Back On Track - Phantoms Beat Bears 4-2

Sunday, April 2, 2017
Photo: Amanda Statland (@stat19)
Conner's hat trick leads Lehigh Valley to big win in Hershey

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

After a disappointing start to the three game weekend for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms - a pair of regulation losses to Bridgeport Friday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton - had the Philadelphia Flyers' top minor league affiliate starting to feel the pressure of closing out the franchise's first ever Calder Cup Playoff berth in Allentown, a Sunday evening game against a similar recently struggling Hershey Bears team was just what the doctor ordered.

T.J. Brennan said after Saturday night's shutout loss in Wilkes-Barre that the effort simply wasn't there. They hadn't matched their opposition's desperation and intensity, and as such were 0-2 on the weekend heading into Sunday's tilt at Giant Center.

The veterans, sans captain Colin McDonald currently in the NHL with the Flyers, stepped up and let their play do the talking in a 4-2 win that sees the Phantoms' magic number drop down to six points with six games remaining on their 2016-17 regular season schedule.

Former Hershey Bears forward Chris Conner led the way for Lehigh Valley offensively, tallying a hat trick and adding an assist. Greg Carey tallied his career high 27th goal of the season and added an assist in the win, while Alex Lyon stopped 32 of 34 shots for his 25th win of the season.

The Phantoms are back in action Wednesday night at home against Hershey and with another regulation win can cut the magic number to close out a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division to two points.

Quick recap after the jump.

Updated Atlantic Division Standings (through 4/2's games)
X - 1. WBS (98 points, six games remaining)
2. LV (92, 6GR)
3. PRO (90, 6 GR)
4. BST (88, 6GR)
5. HER (87, 5GR)
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' magic number to clinch a berth in the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs is currently at 6 points. You can also keep track of the playoff races in the AHL's daily Playoff Primer.


Phantoms' Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics):

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

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

Alex Lyon - Martin Ouellette

Scratches: Will O'Neill (upper body since 3/11), Chris McCarthy (healthy), Boyd Gordon (lower body since 2/8) and Mark Friedman (healthy)


RECAP

The Phantoms came ready to play in Hershey Sunday evening, doing the little things right that they weren't in the first two games of the weekend.

After bringing hard work to the first 12 minutes of the contest, Lehigh Valley was rewarded in a big way - two goals in less than a minute to open up a 2-0 lead.

First, it was Alex Lyon starting a quick transition play - getting the puck up ice to Greg Carey in a hurry. Carey found Chris Conner on the left wing with speed and Conner got to the edge - going forehand to backhand on Pheonix Copley before slipping the puck five-hole on the Bears goaltender to open the scoring.

Conner's 1st period tally was his 20th of the season - a new career high for goals in a season for the veteran forward who tallied 19 goals three separate times in his pro career.
On the next shift, it was Conner to Carey on the left wing for a laser shot that beat Copley high to the glove side - extending the lead to 2-0 just 57 seconds after Conner's goal. The second tally of the night marked Carey's 27th of the season, also a career high for goals for Carey.
Credit to Hershey for not folding up like a cheap chair down 2-0 in the first period at the tail end of a three-in-three weekend of their own. Instead, Hershey responded with a much better middle frame - tying the game at 2-2 on a pair of quick goals of their own 1:50 apart.

First, Nathan Walker stickhandled his way into the slot amidst four Phantoms' in the defensive zone. The puck was poked off of Walker's stick, but a lucky bounce saw the puck hit a skate and hop right back onto Walker's stick. He made no mistake, wristing a quick shot and beating Alex Lyon to the short side on the glove hand to make it a one goal game.

Not long after, Jakub Vrana tallied his 16th of the season to tie the game up in the opening seven minutes of the middle frame.

The Phantoms had a response of their own in the second period, not by way of a goal right away but a spirited fight featured all 5-foot-7 of Andy Miele against 6-foot-4 rookie Hampus Gustafsson at the 8:34 mark of the period.
It appeared to give Lehigh Valley momentum, but it wasn't until the Bears thought they were setting things up on the Phantoms' defensive zone blue line that Conner stole a puck and sent himself on a clean breakaway from center ice - going backhand to forehand past Copley's five-hole to give Lehigh Valley the lead back at 3-2 near the midway point of regulation.
Conner wasn't done there either. Early in the third period, he completed the hat trick after an expert toe drag into the slot fooled a Bears' defender and allowed Conner to beat Copley to the five-hole for the third time to give Lehigh Valley an insurance marker 4:38 into the final frame.
Hershey tried to force the issue - appearing to make it a one-goal game near the midway point of the third period - but the goal was disallowed as it was played in past Lyon with a high stick.

The Phantoms got some timely saves from Lyon down the stretch to close out the big regulation win and get back on track, inching  Lehigh Valley closer to their first ever Calder Cup Playoffs berth as an AHL franchise in downtown, Allentown and the Flyers' first AHL postseason appearance in the last eight seasons.

GAME SUMMARY

1st Period

12:55: LV - Conner (20) - Carey, Lyon
13:52: LV - Carey (27) - Conner, Miele

2nd Period

5:05: HER - Walker (11) - Barber, Stevenson
6:55: HER - Vrana (16) - Gilbert, Boyd
8:34: LV - Miele, minor (cross-checking)
8:34: LV - Miele, major (fighting)
8:34: HER - Gustafsson, minor (slashing)
8:34: HER - Gustafsson, major (fighting)
9:59: LV - Conner (21) - unassisted
19:11: HER - (PP) Gilbert, minor (tripping)

3rd Period

4:38: LV - Conner (22) - Alt, Lamarche
12:31: LV - (PP) Aube-Kubel, minor (interference)
19:21: LV - (PP) Sanheim, minor (cross-checking)

BOXSCORE

Lehigh Valley  2 - 1 - 1 = 4
Hershey Bears  0 - 2 - 0 = 2

Shots

Lehigh Valley  15- 10 - 9 = 34
Hershey Bears  9 - 13 - 12 = 34

Goalies

LV - Alex Lyon (32 saves - 34 shots)
HER - Pheonix Copley (30 saves - 34 shots)

Power Play

LV: 0-for-1
HER: 0-for-2

Penalty Kill

LV: 2-for-2
HER: 1-for-1

Attendance: 10,604


ROSTER NOTES - Phantoms

Alex Lyon (32 saves - 34 shots) got the start in net for Lehigh Valley Sunday in Hershey. Martin Ouellette served as Lyon's backup with Anthony Stolarz recalled to Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel returned to the Phantoms' lineup after sitting out Saturday's game in Wilkes-Barre as a healthy scratch. Chris McCarthy was scratched to make room for Aube-Kubel up front.

Captain Colin McDonald was recalled by Philadelphia after Friday night's loss to Bridgeport. At the latest, McDonald (likely along with Jordan Weal) will be assigned to Lehigh Valley upon the completion of the Flyers' season.

Chris Conner (upper body) returned after a five-game injury absence in Friday's game. Greg Carey returned Saturday in Wilkes-Barre after a two-game injury absence.

Reece Willcox was reassigned to ECHL Reading prior to Friday'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.

The latest  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.

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.



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.


1 comments:

perttu junnonaho said...

The best news i have heard in a while, is that we are finally playing Tyler Coulbourne in the Phantoms, where he belongs!

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