ALLENTOWN— UGH, shootouts.
After a frustrating blow-out loss to the No. 1 team in the East division last night, the Phantoms traveled home to Allentown needing another win at home. With an outstanding home record thus-far this season, the Lehigh Valley has become a therapeutic spot for the Phantoms after tough road losses, which despite Phantoms best efforts, have been pretty frequent.
But Saturday’s matchup against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers was not the therapy they needed in the midst of the Phantoms long three-in-three weekend. After 60 minutes of hard-fought hockey, much improved from Friday’s lack-luster loss in Wilkes-Barre, the Phantoms were bested 2-3 on home ice in their second shootout of the season.
The Tigers were another team desperate for some momentum after falling from a 10-3-0 record early this season. Since an impressive 7-1 run in November, the Tigers have flipped it, losing seven of their last nine.
With five minutes remaining in regulation and down by one, the Tigers were not leaving the PPL Center without at least a point. Thanks to a late goal from Colin McDonald, the Tigers forced overtime Saturday for the fifth (!) time in the Phantoms 11 home games this season.
The game would end in a 3-2 Bridgeport victory in a shootout after the Tigers sent two of three shots past Zepp. The Phantoms only successful shootout goal came off the stick of Jason Akeson.
Zepp, now 7-4-3-1, was outstanding, saving 37 of 39 shots, but was unable to put it away for the Phantoms in the shootout.
- The first period was a drawn out game of musical chairs in the penalty box as 16 (!) penalties were called in the first 20 minutes, all drawing off a monster hit from Oliver Lauridsen on Johan Sundstrom. Lauridsen was then ambushed by two blue sweaters defending Sundstrom, as Blair Jones interfered to help the defenseman. After the four were separated, they each received a roughing penalty and piled into their respective penalty boxes. Just three seconds later Derek Mathers and Brett Gallant drop the gloves and pile into the box. Sundstrom also joins the rest of the Tigers for unsportsmanlike conduct. If you were keeping count, that’s three Phantoms, and four Tigers in their respected boxes all in a few seconds. The chaos ensued for the remainder of the period with scrappy plays and more penalties, but both headed to the locker room after having three unsuccessful power play opportunities each.
- Before the game a crowd of 8,068 piled into the PPL Center with Teddy bears in hand for the Phantoms first annual Teddy Bear Toss, but fans had to wait until mid-way though the second period to release those bears into the air. Brett Hextall scored his second of the weekend, and his first Teddy Bear Toss goal of his career. Thousands of bears sailed onto the ice and were collected to be donated to the Valley Youth House.
"I've always been jealous every year if somebody else gets [the Teddy Bear Toss goal]," Brett Hextall said. "So it was cool to get that one but unfortunately it gets overridden a little bit by the loss."
- Darroll Powe would score again in the second to give the Phantoms a lead that would last until the final minutes of the third period.
- Colin McDonald sent a shot past Zepp with just under five minutes remaining in regulation, which would send the already high-intensity game into OT, and eventually the Phantoms second shootout of the season.
- The Tigers sit in the premier spot in the league in power play percentage with a 29.0 PP% prior to tonight’s matchup, but the Phantoms killed off each of the Tigers six power play opportunities.
- The Phantoms were unable to score on nine power play opportunities but played well with the man advantage. They moved the puck well, but the winning goaltender Kevin Poulin saved 28 of 30, denying the Phantoms on quality shots on the power play.
- Despite an impressive 6-2-2-1 home record the Phantoms have outscored opponents just 30-26 on their own ice.