Phantoms Finish Strong With Win Over Syracuse

Sunday, April 17, 2016
The Phantoms end the regular season on a high note. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms closed out the 2015-16 season at the PPL Center Sunday evening, their second season as an AHL franchise in downtown Allentown. They certainly gave their fans a show in the season finale not only defeating the Syracuse Crunch 5-2 but playing a feisty hard-nosed game that featured several fights and plenty of penalty minutes.

There was a little bit of everything to close out the regular season for Lehigh Valley, but most importantly it was on a high note in a season-ending win. There won't be a playoff run for the Philadelphia Flyers' top minor league affiliate this spring, but it's not hard to see that the future is looking bright.

Several highly regarded prospects got an important first look at pro hockey down the stretch, including Travis Sanheim, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Oskar Lindblom. While there's no telling who all will start next fall with the Phantoms, the pieces are already in place to field a competitive and prospect-filled roster.

The regular season might be over, but the coverage of these Phantoms' players and top prospects is really only beginning. Be sure to stick around this spring/summer - I have plenty of exclusive content to roll out this summer and plan to have a post outlining a basic list of things you can expect in the future.

Plenty of final post-game thoughts from head coach Scott Gordon, goaltender Anthony Stolarz, defenseman Travis Sanheim and forward Tim Brent after the jump.


Scott Gordon:
On giving the fans a show in the finale - Goals, fights, hits and a few saves. I don't think you could ask for anything more.
On gauging the success of his first season as coach of the Phantoms - You don't feel that way because you don't make the playoffs. That's one thing every team is striving to make the playoffs. You can't call it a successful season when that doesn't happen but I do know that coming into next year I feel a lot more comfortable about where our players are at now. 
I would like October to start right now because of the fact that I know where everybody is and what they are capable of. The biggest piece of all of this is that there will be a group of players here that will know what the expectations are and help mentor the new guys faster than just the coaches at the start of the year starting from scratch.
Tim Brent:
On finishing the win - I think we made up our mind before the start of the game that we were going to compete and try to put a good show on for the fans that have supported us all year. I think they got that tonight. 
On final game (win) being meaningful - I think it was important for everyone. It was important for all the guys in the locker room here. Like you said, just as importantly it was for all those people that support us. I'm sure they were disappointed in not making playoffs just as much as we were, so we wanted to give them a show.
Anthony Stolarz:
On finishing it off with a win - Playing on home ice and being able to put up a victory in front of the home crowd - they've been with us all year. It's a shame we couldn't make the playoffs, but I think we owed it to them tonight to come out and give a good effort.
On last stretch of games building confidence heading into summer - When I was up the guys were playing really well and winning a lot of hockey games. For us to play as well as we did down the stretch and really show our true potential, it's a shame the season had to end. There's a lot of positives to take from this stretch.
Travis Sanheim:
On getting the pro experience - Just overall, the last couple weeks was important for me. I think you saw in my game that I was started to feel a little more comfortable and making better plays with the puck and smarter decisions. I was lucky enough to get those couple games in.
On his 1st pro goal in the 3rd period - I'll take them anyway they happen. It wasn't the prettiest one, but it was good to get the first one out of the way.

The puck was dropped on the Phantoms' season finale and Lehigh Valley immediately got to work, drawing an early power play and setting the tone with some physical play. They were unable to cash in on the game's first power play, but took a 1-0 lead later after Travis Sanheim made a great play to prevent the Crunch from opening the scoring.

With Anthony Stolarz sliding to his right and a Crunch forward looking for an easy wrap around goal, Sanheim was able to get into the crease and block the bid before getting the puck up ice and out of the zone to Tyrell Goulbourne. Goulbourne made a strong move to the outside to get around a defender and fed the puck to Swavely into the slot for a quick shot past Adam Wilcox for Swavely's third of the season and second in as many nights.

The Phantoms got off to a fast start in the middle frame before a too many men penalty slowed their roll. After killing off the minor penalty in the opening minutes of the period, Lehigh Valley got right back to it and took a 2-0 lead.

Reece Willcox kept a puck in at the offensive zone blue line and sent it down low to Chris Conner who swung behind the net and passed it back out in front against the grain to Tim Brent who backhanded one past Wilcox 4:00 into the middle frame.

Later in the period, the Phantoms got into a bit of penalty trouble but were able to lean on Stolarz to make some sharp saves to keep Lehigh Valley ahead 2-0. Shortly after the Phantoms' PK killed off their 5th power play of the night, they made it 3-0.

Cole Bardreau sent one into the offensive zone and Oskar Lindblom won a puck battle behind the net. Lindblom fed Nicolas Aube-Kubel in the slot and although Wilcox got a piece of it the puck trickled past the red line for Aube-Kubel's 2nd pro goal with the Phantoms.

From there, things got ugly. Zack Witkowski's kneeing penalty with 6:20 left in the period started the first of many confrontations in the middle frame. Away from that scrum, Anthony DeAngelo dropped the gloves and began laying into Pavel Padakin in a one-sided fight.

With 1:38 left in the period, Dylan Blujus lined up Chris Conner by the team benches and hit him in the numbers - sending the Phantoms forward head first into the boards. Tim Brent chased down Blujus and dropped his gloves to stick up for his teammate.

Later, with Slater Koekkoek in the box for hooking, Syracuse broke Stolarz's shutout bid with 23.5 seconds left before the intermission as Jeff Tambellini got behind the Phantoms' defense and slipped a backhander through Stolarz's five-hole on a shorthanded mini-breakaway.

Then things got really ugly. Tyrell Goulbourne approached DeAngelo in the neutral zone in the final seven seconds of the period and started unloading on the Crunch defender, drawing a crowd of bodies. Witkowski jumped in with his gloves off and the two wrestled to the ground.

Things cooled down in the third period in the physical department, but the Phantoms weren't done adding to their lead. Travis Sanheim got a puck at the point from Danick Martel and skated down to the right-wing face-off dot before putting one toward the net that bounced off two Crunch players - a leg and a butt - before crossing the line. It was Sanheim's 1st pro goal and it extended the Phantoms' lead to 4-1.

After killing off two more penalties, the Phantoms tacked on an empty net goal in the final minute to make it 5-1 with Martel picking up his team-leading 22nd of the year.

Tambellini tallied his second of the night for Syracuse on a power play goal in the final seconds to make it 5-2 but it was too little too late for the Crunch in a season-ending win for the Phantoms.


Anthony Stolarz (19 saves - 21 shots) got the start in net for Lehigh Valley tonight for his third game this weekend, while Connor Knapp served as the team's backup.

Travis Sanheim returned to the Phantoms lineup on defense. Adam Comrie was a healthy scratch on the back end to make room for Sanheim.

Up front, Danick Martel and Jay Rosehill returned to the lineup and Petr Straka was scratched to make room. Colin McDonald was called up to the Flyers before the team took to the ice for warm-ups.

Scratches: Jason LaBarbera (out for the season), Christian Marti (healthy), Phil DeSimone (healthy), Michael Parks (out for the season), Aaron Palushaj (healthy), Radel Fazleev (out for the season), Petr Straka (healthy) and Logan Pyett (out for the season)

Lines (Starters in Bold/Italics)

Oskar Lindblom - Tim Brent - Chris Conner
Taylor Leier - Cole Bardreau - Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Dalton Smith - Pavel Padakin - Danick Martel
Tyrell Goulbourne - Steven Swavely - Jay Rosehill

Sam Morin - Mark Alt
Davis Drewiske - Reece Willcox
Travis Sanheim - Robert Hagg

Anthony Stolarz - Connor Knapp


1st Period

1:32: SYR - (PP) Witkowski, minor (hooking)
8:26: LV - Swavely (3) - Goulbourne
9:20: LV - (PP) Willcox, minor (holding)
17:39: LV - (PP) Willcox, minor (tripping)

2nd Period

1:05: LV - (PP) bench minor, too many men (served by Martel)
4:00: LV - Brent (10) - Conner, Willcox
5:21: LV - (PP) Alt, minor (high-sticking)
9:40: LV - (PP) Hagg, minor (tripping)
12:06: LV - Aube-Kubel (2) - Lindblom, Bardreau
13:40: SYR - (PP) Witkowski, minor (kneeing)
13:40: SYR - DeAngelo, major (fighting)
13:40: LV - Padakin, major (fighting)
18:22: LV - Brent, major (fighting)
18:22: SYR - Blujus, major (fighting)
18:42: SYR - (PP) Koekkoek, minor (hooking)
19:36: SYR - SHG Tambellini (28) - Peca
19:53: SYR - DeAngelo, major (fighting)
19:53: SYR - DeAngelo - game misconduct (two-fights)
19:53: SYR - Witkowski, minor (instigating)
19:53: SYR - Witkowski, major (fighting)
19:53: SYR - Witkowski, ten minute misconduct
19:53: SYR - Witkowski - game misconduct (third man in)
19:53: LV - Goulbourne, minor (unsportsmanlike)
19:53: LV - Goulbourne, major (fighting)

3rd Period

3:52: LV - (PP) Conner, minor (tripping)
6:43: LV - Sanheim (1) - Martel, Padakin
11:48: LV - (PP) Goulbourne, minor (hooking)
19:09: LV - ENG Martel (22) - Padakin
19:40: LV - (PP) Rosehill, minor (roughing)
19:43: SYR - PPG Tambellini (29) - Darcy, Broll


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