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Phantoms vs. Bears game 4 recap: Phantoms ride hot start to 4-1 win, even series at 2-2

The teams will play a decisive Game 5 on Sunday in Allentown.

Travis Sanheim, seen above in Game 2, had two big assists tonight as the Phantoms evened the series.
Kate Frese / SB Nation

Folks, I’ll be honest. I was all set to recap this game and was doing well for a while, and then I got a bit sidetracked about 25 minutes into the contest as a result of, uh, some other rather important Flyers happenings that took place tonight. So my apologies if we’re a little short on details in parts of this recap here, and for the fact that this recap is a bit late.

But! While it’s certainly not the biggest piece of news we’ll receive tonight, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms came away as big winners this evening as well, as they walked into the Giant Center in Hershey and stormed to a 4-1 win, evening their series with the Hershey Bears at two wins apiece and setting the teams up for a decisive game 5 tomorrow in Allentown.

The Phantoms got out to a solid start, controlling most of the first 10 minutes of the game while both teams traded ultimately unsuccessful power plays. Finally, after knocking on the door for most of the period (the Phantoms were up 10-3 in shots at this point), Danick Martel opened up the scoring in the game following a great feed from Andy Miele, who picked off a clearing attempt and immediately wired it down to Martel for the finish.

Mark Alt nearly doubled that lead seconds later on a spin move that Hershey goalie Pheonix Copley was able to deny, but the Phantoms would go to the locker room up 1-0 and in total control of this game.

The Phantoms started out the second period right on the same track they’d been on in the first, but not much more than a minute into the frame, Hershey’s Stanislav Galiev cherry-picked his way to a breakaway in on Martin Ouellette. Luckily, Ouellette was up to the task, shutting down Galiev’s shot and keeping the Phantoms ahead. The scales briefly started to even out a bit after that chance, as both sides traded attempts for the early part of the second period, but just over four minutes into the period, a Travis Sanheim blocked shot turned into a 2-on-1 the other way for the Phantoms, and Mark Zengerle wired the ensuing shot past Copley to double the Phantoms’ lead.

That goal would end up being the game-winner, but Hershey would provide a big of a push after the Phantoms went up by two goals. This area — the last 10-15 minutes or so of the second period — was around the time when the Flyers were busy moving up in the draft lottery, so again, I apologize for having nothing more than the bare minimum regarding this timeframe.

But we do know that the Bears finally broke through late in the second period, as Hershey’s Chandler Stephenson carried the puck up to the top of the circle and put a shot past Ouellette to cut the lead in half.

The Phantoms had a couple of solid chances in the final minutes of the period, but Hershey came out firing on all cylinders when the two teams came out of the dressing rooms to start the third. A couple of nice saves by Ouellette made up for some general sloppiness from the Phantoms, who at least in the moment were fortunate to stay ahead of the home team.

And it was then, about five minutes into the third, when Scott Laughton — off a great pass from Sanheim — would throw on the jets to split two Hershey defenders and make his way in alone on Copley.

He didn’t miss.

For all intents and purposes, that was the end of this hockey game, even though both teams would have their chances as the period went on — the Phantoms and Bears each tallied 15 shots in the third period. But Hershey couldn’t cash in on a power play with about seven minutes left in the game, and that was about it. Laughton would ice the game with an empty-net goal, and the Phantoms would make the not-so-long trip back home with a victory and an even series.

Ouellette stood tall for the second game in a row, stopping 27 of 28 Bears shots. Eight Phantoms picked up at least one point on the night. Lehigh Valley outshot Hershey 38-28 in the game, continuing a trend that has held up in the entire series — through four games, the Phantoms have outshot the Bears 134-96. While this was the first game in the series that was one by more than one goal, it would not be a stretch to say the Phantoms have been the better team for the most part, and were they to pick up a win tomorrow, it would be a just result.

Which, given the fact that maybe too much has gone this way our weekend, is possibly too much to ask for.

But let’s hope not. The Phantoms and Bears will play at 5:00 on Sunday at the PPL Center. The winner will face the winner of the Providence vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton series, which also has a decisive Game 5 tomorrow in the afternoon.

Go Phantoms.