This is really an unfortunate situation to be if you are a Phantoms fan. If you are a Bears fan, please leave. Thank you.
The Phantoms’ ‘situation’, as it were, was being down 2-0 in round 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs to the Bears. After losing the first two games at home in Allentown, the Phantoms find themselves needing to steal two games in Hershey to bring the best-of-five series back to the Valley for a decisive game 5.
And let’s be honest here, some goalie gods just don’t like the Flyers. Both Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon are injured for tonight’s game. Lyon was injured in the final period of game 2 on Saturday, leading to Martin Ouellette to come in cold. Unfortunately, Ouellette gave up 2 goals in the 3rd en route to a 5-4 loss. Carter Hart, a goaltender who Flyers fans compare to God (so, Sexy Hexy), was recently sent to the Phantoms after his WHL team, the Everett Silvertips, was eliminated from the playoffs. Now in a backup role for game 3, Hart will get some valuable experience on the bench for what professional hockey looks like.
But, again, Stolie and Lyon are injured. I love you, goalie gods.
Pheonix Copley has almost single-handedly pushed the Bears into a 2-0 lead in the series with a .939 save percentage through the first two games. Copley, acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk blockbuster, has been a beautiful addition for Hershey this season. I promise you that’s all I say that will be good about the Bears.
The 1st period started with some not-so-good happenings with the Bears getting quite a few good looks at Ouellette, and he looked a bit shaky early on. I mean, this is perhaps the biggest game of his career, and it comes with the added pressure of needing to win to survive. He was able to get a great save on Hershey’s rookie, Hampus Gustafsson, by extending his left pad out at the last seconds.
The game started out a little chippy. Both teams were trying to cement their place in the game, but it was definitely the Bears who were having the better start to the period. Halfway through the 1st, the Phantoms only had 1 shot. In typical Phantoms fashion, one shot that was taken from a sharp angle on Copley flew right into his glove. Hockey gods, we will sacrifice Andrew MacDonald for a win.
A beautiful pass from Corban Knight found the stick of Greg Carey breaking in down the slot, but Pheonix Copley came across to squeeze the puck in the center of his chest. It was the best chance so far for the Valley. Perhaps at the radio break, they stole all of the Bears’ chocolate supply. It would be smart of them, for sure.
In the final quarter of the period, Zach Sill grabbed a loose puck in front of the Phantoms’ net after a poor play by Samuel Morin. Sill took the puck on his forehand and tried to fool Ouellette, but he dove across to make a spectacular save. He would remain busy for the remainder of the period. At one point, a puck bounced off the boards to him to pick up, but he fumbled it and it became loose. It turned out OK though. No Phantoms goals were harmed.
With 25 seconds remaining in the period, Andy Miele got his stick in the mid-section of a Bears player and was called for hooking. The Bears were able to get a few shots off before the period ended, but the power play would have to carry over into the 2nd.
Let’s recap: 0-0 is the score. 9-9 is the shot total. Some chocolate bars were thrown out. It was a decent period.
The Phantoms were able to kill off the remaining 1:35 of the Miele penalty, but once again, Ouellette was shaky with trying to handle to puck with his glove. No one expects him to do fantastic as he is in the Royals goaltender tandem with Mark Dekanich, but his shakiness is giving Hershey some unwarranted chances.
Chris Conner had an extremely pristine chance to take the lead when Copley was down and out in the crease. Conner picked up the puck and swung around to the other side that was left unguarded. There was a wide-open net. Conner’s wraparound try slid right through the crease and somehow didn’t go in! He just couldn’t wrap his hands around his stick. The Phantoms really were picking the pressure up.
The Bears started to buzz back the other way. The play really was opening up. A shot went on Ouellette and he made the save, but the rebound sharp-angle try almost slid in-between Ouellette and the post. However, the puck fell on top of his skate. Unbelievable action in this game.
After a defensive error by the Phantoms led to a 3-on-1 for the Bears, Stanislav Galiev shot one by the blocker side of Ouellette. After all that pressure going forward for Lehigh Valley, they gave up a goal. Ah, yes, those prospects sure are Flyers players.
Riley Barber almost made it 2-0 with some wizardry. On another 3-on-1 for the Bears, Barber out-waited Ouellette on the right side and pushed the puck into the blue paint. Ouellette tried to fish the puck away with his glove, but it wasn’t swept away until the Phantoms defense got to it. That’s how the period ended: the score was 1-0 to Hershey. The Valley had 20 minutes to tie the game and try to force game 4.
And they only needed 37 seconds to score! In an extremely odd twist, a shot from center ice from Colin McDonald caught Copley sleeping and it rang off the post and in. All of a sudden, it was a tie game!
Colin McDonald scores from center ice to tie the game! pic.twitter.com/tKJhrlJxYY— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) April 27, 2017
Colin McDonald must’ve talked to Radko Gudas before the game. I’m sure the conversation went like this:
Gudas: “Colin, all you need to do is score.”
McDonald: “OK, how should I score?”
Gudas: “Do what I did and shoot it from center ice. It’ll definitely work.”
McDonald: “Why? It won’t work.”
Gudas: “Actually, just hit it off the post and in. That will be the only way it’ll work.”
McDonald: “Hmm I can for sure do that. I’m Colin [CENSORED] McDonald, post-and-in or nothing, baby.”
I’m sure the Phantoms’ captain just took his phone out on the bench and is right now talking to Radko.
This started to get wild just a moment after. With both teams getting an extreme amount of chances, it was the Bears who almost took back the lead. Ouellette covered the puck with his glove. After the whistle, the Bears poked and the puck and it went in, leading to the crowd to get extremely excited. They weren’t happy when the goal was immediately waved off. Ha, too bad.
The game would eventually go to overtime. An absolutely wild period, that was. A late opportunity for Hershey was saved by the blocker of Ouellette in a high-pressure situation. Other than for a few moments, he looked good.
Overtime is where the scary moments happen for each team. Just one measly shot on goal can be the difference between winning and losing. In this case, the series could end with just one goal. And say hello to Chris Conner! Conner, after missing the wraparound chance earlier in the game, had a prime opportunity in overtime to keep the Phantoms alive, and he did just that!
Chris Conner wins it in overtime! pic.twitter.com/mHX7oYnldz— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) April 27, 2017
The Phantoms definitely had some great moments in this game, and because of the heroics of Conner, they live to see another day. Game 4 is on Saturday night in Hershey. One more win forces game 5 back in the Valley.