It looked as though the Lehigh Valley Phantoms would cruise their way to an easy blowout victory over the Binghamton Devils. However, after the Devils erased the four-goal lead that the Phantoms had built in the first period, it took a milestone pass to secure the two points.
Lehigh Valley improved to 15-4-3 on the season.
Last night’s contest was originally slated to consist of just two periods of hockey, completing the March 10th meeting between the Phantoms and the Devils that had been suspended due to COVID-19 protocols. However, it was decided that the teams would play a full game and that the previously suspended match would be marked completed as a 1-1 tie. All statistics from the one period of hockey count as official.
If an AHL game ending in a tie wasn’t an odd enough situation, the Phantoms went on to play one of the more wild games you’ll see, and certainly their wackiest of the season.
Ten seconds is all it took for Pascal Laberge to open the scoring, beating Gilles Senn with a quick turnaround shot from the right face-off circle. It was the fastest goal scored to begin a game in Lehigh Valley history, though not in Phantoms history. Tye McGinn’s goal just nine seconds into a game back in 2013 remains at the top. (H/T Bob Rotruck)
After his pressure on the breakout led to Laberge’s goal, Connor Bunnaman potted one of his own, his first of the season, to give Lehigh Valley a 2-0 lead. The two tallies were the lone goals that the Phantoms scored with York, who broke out offensively last night, not on the ice.
York first put his name on the scoresheet with a rocket off of a broken play. When captain Cal O’Reilly’s cross-ice feed intended for Tyson Foerster instead hit a Devils skater in front of the goal, the puck bounced right to York, who blasted home his first goal at the professional level.
Binghamton temporarily stopped the bleeding soon after, answering less than a minute later and cutting the Phantoms’ lead to two. However, York would get back on the sheet with two more assists prior to the conclusion of the period.
With just over four minutes left in the opening frame, Chris Mueller won an offensive zone faceoff, directing the puck toward York. York then cut down the right wall before dropping the puck back to his defensive partner Chris Bigras at the point. Bigras skated into open space in the middle of the ice and his wristed one by Senn, as well as a number of bodies in front.
A few minutes later, now on the man-advantage, York controlled the breakout with a pair of quick passes to eventually lead the Phantoms into the offensive zone. A failed clear by the Devils led to York sending a pass to O’Reilly, who circled the net and found Linus Sandin in the low slot for the one-time goal. It was the first of two power-play goals for Sandin in the game.
After twenty minutes of hockey, the Phantoms had a 5-1 lead and it looked as if they had put this one away early. It was quickly made clear that the Devils wouldn’t simply bow out the remainder of the game. After two goals in the middle frame, the Phantoms’ four-goal lead had shrunk to a two-goal lead entering the third period.
Just thirty-one seconds into the final period of the game, Travis St. Denis scored his second of the game, leaving Binghamton plenty of time to pick up the game-tying goal. Moments later, that’s exactly what they did.
At this point, all of the pressure was on the Phantoms. After entering the second period with a four-goal lead, they were in real danger of losing this game in regulation. A hooking penalty drawn by Bigras gave them the opportunity they needed to regain the lead.
York was involved yet again, though just missed the cut for another assist. Bigras, who seemingly had a shoot-first mentality all night, got the puck to York at the point, before receiving it himself from the rookie defenseman once more. Cutting down the left wall, Bigras looked for his second goal of the night but was denied by Mareks Mitens, who had replaced Senn at the start of the second period. The puck then bounced up in the air and was caught by O’Reilly, who found Sandin for a goal that largely resembled their earlier connection back in the first.
It was O’Reilly’s 500th assist in the AHL, making him just the tenth player in league history to achieve such a feat. An impressive milestone hit by the Phantoms’ captain was an equally important goal for the Phantoms, who managed to avoid disaster and hang on the rest of the way for a hard-fought 6-5 win.
Quick notes on York, by the numbers
- York was on the ice for four Phantoms goals and zero Devils goals in all situations.
- The Phantoms out-attempted the Devils 12-6, and out-chanced them 7-4 with York on the ice at 5-on-5.
- With York on the bench, the Phantoms and Devils tied in shots, but the Devils out-chanced the Phantoms 12-8 at 5-on-5.
- To go along with his goal and two assists, York finished the game with a 66.67 Corsi-For percentage, 61.58 percent Expected Goals-For, and a +3 goal differential at 5-on-5.