgeport's Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Carter Verhaeghe - Bracken Kearns- Andrew Rowe
Michael Dal Colle - John Stevens - Tanner Fritz
Josh Winquist- Ben Holmstrom - Darren Nowick
Kellen Jones - Connor Jones - Tim Wallace

Kane Lafranchise - Ryan Pulock
Devin Toews - Kyle Burroughs
Jake Bischoff - Patrick Cullity

Eamon McAdam - Stephon Williams


The opening 20 minutes was anything but well played by the Phantoms tonight against Bridgeport. Lehigh Valley was extremely fortunate to be in a tied game heading into the first intermission.

In fact, the Sound Tigers came out with vengance - looking to erase last Sunday's loss at PPL Center from the opening drop of the puck. 

An early fight between Danick Martel and Kellen Jones resulted in a game misconduct for the Sound Tigers' forward because of the jersey tie-down rule.

The Phantoms didn't record their first shot on goal until after the four-minute mark of the contest. By then, the Sound Tigers had four or five good looks at Stolarz's net and it wasn't long before the pucks started going in for the orange and blue.

Bridgeport appeared to take a 1-0 lead with 12:40 left in the first frame as Michael Dal Colle cut to the net and recieved a centering pass that bounced up and off his glove on its way past Stolarz. Referee in position immediately called the goal off, and upheld the no-goal call during a quick review.

On the next shift, Tyrell Goulbourne was whistled for a roughing minor in the neutral zone - sending Phantoms to the game's first penalty kill with exactly 12:00 left in the first period.

The Sound Tigers cashed in, with Dal Colle's shot stopped by Stolarz and the rebound bouncing out into the slot for newcomer Jake Bischoff's first career pro goal in his pro debut.

From there, the Phantoms had a response - tying the game at 1-1 just over two minutes later after a brilliant cross ice stretch pass from Travis Sanheim to Colin McDonald. The Phantoms' captain picked up the puck in stride entering the offensive zone and let loose a cannon of a shot that beat McAdam to the far side top shelf. Mark Zengerle added a secondary assist on the play.
Even at that point, the Phantoms were out shot 10-3 and out-worked by a much more desperate looking Sound Tigers team that entered the game on the outside looking in in the Atlantic Division playoff race.

The middle frame was played similarly to the opening period, as Bridgeport appeared to be the more desperate team with Lehigh Valley simply not playing their game or matching the Sound Tigers' intensity.

Despite having a goal called back in the 1st, Dal Colle continued to play a strong game and he was rewarded 4:19 into the 2nd period - finishing off a rebound of Patrick Cullity's attempt toward Stolarz and giving Bridgeport the lead back at 2-1.

Lehigh Valley did have some surges of offensive pressure in the middle frame, making the shots on goal in the period much more even than the opening 20 minutes at an 11-9 deficit, but it simply wasn't enough as they headed to the third period needing yet another comeback.

It just wasn't going to happen Friday night, as Bridgeport's gritty, hard-working style continued to stymie the Phantoms' attack and hopes of a comeback.

Josh Winquist's 14th of the season with 7:55 left in regulation sealed the deal in Bridgeport's 3-1 triumph.



1st Period

6:10: BST - K. Jones, major (fighting)
6:10: BST - K. Jones, game misconduct (failed to tie down jersey)
6:10: LV - Martel, major (fighting)
8:00: LV - (PP) Goulbourne, minor (roughing)
9:26: BST - PPG Bischoff (1) - Dal Colle, Fritz
11:33: LV - McDonald (23) - Sanheim, Zengerle
17:24: LV - (PP) Leier, minor (interference)

2nd Period

4:19: BST - Dal Colle (15) - Cullity, Bischoff
9:54: BST - (PP) Lafranchise, minor (hooking)
18:20: BST - (PP) Nowick, minor (hooking)

3rd Period

1:53: BST - (PP) Dal Colle, minor (tripping)
12:05: BST - Winquist (14) - Lafranchise, C. Jones


Phantoms  6 - 9 - 6 = 21
Bridgeport  15 - 11 - 11 = 37

Phantoms  1 - 0 - 0 = 1
Bridgeport   1 - 1 - 1 = 3


LV - Anthony Stolarz (34 saves - 37 shots)
BST - Eamon McAdam (20 saves - 21 shots)

Power Play

LV: 0-for-3
BST: 1-for-2

Penalty Kill

LV: 1-for-2
BST: 3-for-3

Attendance: 7,666


Anthony Stolarz (34 saves - 37 shots) got the start in net for Lehigh Valley tonight against Bridgeport. Alex Lyon served as the team's backup goaltender.

Reece Willcox was reassigned to ECHL Reading prior to tonight's game. With the Royals at home this weekend and within driving distance, best to allow Willcox to play rather than sit out of the AHL lineup tonight against Bridgeport.

The latest breaking injury news comes in the form of an update to defenseman Will O'Neill's injury he sustained early in the 1st period of Saturday's 4-1 win against Utica on March 11th. O'Neill was seen sporting a cast on his left wrist at the team's annual team photo day earlier this week - a sign he's going to be out longer term. Let's put him in the four-to-six week range, meaning he can hopefully get healthy for the postseason.

Greg Carey left the game early in the third period last Saturday night against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after an awkward collision with a teammate. Carey did not return and head coach Scott Gordon didn't have an update on his status moving into today's game.

If Carey is unable to go, Mark Zengerle has been the odd man out among the forwards lately as a healthy scratch and is more than capable of being plugged into the lineup. In fact, Zengerle played last Sunday against Bridgeport and tallied his 13th goal of the season in his return to game action.

The Philadelphia Flyers signed their 2014-3rd round draft pick, defenseman Mark Friedman, to an entry level contract beginning in the 2017-18 season. The former Bowling Green State Univeristy product, who tallied 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) in 40 games this season in the WCHA, will join the Phantoms this weekend on a tryout contract for the remainder of the season. He participated in his first on-ice practice with the Phantoms Friday in Whitehall.

Chris Conner was out with an undisclosed injury that caused him to miss the previous five games entering tonight's contest, but he took the warmups skate and made his return tonight.

Boyd Gordon, who left in a Wednesday home game against Binghamton after a sliding BSens' forward crunched into his legs in the corner boards, was initially expected to miss a few weeks with a knee injury. He was seen at a recent Phantoms game in Allentown walking with a knee brace over his suit pants. His season and a potential return to the lineup remain in the balance.

Scratches: Will O'Neill (upper body), Greg Carey (undisclosed), Chris Conner (undisclosed), Boyd Gordon (lower body) and Mark Friedman (healthy)


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