The first game of the Calder Cup Playoffs at PPL Center is bound to be a good one between the Phantoms and their in-state rival, the Hershey Bears. Lehigh Valley went 7-4-1 against Hershey during the regular season but didn’t win a few in a row until later in the season. This series will probably be back and forth wins for both teams if it ends up anything like the regular season.
The first period started off with Hershey trying to set the tone with a big hit in front of their bench only to have Lehigh Valley create offensive pressure on them. They spent the majority of the first 2 minutes setting up plays and getting a few shots on Copley. Following the offensive pressure, the Bears got the puck into the Phantoms zone where Tyrell Goulbourne received a minor for elbowing sending Hershey on their first power play. The Phantoms were very successful in getting into passing lanes and dumping the puck on the resulting turnover. At the end of the penalty kill, Chris Conner found himself in a 2 on 1 which resulted in a shot that hit the post. After an extended amount of time in the Phantoms zone, Riley Barber made a bad choice and found himself on the offending end of a hooking call that put some unnecessary stress on the Bears PK.
Chris Bourque found his stick in the wrong position as he was called for tripping not too long after the first penalty. The Hershey PK made it hard on themselves by producing defense in front of Copley but could not get the puck out of their zone no matter what they tried.
When either team tried producing offense, they produced for a long time with extended amounts in the respective offensive zone. A quality odd man rush by the Phantoms forced Copley to make a nice pad save after Robert Hagg received a drop pass in the slot with nobody covering him.
Lehigh Valley was unanimously the better team in the first period finishing with 15 shots compared to 5 from the Bears.
Troy Mann must have said something to his team during the intermission to get some more offense going because Hershey spent the most part of the first 3 minutes in the offensive zone creating scoring chances. Corban Knight took a hooking penalty that resulted in nothing but a big hit on Liam O’Brien coming from 6’7″ Sam Morin. The first half of the second period was a bad one for the Phantoms with only 1 shot and multiple turnovers that created offensive zone pressure for the Bears almost every time.
Zach Sill interfered with Andy Miele’s skating and was called for holding just after the 10-minute mark. Still, nobody could score on the power play even though there is a tremendous amount of pressure on the PK of the respective team. Alex Lyon stood on his head in the final minutes of the period making 3 unbelievable saves in tight seeing the puck through a few scrums in front. In a controversial call disagreed by the fans, Danick Martel took a cross checking penalty that was handled nicely by the Phantoms PK with multiple blocked shots and a shot on Copley by Scott Laughton.
Although they didn’t score on their 2 power play opportunities, the Bears were the more dominant team that period, limiting Lehigh Valley to only 4 shots while they racked up 10.
The start of the 3rd period began with an injury to Bears forward Riley Barber who was tangled up with a player and limped off the ice and into the tunnel to the locker room. Pheonix Copley made an outstanding diving save when he found a cross-crease pass dying in the crease just inches away from Taylor Leier’s stick.
Play had been kept to the sides and icing calls with both teams making multiple mistakes with passing. Minutes after, Liam O’Brien pushed Steven Swavley into the Bears half-boards. What looked like a bad hit, Goulbourne stood up for his teammate and took the 5 minutes in a small bout with O’Brien. O’Brien took an interference call on the play as well which was promptly killed by the Bears. Although no goals were scored in the period, there were some quality chances for both teams as both goaltenders stood tall to take it to overtime.
The Phantoms finished regulation with 28 shots in the period, their counterpart with 18.
It’s this simple: one goalie goes home with a shutout, the other does not.
The period ended almost as quickly as it started with a quick chance in front for the Phantoms as Danick Martel got 3 shots on Copley that were stopped with his extended pad. Phantoms put some nice pressure on Copley getting him to move back and forth with some puck play behind the net along with a few shots.
After getting the puck out of the defensive zone, Hershey made their way to the attacking zone where a defensive blunder by the Phantoms gave Nathan Walker the puck where he claimed his own rebound, got around Lyon with it and had the wide open net to end the game and give Copley the shutout.
- Lehigh Valley managed to score on 25% of their power plays this season against the Bears going 15/59. If they can keep that up or do better, they should have no problem moving on.
- Carter Hart may make an appearance on the bench as the backup goaltender to Alex Lyon sometime in the series after he was added to the roster after his season with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL.
- Hershey is looking to make it to the finals again and try to win their first Calder Cup since 2010.
- Alex Lyon had a record of 5-3-1 against the Bears this regular season with a .905 SV%.
- Pheonix Copley was 1-2 with a .910 SV% against the Phantoms during the regular season.
Lehigh Valley can win using the same kind of game they had tonight if they apply it to tomorrow. They were very solid, tripled the Bears shots in the first period, but just drew the short straw in overtime after their scoring chances failed. Hopefully, Alex Lyon can bring the same game he had tonight into the next one and maybe he will be the one leaving with the shutout.
Andrew Ostrosky is a writer and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms reporter for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @HockeyGuyFromSL.