Phantoms Fall to Bears on Nathan Walker’s OT Goal in Game 1


By Tommy Hendricks, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms fell in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semi-final by a score of 1-0 to the Hershey Bears on Friday night in overtime.

The game, which was a thriller of a playoff opener, had everything a typical rivalry postseason matchup should. The bad blood between the two teams from their 12 regular-season meetings turned up in huge checks, post-whistle scrums and one fight. 

Lehigh Valley controlled much of the opening 20 minutes of action on Friday night, using two power plays to keep pressure on the Hershey Bears. Along with help from the "Orange Out" crowd at PPL Center, the Phantoms took most of the first period's momentum and turned it into one scoring chance after another. 

Pheonix Copley stood on his head for Hershey, making 15 saves and staying calm and collected in the crease despite a lot of traffic. Bodies were flying all around both creases during the first period, but no one could pot the opening goal of the game. 
Each team had great chances, but both goaltenders turned them aside, sometimes with a little help. Copley had help from the post to his left on an odd-man rush for Lehigh Valley, with Cole Bardreau ringing a wrist shot off the iron behind the Bears goalie. Alex Lyon made the best of his five stops off a deflection to his left. Tom Gilbert took a low shot from the point and put it through traffic to the side of Lyon's net. There was a redirect right on that Lyon padded aside and dove out to cover to keep the game scoreless. 
Lyon and Copley remained the story during the second period, with it being Lyon's turn to step up. Lyon made 10 saves in the period, including more big stops while down a man to preserve the scoreless tie. Copley matched Lyon's performance, only having to make four saves himself to give him 19 on the night.
Lehigh Valley kept pressure on during the middle frame, but ended up putting a lot of their chances wide or up over the net, ultimately keeping the game scoreless.
Tempers really started to flare in the third. Liam O'Brien leveled Steven Swavely with a big check in front of the Bears bench with just under eight minutes gone in the third. Tyrell Goulbourne took exception to the hit on his teammate, and decided to drop the gloves with O'Brien. The two heavyweights battled it out, resulting in a Phantoms power play for O'Brien's hit on Swavely being called interference. 
The Phantoms would not capitalize on the man advantage, making them 0-for-4 on the night. But they did take momentum from the opportunity, something they seemed to control all night. Hershey got a grade A chance minutes later, with Lyon sprawling out of position to try to cover up the puck. It left the cage behind him wide open, but the puck got put mere inches wide of the post to keep the game scoreless. 
With 4:30 left, the Phantoms led the Bears in shots 27-17, but it remained tied where it counted with no score. Lyon made a big stick save on Stanislav Galiev on Hershey's 18th shot of the game, making it twice that Galiev had a near miss on what seemed to be a sure goal. 
Thanks to near those near misses and great play by both Copley and Lyon, Game 1 headed in a scoreless tie to overtime.
Lehigh Valley had the better of the chances four minutes into the extra session. Danick Martel got stoned by Copley on a wrap around try and his own rebound, but the puck luck stayed bad from there. Andy Miele decided to chime in, literally and figuratively, ringing a shot off the outside of the left post behind Copley from a tight angle. Then Colin McDonald flew past the Hershey defense and cut toward the crease. Having Copley down and out, he tried to tuck the puck in past the Hershey goalie's left pad. He missed, and the overtime continued.
The only goal of the game came with 12:22 left in overtime. Off a shot from the point, Lyon left a big rebound in front of his net. Nathan Walker was the closest to the puck, and he picked it up and started to move to his left. Lyon fell over to his blocker side and was down and out, while Walker lifted the puck over him and into the open net to win the game for Hershey.
Lehigh Valley had the better of play the entire night, but could not solve Copley. Copley's 32-save shutout performance led the way for the Bears to take a 1-0 series lead. The Phantoms will look to rebound and tie the series in Game 2 on Saturday night at PPL Center at 7:05 p.m.
  • Head coach Scott Gordon on what his team did well, and what needs to change ahead of Game 2: "The first period, obviously, we had the edge. I think that they got into their game and they started to play a little better and things started to get a little tighter. It was a tight hockey game. I don't think there were a lot of great chances by either team, I think they had a couple in the third. But overall I thought our guys played really hard and I liked the way we played our system tonight. There's a couple things that we need to make an adjustment on, including our power play. But I think also we had some good looks on the power play but there's a part of the game that we did not take advantage of that was there. And then there's a few areas that are minor stuff that could make us more efficient. But overall, I was happy with the way the guys played."
3 Stars
1. Nathan Walker (HER) – Goal
2. Pheonix Copley (HER) – 32 saves, shutout win
3. Alex Lyon (LV) – 20 saves
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