Phantoms Avoid Trap Game Against Utica

Saturday, March 11, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Lehigh Valley makes it three wins in a row to conclude the week

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - After tonight's 4-1 win over Utica, head coach Scott Gordon called the game versus the Comets your proverbial trap game.

Coming off of big, emotional wins Wednesday against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Friday against Hershey - the Phantoms' two biggest rivals with major playoff implications on the line - the tendency is to tone down the intensity at the end of a three-game slate for the week against a non-divisional opponent much lower in the standings.

Credit to the Comets, who came into tonight's game riding a six-game win streak. They worked hard and mustered up 37 shots on Phantoms' goaltender Alex Lyon, but it wasn't enough as Lehigh Valley got timely goal scoring when they needed it to capture the win.

The win for the Phantoms gives them a regular season sweep of the Utica Comets (4-0), and gives them a perfect 3-0 on the week. The Phantoms also improve their record against teams from the North Division to a very impressive 17-2-1 with their next game on Wednesday night at home against the North Division-leading Syracuse Crunch.

After the jump, a full recap of the action complete with post-game reaction from head coach Scott Gordon and video interviews with Andy Miele and Alex Lyon.

Phantoms' Playoff Update - The Phantoms' win tonight over Utica drops their magic number down to 25 points to clinch a berth into the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs. Fifth place Hershey routed Binghamton, so since they earned two points in the standings the Phantoms' magic number doesn't drop any further than the two points of their own they picked up tonight. Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton edged Providence to maintain their four point lead over the Phantoms atop the division standings. Bridgeport lost their second straight game on the weekend, dropping a 4-1 decision to Albany - creating a near tie for the fourth and final playoff spot in the division with Hershey.


Alex Lyon (36 saves - 37 shots) was back between the pipes tonight against Utica coming off of his shutout win Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre. Anthony Stolarz got the win Friday night vs. Hershey.

Defenseman Robert Hagg (suspected lower body) and forward Danick Martel (suspected concussion protocol) both exited with injuries in the second period last Friday night in Springfield. Neither skated with the team at practice this week, but Martel made his return to the Phantoms' lineup tonight after missing the past four games.

Tyrell Goulbourne was called up to Lehigh Valley and joined the team in Hartford Saturday morning. giving the Phantoms 12 healthy forwards.

Reece Willcox had been the team's extra defenseman, but with Hagg's injury is back into the lineup alongside T.J. Brennan.

Steven Swavely blocked a shot during the third period in Utica two weekends ago, and left the game. It's safe to say Swavely will likely miss several weeks as he was seen at last Thursday's practice with his left hand/wrist in a cast.

Taylor Leier (suspected concussion symptoms) will miss his 15th straight game, having not played since the AHL All-Star challenge on January 30th. Leier skated briefly with the team at practice last week at PPL Center, but was the only skater wearing a green jersey and he exited the ice about 15-20 minutes after I arrived for the 10:30 practice. There are no updates being given on Leier's status or a timetable for his return from Phantoms' head coach Scott Gordon.

Boyd Gordon, who left in a Wednesday home game against Binghamton on February after a sliding BSens' forward crunched into his legs in the corner boards, was expected to miss a few weeks with a lower body injury. No update from HC Scott Gordon on any potential timetable for a return to the lineup for Gordon or any of the injured players as per his usual vagueness with updating injured players.

Scratches: Robert Hagg (lower body), Steven Swavely (upper body), Taylor Leier (suspected concussion symptoms), Chris McCarthy (healthy) and Boyd Gordon (lower body)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics):

Cole Bardreau - Scott Laughton - Colin McDonald
Greg Carey - Corban Knight - Mark Zengerle
Nicolas Aube-Kubel - Andy Miele - Chris Conner
Tyrell Goulbourne - Radel Fazleev - Danick Martel

T.J. Brennan - Reece Willcox
Will O'Neill - Mark Alt
Sam Morin - Travis Sanheim

Alex Lyon - Anthony Stolarz


If you were late getting to your seats Saturday night, you might have missed the Phantoms open the scoring on the game's opening shift.

Colin McDonald kept a puck in at the right-wing wall and fired it behind the net for Scott Laughton, working a give-and-go play to perfection. Laughton got the puck back to McDonald cutting to the net for a tap in past Michael Gartieg just 41 seconds into the contest. McDonald's 22nd goal of the season was also assisted by Cole Bardreau.
From there, the Comets pushed back and fired several pucks toward Alex Lyon's net. At one point in the opening seven minutes, the shots were listed as 7-3 in favor of Utica.
The Comets' early momentum after the Phantoms' goal lasted until an offensive zone hooking penalty by Darren Archibald gave swung the momentum back into Lehigh Valley's favor.

Archibald argued the call and was assessed an extra minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the Phantoms four minutes of power play time 6:58 into the first period.

Already with an early lead, the Phantoms made the double-minor power play count. Greg Carey took a puck from behind the net and got it to the center point to Andy Miele, who wound up and faked a shot - instead dishing it to the right-wing face-off circle for T.J. Brennan. Brennan collected the puck, took one stride in towards the net and picked a corner high to the short side - beating Gartieg's glove and extending the Phantoms' lead to 2-0.
The Comets continued to fire at will on Lyon in the opening period - credited with 18 shots on goal. Luckily for Lehigh Valley, Lyon came ready to play and kept the Comets off the board to help the Phantoms take the 2-0 lead into the middle frame.
It was much of the same in the second period between the Phantoms and Comets. An early period penalty on Sam Morin gave Utica more momentum, as the Comets continued to generate consistent offensive zone time and scoring chances.

Lyon continued to weather the storm, and it became apparent that the Phantoms were down to five healthy defensemen.

Will O'Neill left the game early in the first period after appearing to jam his left hand/wrist into the boards about three minutes into the game. O'Neill did not return, and head coach Scott Gordon offered no update on O'Neill's status after the game.

Meanwhile, the Phantoms were being heavily out shot yet remained in front of the Comets by a 2-0 score midway through regulation. In fact, the Comets fired the first seven shots of the period on Lyon.

Call it opportunistic, but Lehigh Valley continued to get timely scoring to build on their lead. They made it a 3-0 game with 7:44 left before the second intermission on another give-and-go kind of play from Nicolas Aube-Kubel to Andy Miele and back to Aube-Kubel.

Aube-Kubel got a puck down low to Miele, who wrapped around the net and fed it back to Aube-Kubel cutting to the slot. The quick shot beat Garteig to the spot and further extended the Phantoms' lead to 3-0 heading into the third period.

The Comets continued to press on and eventually ended Lyon's shutout bid with 6:44 left in regulation, scoring off a busted play on a face-off. Cody Kunyk picked up a partially blocked shot from the slot right in front of Lyon and fired one past the Phantoms' goalie to cut the Comets' deficit to 3-1.
Travis Sanheim capped the scoring with 5.2 seconds left on an unassisted empty net goal to make it 4-1. Shortly after the goal, Sam Morin and Darren Archibald dropped the gloves - with Morin earning the decision.



1st Period

0:41: LV - McDonald (22) - Laughton, Bardreau
6:58: UTI - (PP) Archibald, minor (hooking)
6:58: UTI - (PP) Archibald, minor (unsportsmanlike)
9:34: LV - PPG Brennan (18) - Miele, Carey
11:51: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (tripping)

2nd Period

1:44: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (interference)
12:16: LV - Aube-Kubel (8) - Miele, Conner
20:00: UTI - (PP) Archibald, minor (elbowing)

3rd Period

1:11: UTI - (PP) Pedan, minor (goaltender interference)
9:17: UTI - (PP) Zalewski, minor (high-sticking)
13:16: UTI - Kunyk (12) - Virtanen, Valk
19:54: LV - ENG Sanheim (10) - unassisted
19:54: LV - Morin, major (fighting)
19:54: LV - (PP) Morin, minor (unsportsmanlike)
19:54: UTI - Archibald, major (fighting)


Lehigh Valley  2 - 1 - 1 = 4
Utica Comets  0 - 0 - 1 = 1


Lehigh Valley  9 - 4 - 13 = 26
Utica Comets  18 - 12 - 7 = 37


LV - Alex Lyon (36 saves - 37 shots)
UTI - Michael Garteig (22 saves - 25 shots)

Power Play

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

Penalty Kill

LV: 3-for-3
UTI: 4-for-5

Attendance: 8,681 - 14th sellout of the 2016-17 season for the Phantoms at PPL Center.


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