McKenna dazzles as Portland edges Phantoms


Photo: Nina Weiss/Flyerdelphia

Sometimes in hockey, you put out a fantastic effort and no matter how hard you try, a win to is just out of reach.

On Friday night at PPL Center, Portland Pirates goaltender Mike McKenna made sure his team was leaving downtown Allentown with two points.

McKenna stopped 45 of 46 shots, and Kyle Rau, Rocco Grimaldi and Greg McKegg added goals as the Pirates forged a 3-1 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in front of a sellout crowd of 8,600.

Like so many other times this season, the Phantoms came out hard and fast. So much so, that they collected the first eight shots of the first period before Portland even registered a single shot themselves. The problem? The first shot went in.

Behind the net, Grimaldi chipped a pass to Rau in the slot, and he buried it past Phantoms netminder Jason LaBarbera.

The Phantoms had several great chances in the period, but perhaps none better than Kevin Goumas' mini-breakaway midway through the period. He drove down the slot, and got a nice backhand that McKenna matched with a sparkling pad save. Shots in the period favored Lehigh Valley, 13-7.

In the middle period, the Phantoms registered the period's first 14 shots, and it paid off in the form of a Chris Conner goal on the power play at 8:53. With Michael Matheson off for holding, Conner deflected a pass from Taylor Leier past McKenna from the edge of the crease 45 seconds into the man-advantage.

Unfortunately for the Phantoms, they couldn't get to the locker room tied. Grimaldi exited the penalty box and buried the rebound of a Wayne Simpson shot from below the faceoff dot at 17:40. Shots in the period favored Lehigh Valley, 21-7.

You could probably forgive the home team if they packed it in in the third. But the Phantoms continued to pepper McKenna, but he wouldn't budge, and nobody learned that harder than Phantoms blue liner Maxim LaMarche. Midway through the period, a save by McKenna found LaMarche at the blue line, and he unleashed his best slapper.

The Pirates' goalie got that, too. McKenna dropped into the splits and flashed his glove to keep Portland up by one.

Despite throwing the kitchen sink at McKenna, that was the closest Lehigh Valley would get. McKegg sealed the game with 11 seconds left when he caught up to McKenna's shot attempt toward an empty net and tapped the puck in.

Notes: The 46 shots were the Phantoms most in a game since they recorded 45 in a Jan. 15 tilt against the Hershey Bears. With his secondary assist on the Chris Conner tally, Andrew MacDonald extended his point streak to nine games. In those nine games, MacDonald has 14 points, all of them assists.

Quotes: Head coach Scott Gordon: "I think we just have to put it to rest and come out ready to play to tomorrow. When it's all said and done, if you play like that every night you give yourself a chance to win and we certainly did tonight."

Andrew MacDonald: "It's frustrating. Obviously their goaltender made some pretty big saves. I don't think we can fault ourselves for a lack of effort. We have to take advantage of those opportunities, but then again when a goaltender plays well like that there isn't too much you can do. A loss is a loss at the end of the day."

Chris Conner: "It was one of those games where we got a lot of pucks to the net. At this time of the year, these are big points that we need to get everything we can. We have to move and get ready for tomorrow."

3 Stars: 3) LV-Chris Conner (Goal) 2) POR-Rocco Grimaldi (Goal, Assist) 1) POR-Mike McKenna (45 Saves, Win)

Up Next: There's no time to sulk as the Utica Comets invade PPL Center for the first time ever on Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. 

Brent Baldwin is Lehigh Valley Phantoms beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @BBFlyerdelphia.

Go to top button