After 332 days the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have returned. Lehigh Valley traveled to the Giant Center for their first of fourteen matchup’s against their rivals the Hershey Bears to kick off the 2021 AHL season and their first of four on the road to begin the season.
The Phantoms rolled with the exact same lineup as their only pre-season game on Wednesday, pairing all the OHL rookies with veterans who know what they’re doing. The baby Flyers looked for their first win of the season and a win on head coach Scott Gordon’s birthday.
In the first frame, Lehigh Valley and Hershey went back and fourth for the first ten minutes of the hockey game. Lehigh Valley started with their fourth line which consisted of Sam Morin, Chris Mueller and Max Willman. Willman had a quick opportunity on Hershey’s net-minder for this afternoon, Pheonix Copley, which set the tone of the reminder of the opening period.
Wyatte Wylie was welcomed into the professional game quickly after taking a delay of game penalty with 7:09 left in the period. Lehigh Valley’s successful PK consisted of Sandin, Laczynski, Willman, Zamula, Wilson, Bigras and Morin. Zayde Wisdom wanted to make an impact in his first professional laying a massive big hit on Reece Wilcox.
The Phantoms quickly turned the page with a chance to score their first goal of the season and take the early lead against Hershey after being awarded three man advantage opportunities, but were unsuccessful on all three. Egor Zamula, Cal O’Reilly, Tanner Laczynski, Zayde Wisdom, Max Willman, David Kase, Garrett Wilson, Derrick Pouliot, Tyson Foerster and Chris Mueller saw power-play time during this game.
Even with all that talent on the ice, Hershey’s PK was slightly a bit better. The Bears were running away in the shot category, but after all these five on four chances for Lehigh Valley. Shots after twenty were 8-7 Hershey while both Copley and McIntyre were perfect.
Hershey came out in the 2nd period with a lot of buzz, recording eight shots in the first four minutes of the frame. Lehigh Valley was struggling to find some magic and got frustrated, which ultimately led to another Phantoms penalty kill after Zamula took a hooking call. Thus resulting in Hershey’s third power-play of the evening. Zamula took two penalties in the pre-season game prior.
Lehigh Valley was able to keep this a scoreless game after a spectacular save by Phantoms goalie McIntyre after diving from post to post, robbing Axel Jonsson-Fjallby of his and Hershey’s first goal of the season.
That fantastic save propelled the Phantoms to leave Hershey going 0/3 on the power-play. The momentum after the kill wouldn’t last long, though, after Hershey’s Kody Clark was able to snap one home past McIntyre for his first of the season and Hershey’s first of the year. Eddie Wittchow, who spent last season with the Springfield Thunderbirds, recorded the lone assist.
The Phantoms lows continued during the period after Wisdom was slashed up towards the mouth around the twelve minute mark of the period. Wisdom was checked out by the trainers on the bench and went down the tunnel but later returned on the bench and hit the ice for a quick shift with 7 seconds remaining in the period. So good news.
Lehigh Valley also didn’t register a shot on goal until the eight minute mark of the period. After scoring his first of the year, Clark gave Lehigh Valley life with another power-play chance, their fourth after taking a slashing call with 4:45 left in the frame but the Phantoms were unable to capitalize. They would head to the dressing room trailing by one.
Starting down by one in the final twenty minutes, the Phantoms were hungry looking for a goal to tie the campaign at one. After going twelve minutes without registering a shot in the 2nd, head coach Scott Gordon was growing Impatient awaiting his first goal of the season for his club.
As a result, Gordon was juggling and mixing up the lines and this could have been because the scoring chances were growing thin or Wisdom or a Phantoms player is injured. We will find out most likely after the game or within the next few days when Coach Gordon is available for media availability.
Lehigh Valley got another crack at tying this hockey game earning themselves their 5th power-play of the afternoon after Damien Riat took a scary boarding penalty on Max Willman. Willman was slow to get up but would skate to the bench and return later in the game. 48 minutes into the season, Lehigh Valley started to get things cooking on Copley. But with the story of this game, Hershey immediately swung any momentum that Lehigh Valley had.
Sam Morin wanted to put an end to this Bears trend by dropping the gloves with Kale Kessy. There was a ton defense from both guys but it was a long time coming for Morin, who had a big smile across his face when he skated to the penalty box to serve his five minute major.
He took a little bit to find his game, but Tyson Foerster had a partial breakaway with 6:19 remaining in the game. Foerster almost had his first professional goal in his first professional game but Copley had another ideas. Shots were 28-23 Hershey with 4:44 left in the game.
With three minutes to go in the game, Foerster took a hit in the knees and he was unable to get up after Joe Snively blew a tire. Foerster had to get help from the Phantoms head athletic trainer along with David Kase. It has been confirmed that indeed it’s a lower body injury for the Flyers 1st rounder.
Just like on Thursday, Scott Gordon reminded all these OHL players on assignment that this is the pro’s and all of them had plenty of fantastic chances to record a point or even record their first pro goal. This finally paid off after Wyatte Wylie scored his first professional goal and the Phantoms first goal of the season.
Wylie scored with 44 seconds left on the clock in regulation. Chris Mueller earned the lone assist on the Phantoms first goal. A comeback was in the works as both clubs head to overtime to start their AHL season.
Phantoms, finally with luck on their side at the right time, were able to grab their first win of the season after Kase peeled and left the puck for Wylie after it was touched by a Hershey defender. Wylie who found Ryan Fitzgerald, tucked away his first of the season and the game winning goal Saturday afternoon at the Giant Center.
Zane McIntyre earned his first win as a Phantom in his 184th AHL career game stopping 34 shots on 36 attempts. Wylie finished with the tying goal and an assist on the game winner. Not too shabby for the 19 year old defenseman.
Lehigh Valley would go on to defeat Hershey 2-1 as the Bears have yet to win in home opening games to start the season since 2013. The Phantoms will play their second game of the season in 4 days. They are scheduled to face Binghamton Wednesday in New Jersey.
There is no new news if the Devils COVID situation will be under control for Wednesday’s game after Binghamton’s games were postponed this weekend.