Lehigh Valley looked for their second win of the season on Valentines Day when they took on the Hershey Bears at the Giant Center in the sweetest part of the country Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Phantoms also looked to get back in the win column after a heart breaking loss on Wednesday in a 2-1 overtime loss against the Binghamton Devils in Newark.
Before the game, the Washington Capitals returned Ilya Samsonov to Hershey to start this game as he was returning from COVID-19 protocols. To some surprise, Zane McIntyre started in his third straight game of the season. Due to injury, Linus Sandin and Chris Bigras sat out while Mason Millman and Tanner MacMaster made their season debuts.
Millman suited up in his first professional game. It’s also important to note that with Millman dressed the Lehigh Valley Phantoms set an AHL record for most teenagers dressed in a single game. Zayde Wisdom and Egor Zamula were the other two.
Game 3 of 38 began with a doozy with Hershey’s Joe Snively scoring his 1st goal of the season off a stretch pass from former Phantom Reece Wilcox. He received a pass from Lucas Johansen off the opening face-off win from Mike Sgarbossa. Hershey was off to the races with a goal 16 seconds into the game.
After allowing the opening goal, the Phantoms took that as motivation, getting a flurry of chances as they tried to get the tying goal. It all started with Max Willman banging one off the cross-bar less than three minutes later, which wouldn’t be the only time the posts denied him.
The Phantoms kept the foot on the gas pedal and it would eventually pay off. With 11:27 to go in the frame, Garett Wilson would pick the puck up after it was left for Samsonov, who did not end up picking it up. Wilson took advantage and found David Kase who sent a slap shot on net. Defenseman Logan Day, playing in his second game of the season, picked up the loose change and banged home his 1st of the season to tie the game at one.
Kase has been able to find his footing after a quiet opening night last weekend. He’s starting to find his name on the scoresheet more and more.
Lehigh Valley would continue to find themselves with chance after chance. It was only a matter of time with how on their heels Hershey was playing. The two teamw kept going back and fourth with chances at both ends of the ice. It wouldn’t be until the final minute of the period that we saw another gowl, though.
Millman tried to keep the puck in after Joe Snively was trying chip the puck out of the zone. Millman shot the puck from the blue-line, trying to create an opportunity. He was successful, as Chris Mueller would corral the spinning puck behind the Bears net and pass the puck to Kase. Kase then fired one on Samsonov. A mistake from the Bears goaltender ended with a juicy rebound that landed perfectly near the stick of Wisdom.
The 18 year old didn’t miss a beat to create a lifetime moment. Wisdom was able to settle down just in the nick of time to score his first professional goal. After giving up the goal 16 seconds in, Lehigh Valley controlled the remainder of the period and led 14-11 in the shots.
Lehigh Valley, after leading in Wednesday’s game after one period, started the exact same way on Sunday afternoon. The Phantoms really sucked the home ice advantage out of the Hershey Bears in front of a few hundred fans in the Giant Center.
After scoring late in the 1st, the page was flipped. While Hershey scored early in the 1st, Lehigh Valley would take advantage early in the second. Less than three minutes into the middle frame, Ralph Cuddemi entered the zone and was able to do some magic and find Day. Day spun Fehervary out of his skates, finding Strome after just being able to thread the needle in-between the legs of the Hershey defender.
Strome tapped it home for his first goal of the season to give the Phantoms a 3-1 lead. That’s all the offense the Phantoms would end up finding in the frame.
Lehigh Valley would earn themselves their second power-play of the afternoon after Cameron Schilling took a hooking call. After the Phantoms were unsuccessful and Schilling came bursting out of the box after the puck was simply laying there. It was picked up Lucas Johansen as he played tic-tac toe with Snively, who found the bursting Schilling. He sniped one past the glove of McIntyre to make it a 3-2 game.
Hershey was buzzing and the chocolate and white were pounding the shots. Three minutes later, the Bears tried to take a play out of the Phantoms playbook. Schilling took a shot on the Phantoms net-minder who was able to make the save. McIntyre didn’t see the speeding Martin Fehervary who tried to bang it home on the rebound. Somehow the 6-2 goaltender was able to make that save with the pad.
However, the now scrambling McIntyre couldn’t see Mike Sgarbossa on the left side of the net. He found the puck for the easy tap in. The Bears almost had a chance to take the lead late in the period off a brutal turnover from Millman. Millman trier to send one up the middle from behind the net. He was bailed out by his net-minder as McIntyre robbed the veteran Steve Whitney on the short breakaway.
Sgarbossa’s second of the season set up the 3rd period to be a wild finish.
It was all Hershey to kick off the final frame with two quick shots in the first six minutes of the period. Hershey’s Matt Moulson made a long stretch pass to Damien Riat. Riat just shot one that banged off a leg of a Phantom defender. It then hit the boards and Rob O’Gara scored some what of a lacrosse goal, batting the puck out of the air.
While it hit the leg of McIntyre, the puck would still end up rolling in the net. O’Gara would score his 1st of the season and Hershey would take the lead in this see-saw game.
O’Gara, who was streaking in the in the Phantoms zone, coughed the puck up to the veteran defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon. Wotherspoon found a breakout pass to the Wisdom, which was tipped by a Bears forward on the way. Wisdom, with speed, passed all the Bears defense and broke into the Bears zone. He ripped one from the face-off circle and past Samsonov’s right blocker for his second goal of the afternoon.
We’d be tied with just five minutes to play in the game. McIntyre would make four fantastic stops, including a two on one chance at the end of the period with Garrett Pilon and Sgarbossa. This Valentines matinee would require overtime. It’d be the third straight overtime game of the year.
With 2:56 left in overtime, Linus Hogberg would provide the only scoring chance the Phantoms. Hogberg would shoot the puck on net as Wisdom would find the rebound. He just missed the chance for the hat-trick.
However, the scrambling Samsonov couldn’t read where the puck was and Kase would score the game winner to give Lehigh Valley the comeback win in overtime. This was also Kase’s third point of the game. Despite shots being 36-29 Bears, the Phantoms were able to escape with a victory.
In his postgame presser Hershey’s Head Coach Spencer Carbery says today’s 1st period was the worst period of hockey he’s seen Hershey play during his timeline of coaching. He also said he felt horrible starting Samsonov after his battle with COVID and a month off due to being sick. He also added he felt that he left him out to dry.
403 fans watched the Bears lose on home ice to Lehigh Valley in overtime. The Flyers if, no more COVID scares come up and no one is placed on COVID-protocol, the belief is Thursday will be their return to game action. The question remains if Sandstrom or Pouliot will return from the Flyers Taxi Squad before the Phantoms next game on Friday to wrap up their four game road swing against Binghamton in Newark. Lehigh Valley improves to 2-0-1-0 on the season.