The Lehigh Valley Phantoms rolled into Bridgeport on Saturday night looking to build off Friday’s 5-1 win in Hartford. Defensive miscues and an opportunistic Sound Tigers power play cost them in a 5-4 loss at Webster Bank Arena.
Looking to bounce back from an 8-0 loss to the Hershey Bears on Wednesday that head coach Scott Gordon termed "disgraceful," the Lehigh Valley Phantoms bounced back in a big way, defeating the Providence Bruins 4-3 on Friday night at PPL Center.
After falling to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday night, the team they are chasing in the standings, to say that Sunday evening's tilt against the Springfield Falcons was a must was an understatement.
Cue Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Mark Alt.
Alt's rising slapshot with 2.8 seconds left in regulation secured a massive two points in the standings as the Phantoms downed Springfield, 5-4.
This weekend is a crucial juncture for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in their quest to make the American Hockey League playoffs. Coming into Friday's battle with the Springfield Falcons, the Phantoms sat 10 points behind the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who hold the last playoff spot in the division. Coincidentally, Bridgeport invades the PPL Center Saturday night.
But first the Phantoms had to address the task at hand. Good old fashioned toughness got it done.
Aaron Palushaj and Cole Bardreau tallied goals, and Anthony Stolarz made 37 saves to backstop Lehigh Valley to a tight 2-1 victory Friday night in Allentown.
Coming into tonight's matchup with Utica, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Simply wanted to build off Friday Night's loss to the Portland Pirates. Even though they lost 2-1, the prevailing theory was that they ran into a hot goalie and, if they could produce that type of grinding effort, crucial wins would come.
The Utica Comets had other ideas.
Three different players recorded a goal and an assist, and Richard Bachman stopped 21 of 23 shots as the Comets downed the Phantoms 5-2 at PPL Center.
In the first, the Phantoms controlled the first 6 minutes. Even though they didn't score, they had plenty of chances, with Bachman making several solid saves to keep the game scoreless. David Shields got the Comets on the board first when he blasted a point shot past Anthony Stolarz off of a faceoff at 8:15. Four and a half minutes later, Ronalds Kenins took a pass in the slot from Mike Zalewski and wired a wrister past Stolarz. David Shields got the secondary assist.
Phil DeSimone got his first tally since joining the team from Austria late last month at 15:35. Chris Conner had the puck behind the net and he found DeSimone at the side of the net, and he jammed the puck between the post and Bachman's skate. Taylor Leier got an assist on the goal.
In the second, Utica poured it on, and in the process, chased Stolarz from the game. Darren Archibald skated into the Phantoms zone and beat Stolarz to the glove side at 3:57. Assists went to Zalewski and Shields. At that point, Scott Gordon pulled the hook and put in Jason LaBarbera. Nine minutes later, Cole Cassels put Utica up 4-1. On a knee at the hashmarks, Cassels took a pass from Ashton Sautner and flipped a puck wide of LaBarbera's glove. Taylor Fedun got the other assist.
With Lehigh Valley on a power play with seven and a half minutes left in the third, Scott Gordon took the unusual step of pulling his gsaltender to gain a six on four advantage. While they garnered some nice chances, ultimately, it backfired. After a turnover in the Phantoms' offensive zone, AHL All-Star Hunter Shinkaruk potted the empty netter at 13:43. Danick Martel got one late in the game when he beat Bachman on a rush five-hole. to make it 5-2.
Notes: Andrew MacDonald was recalled by the Flyers just before the game to replace the injured Michael Del Zotto on the Flyers roster. Attendance was 8,675, Marking Lehigh Valley's 8th sellout in the last 10 home games. Mark Alt wore the alternate Captain's 'A' as a replace for MacDonald.
Quotes: Danick Martel on the loss: "We tried so hard (Friday). We should have came into this game the same way and we carme in the exact opposite. The effort was not there."
Mark Alt on the frustration of the loss: "Tonight it's worse. I thought we played well last night and the bounces didn't go our way. Tonight we didn't work hard enough, didn't play the systems the way they needed to be played to get the outcome we wanted, so it's a lot more frustrating tonight."
Scott Gordon on where the team goes from here: "We just gotta start back on Tuesday, ready to work. We have 3 games next weekend, two against Springfield, one against Bridgeport. It's six points that are on the table. Like I said, we've played this team three time and beat them once. It's been a struggle every time. They're not really a good matchup for us. We haven't handled their size and their compete level to the standard that we need to, and that's something we need to figure out the next time we play them."