Desperate teams take drastic measures to secure victories, and the Adirondack Phantoms were a testament to that on Sunday evening at Giant Center when they foiled Hershey’s 25th consecutive win on home ice, skating out of town with a 4-3 win.
The Phantoms came into the game desperate for a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and rode the strong play of recently signed rookie goalkeeper, Carter Hutton, and three power play goals against the league’s number one penalty kill unit.
The Phantoms got off to a fast start, putting 5 unanswered shots on net in the first two minutes of the game against the Bears who were playing their 4th game in five nights.
“I don’t like to make that excuse,” said Bears’ head coach, Mark French, of how fatigue factored into his team’s performance. “They traveled from Norfolk last night. Everybody in this league has to face travel. Did we have our legs? No. Is the travel an excuse? We’re not going to use that as an excuse.”
The Bears power play, operating at an efficiency rate of 22.0% entering the game, clicked on their second opportunity of the game at 9:53 of the first period, with Andrew Gordon activating the red light.
Gordon had an easy tap-in after gaining position on a Phantoms’ defender just outside of the crease area.
“That’s what I’ve gotten used to this season; if I put my stick down and squeeze it, pucks are going to bounce off of my blade in a good direction. I tried to put myself where the defenseman couldn’t reach me. I didn’t really see the puck coming through; I just put my hand down the shaft of my stick and tried to stay strong. The puck just bounced right off my stick and slid slowly into the net.”
Early in the second period, the Bears’ power play struck again when Kyle Wilson redirected Karl Alzner’s point shot to Mathieu Perreault, who was all alone at the side of the net and potted his 15th goal of the season.
Hershey’s power play unit was responsible for the only other goal during the period, but unfortunately, it came at the expense of the Bears’ starting netminder, Braden Holtby, who was victimized by Jared Ross’s shorthanded breakaway after a turnover by defenseman, Zach Miskovic, cutting the Bears’ lead in half.
Holtby’s costly turnover 7:37 into the third period with the Phantoms on a power play, allowed the visitors to tie the game at two.
Holtby, while trying to clear the puck out of his own zone from behind the net found his attempt thwarted, with the turnover eventually leading to Joonas Lehtibuori’s tying goal.
“On the clearing pass, I didn’t find the hole like I usually do. That was one mistake, and a second mistake is that I didn’t battle hard enough on that screen shot,” said Holtby.
After the Phantoms took their first lead of the night on Stefan Legein’s power play goal, Gordon countered with his league-tying 18th power play goal to tie the game at three at 16:10.
“Bourqie dumped it in, and their goalie went out to play it and I saw Coiner get to it,” Gordon said. “I did what I usually do; go straight to the net, which I’m going to go to the net regardless of where that thing is going. I didn’t have to beat anybody for that one. It sprung loose to me and I had a pretty easy tap-in.”
Due to a controversial call on Bears’ captain, Bryan Helmer at 17:20, the Phantoms were afforded a golden opportunity on the power play. They took full advantage of that opportunity when Mika Pyorala, who rang a shot off the post in the first period with his team on the power play, found nothing but net on a rebound attempt to give the Phantoms a win.
“It’s a disappointing loss, but I guess everything has to come to an end. 24 games is a heck of a record; guys should be proud of themselves. If we’re going to lose, we might as well do it now than in the playoffs,” commented Helmer.
The meeting between the two teams was their last of the regular season, although a post-season meeting is not out of the question.
“I didn’t even though this was the last time we were playing them until you mentioned it,” Gordon said. “I don’t really care who we are playing on any given night to be honest with you, I think we are going to win every single game and I come into the game expecting to win knowing we have the better team; but tonight, they played their game plan pretty well, as they’ve done against us all year.”