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Phantoms Playoff Run: Home Ice Disadvantage?

Hershey EMILY PAINE / THE MORNING CALL

Friday and Saturday the Lehigh Valley Phantoms opened their opening round playoff series against the Hershey Bears. By virtue of their superior regular season record they opened up in Lehigh Valley with games on back to back nights. The Phantoms had an opportunity to take an early advantage of this. Unfortunately, whatever it is that ailed the Flyers this season seems to have seeped down to the minor league level.

Friday night’s game was a back and forth contest. The Phantoms came out hard, shooting early and often but were unable to convert any of their chances in the first period. They dominated the play, outshooting the Bears 15-5 and had 2 power plays to Hershey’s 1.  Naturally momentum swung the other way in the next period and the Phantoms survived a few scares thanks to Alex Lyon remaining a very good goalie. The Bears had the 10-4 shot advantage and a 2-1 power play advantage.

The third period was back and forth with furious action. The Phantoms had a 9-3 shot advantage and were able to secure a power play. Phantoms left wing Tyrell Goulbourne had a spirited fight with Liam O’Brien after O’Brien hit Steve Swavely illegally. The period ended tied 0-0 and overtime was needed. Both teams traded chances, with near misses coming from Colin McDonald and Danick Martel. The defense didn’t hold however and Nathan Walker converted on a chance and the Bears won the first game 1-0 and took a 1-0 lead in the series. Lyon ended the game with 20 saves on 21 shots.

Game 2 started out fast. Tj Brennan (1) opened up the scoring a the power play a minute and ten seconds into the game with assists by Greg Carey (1) and Chris Conner (1). A few minutes later Stanislav Galiev tied up the score 1-1. It’d remain that way until 12 seconds left when Andy Miele (1) rifled a one timer in on the power play. Chris Conner (2) and Tj Brennan (1) both tallied assists on the play. The Phantoms had a 16-4 shot advantage in the period. As is the tradition of playoff hockey, tensions boiled over from game 1 resulting in the teams combining for 12 penalties in the first period.

In the second period Christian Djoos opened up the scoring for Hershey less than 4 minutes into the period. Despite that the Phantoms once again were all over the Bears, and it didn’t take them long to retake the lead. Greg Carey (1) converted a rush with a wicked shot to make the score 3-2. Chris Conner (3) racked up another assist on the play. Late in the period it was Carey again with his 2nd of the day and 2nd of the playoffs. He batted a rebound in out of the air, with assists going to Mark Zengerle (1) and Corban Knight (1).

In the third however the Bears began to wake up from their hibernation and Chris Bourque scored his first just over 7 minutes in. It was 4-3 and then the wheels really fell off for the Phantoms. Alex Lyon went down awkwardly and was pulled with an injury. Despite closely guarded MRI results, Lyon is on crutches and will miss at least the rest of the series. Martin Ouellette stepped in, and was promptly scored on by Tyler Lewington to tie the score 4-4. The adversity was too much for the Phantoms to overcome, and Chris Bourque scored again with 33 seconds left before overtime. The game ended 5-4. Lyon made 10 saves on 13 shots, and Ouellette made 2 saves on the 4 shots he faced.

The Phantoms are looking to stave off elimination Wednesday night at 7:00pm in Hershey. Martin Ouellette will likely get the start with Carter Hart backing up. Also recently added forward Connor Bunnaman may (but likely won’t) see his first action of the season. A 19 year old center, Bunnaman signed an entry level deal Friday, and lead the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers in goals (37) and was third in points (52). Expect the Phantoms to come out with even more intensity than the first two games, as now they have to win 3 in a row, as well as 2 straight in Hershey, to advance.

Game 3 Wednesday, April 26th at 7:00 pm @ Hershey 

Game 4 (if necessary) Saturday, April 29th at 7:00 pm @ Hershey

Game 5 (if necessary) Sunday, April 30th at 5:05 pm @ Lehigh Valley 

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