A little give-and-go in the offensive zone and a well-taken backhander at close shortly thereafter enabled the visiting St. John’s IceCaps to nip the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 2-1 after extra time in the American Hockey League.
Lehigh Valley opened the scoring almost a baker’s dozen minutes into the first period on a backhander from left wing Petr Straka, the 22-year-old import from the Czech Republic who was the second round choice (# 55 overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2010 National Hockey League Draft, after Phantoms hard man Zack Sortini, the seasoned 29-year-old pugilist who has already accumulated nearly 2,000 penalty minutes in his professional career, had been stopped in front; it was the fourth strike of this season for the speedy Straka (14 ga, 8 pts), who is on pace to exceed his offensive production for the Adirondack Phantoms (60 ga, 9 go, 27 pts) last season.
St. John’s equalized rather early in the second period when defenseman Brenden Kichton, the 22-year-old Canadian legionnaire who put up solid numbers (76 ga, 10 go, 48 pts) for the IceCaps as a rookie after being taken in the seventh round (# 190 overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Winnipeg Jets, blasted a rising slapshot from the right point into the upper far corner of the Lehigh Valley net.
The Phantoms had plenty of chances to retake the lead as the St. John’s attack went ice cold in the final frame but Lehigh Valley were unable to put another puck past IceCaps goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, the 21-year-old rookie from Commerce, Michigan, who was tabbed by the Winnipeg Jets in the fifth round (# 130 overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft and starred for two seasons at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Despite having been heavily outshot (10-2) in the third period, the St. John’s IceCaps snatched the winner in overtime when veteran defenseman Julien Brouillette, the 27-year-old Canadian legionnaire who appeared in 10 NHL games (1 go, 2 pts) for the Washington Capitals last season, exchanged passes with countryman Eric O’Dell, the 24-year-old center who skated in 30 NHL games (3 go, 7 pts) for the Winnipeg Jets last term, before skillfully lifting a backhander over the near-post shoulder of Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Rob Zepp (12 ga, 2.43 avg, .921 svpct) at close range.
St. John’s IceCaps goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who was named the Hockey East Tournament Most Valuable Player as a freshman in 2013 and a First Team (East) All-America as a sophomore for the UMass/Lowell River Hawks last season, has been in fine form (13 ga, 2.61 avg, .921 svpct) at the start of his professional career.
November 22, 2014
PPL Center – Allentown, Pennsylvania
Attendance : 8,416
St. John’s Ice Caps 2 – Lehigh Valley Phantoms 1 … (overtime)
12:51 … LV – Straka (Sortini, Manning)
22:22 … STJ – Kichton (Brouillette, Klingberg) – ppg
63:43 … STJ – Brouillette (O’Dell)
shots-on-goal : LV 33 ( 11 + 9 + 10 + 3 ) – STJ 26 ( 10 + 12 + 2 + 2 )
penalty minutes : LV 14 – STJ 12
power plays : STJ 1/5 – LV 0/4
fights : none
Lehigh Valley : Zepp – Manning, Delisle ; Hagg, Pettersson ; Lauridsen, Flemming – Leier, Jones, Gordon ; Straka, Cousins, Sortini ; Rosehill, Powe, Hextall ; Fyten, Goumas, Alderson
St. John’s : Hellebuyck – Brouillette, Chiarot, Fredheim, Kichton, Melchiori, O’Neill – Albert, Balisy, Blanchard, Brassard, Cormier, Klingberg, Kosmachuk, Lipon, MacKinnon, O’Dell, Olsen, Riley