After going down 2-0 in the series, the Phantoms found themselves in a Game 5 situation tonight in the Lehigh Valley. They have been the better team this series, but Hershey has been lucky with a couple breaks favoring them. Tonight is do-or-die for both teams, but if the first two games were any indication of what is to come tonight, the Phantoms were to have a tough battle winning at home.
Play started with immediate offensive production from both teams with each spending about 45 seconds in the offensive zone trying to set up plays. Greg Carey took a high-sticking call at center ice that gave Hershey an early power play which was flawlessly killed until Carey came out of the box. A centering pass from Tom Gilbert found Stanislav Galiev who backhanded the puck past a flopping Ouellette to give the Bears an early lead. Lehigh Valley found their own offensive pressure coming from Cole Bardreau, who was forechecking like a workhorse and stealing the puck a few times to get it back to the point for shots on Copley.
A deflected puck off the stick of Christian Thomas after a wrist shot by Tom Gilbert from the point gave the Bears their second goal of the game on their sixth shot. A toe save from Copley stopped a 3-on-0 chance for the Phantoms with 6 minutes left in the period. Fans made their own opinions fairly loudly due to a few missed calls by the referees that would have benefited the Phantoms, including two holding calls.
Although the Phantoms did give up two goals, the first period was about even for both teams. Hershey gave up 7 shots and Lehigh Valley gave up 8. The Phantoms did have some quality scoring chances and shots, but Copley seemed to handle them with ease.
Period 2 started off with a tripping penalty on Madison Bowey that sent the Phantoms to their first power play. On it, a rebound shot from Colin McDonald brought the score to 2-1. Scott Gordon probably talked to his players about offensive production, because that’s all the Phantoms knew how to do at the start of the period. I estimate they had about 2 minutes in the offensive zone within the first 5 minutes of the period.
Right off a faceoff, Bowey cleared the puck over the boards and into the stands to give the Phantoms another power play in the period. No goal was scored on the power play, but Lehigh Valley spent nearly the whole two minutes creating plays and taking shots on Copley. Hershey produced shots mostly off the rush, but could only create plays for a limited amount of time in the late minutes of the period.
Hershey met a relentless forecheck by almost every Phantoms forward in the final minute. This pressure caused a turnover that was converted into a shot forcing Copley to make a toe save to keep his team in the lead going into the 3rd period.
Once again, Lehigh Valley started off fast and hard in the offensive zone until Sam Morin cleared the puck over the boards in the defensive zone and sat in the sin bin until Scott Laughton joined him 30 seconds later for tripping up a Bears player. Both Morin and Laughton came out of the box without Hershey scoring another goal. After the next faceoff in the Hershey zone, the Bears managed to get the puck out into the neutral zone where Colby Williams carried the puck in and shot it over Ouellette to make it 3-2.
The offensive pressure coming from both teams had been about even aside from the Hershey goal. They were getting the puck deep and working it all around by utilizing the defense. Taylor Leier was sent on a partial breakaway off a pass by Scott Laughton. On the break, his shot trickled in over Copley’s pads to make it 3-2.
Lehigh Valley applied tremendous amounts of pressure on Copley, desperately doing what they had to in order to score a goal and possibly send the game into overtime. With just under 2 minutes remaining in the period, Scott Gordon pulled Ouellette for the extra attacker. The effort did not pay off, as time winded down only to have a faceoff in the neutral zone with 1.2 seconds remaining. The Bears won the game 3-2 and advanced to play the Providence Bruins in the 2nd round.
FINAL: Hershey 3-2
SHOTS: Lehigh Valley 30-26
SERIES: Hershey wins 3-2
- With both Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon injured, Lehigh Valley has been successful with Martin Ouellette, a Reading Royals starter, in net.
- Power plays were yet again unsuccessful for both teams in Game 4. It had been a recent indication that power play issues have not really affected the Phantoms’ winning possibilities.
- Martin Ouellette is dominating the games he has started during the playoffs, managing a .935 SV% and 1.80 GAA.
- The Phantoms needed to come in with the fire they played with in the last few games of the series. They had been the better team overall, but their missed chances cost them.
- Pheonix Copley needed to come up big for the Bears to improve their chances of winning. He was solid the whole series and was the main reason the Bears moved to the next round.
The season has come to the end for the Phantoms, but this is the first year they have made the playoffs in 7 seasons. Finishing with over 100 points and making the playoffs is just the first part of what they will accomplish over the next 5 years or so. With plenty of current prospects and future draft picks bound to come through the AHL, they have a very good chance of winning a Calder Cup soon.
GNGH will continue to cover the Hershey Bears in the second round against the Providence Bruins over a 7 game series.
Andrew Ostrosky is a writer and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms reporter for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @HockeyGuyFromSL.