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A Gordie Howe Hat Trick sends Phantoms past Admirals

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Phantoms top line comes up big in a tight 4-3 win over an East Division rival.

ALLENTOWN—Thanks to a Gordie Howe Hat Trick and an offensive explosion by Blair Jones, the Phantoms squeezed past the Norfolk Admirals in a 4-3 victory, crushing their two-game losing streak.

Opposing goaltender Yann Danis won his 20th shutout of his career Friday, but was unable to shutout the Phantoms top-line tonight.

The Phantoms' (9-8-2) starters, Blair Jones, Taylor Leier, Zack Stortini, Mark Alt, and Brandon Manning have begun to click, thanks in major part to Zack Stortini, according to head coach Terry Murray.

"Wherever I play Stortini, good things are happening," he said.

With nine total points tonight, the Phantoms top line gave the team -- and the crowd -- the energy it needed to push past their East Division foes (8-12-0).

Stortini did not register any points, but with pressure at the net, and an energetic bout, Murray said the veterans are setting a good tone for the young team.

  • The Phantoms kicked off the night quickly with a goal from Austin Fyten out of the gate just over a minute after puck drop. With traffic in front of the net, Fyten squeezed the puck past Danis while he was sandwiched between two Norfolk defenders.
  • After Fyten’s early goal in the first period, the Phantoms exploded after 60 minutes of scoreless play, scoring three in three minutes, all from Lehigh Valley’s top line. Blair Jones started it off with an even-strength goal as he sent a slapshot from center-point, which ricocheted off the post and past Danis. Taylor Leier netted another with a two-man advantage, followed by Jones’ second of the night with a single man advantage less than a minute later.
  • Manning assisted each of the three first-line goals, with Leier, Jones, and Alt alternating the helpers. The Phantoms top line ended the game with nine of 12 team points.
  • Jones registered Lehigh Valley’s first ever Gordie Howe Hat Trick with a goal (2), an assist, and a fight in the 4-3 win.
  • Manning has now registered a point in eight straight games.
  • Leier also has a goal in three straight games, all on the power play.
  • Anthony Stolarz started for the third straight game Saturday after Rob Zepp sustained a lower body injury during warm-ups on Wednesday. The 20-year old has struggled this season with a 1-5-0 record prior to tonight’s win, and allowed three goals on 14 shots in the first period last night, resulting in a goalie change to start the second. Now 2-5-0, he still has some developing to do, but had a much more productive game, with 35 saves, including a few crucial last minute saves that could have sent the game into OT.
  • The Phantoms are 11th in the league on the power play, converting 17 of 94 man advantages. The team has struggled in November, but with the top-line on the power play, Lehigh Valley went 2 of 7 Saturday.
  • Head coach Terry Murray said earlier this week that Rob Zepp’s lower body injury would only have him out for seven days. Should be ready by the next game on Friday, Dec. 5.
  • The Phantoms were without right winger Brett Hextall after he received a one-game suspension for instigating a fight in the last five minutes of the Phantoms 4-2 loss to the Devils in Atlantic City, Friday. He will be available next week.