On the very same night that found the two opposing Germany national team goaltenders to be in excellent form, it was only a solitary goal from the recently demoted National Hockey League veteran during the shootout phase that could separate the two American Hockey League intra-state rivals as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms outlasted the visiting Hershey Bears 3-2 in the latest installment of the 2014/15 William Penn Cup competition.
Despite having its leading goal-scorer just recalled by the parent Philadelphia Flyers the day before, the Phantoms struck twice within the first seven minutes of game against Hershey goaltender Philipp Grubauer, the 22-year-old who was the fourth round choice (# 112 overall) of the Washington Capitals at the 2010 NHL Draft and certainly did alright for himself in 17 NHL games (2.38 avg, .925 svpct) last season. Lehigh Valley center Blair Jones, the 28-year-old veteran who was just demoted by Philadelphia after appearing in only four NHL games this fall, located Andrew Gordon at the far post and the 28-year-old right wing out of St. Cloud State who spent four seasons with the Hershey Bears previously easily netted to notch his 150th career AHL goal. Roughly three and a half minutes later, Phantoms rearguard Brandon Manning made good use of an effective screen from the physical Zack Sortini to score his third goal in as many games, a remarkable achievement for any player in this day and age, let alone a defenseman at that.
Lehigh Valley absolutely dominated the first period and would have widened their lead even further if not for the fine work of Grubauer, who made 18 saves in the opening twenty minutes alone. Hershey, who had the better of play in both the second and third periods, got back into the game after going on the power play towards the end of the middle frame. Well-traveled left wing Dane Byers, the 28-year-old Canadian legionnaire who was the second round selection (# 48 overall) of the New York Rangers at the 2004 NHL Draft but has only ever skated in 14 games at the elite level of North American pro hockey, went to the front of the net and banged home a center pass from right wing Chris Conner, the 30-year-old journeyman from Michigan Tech University who has skated in 178 NHL games (22 go, 50 pts) in his career.
The Bears brought themselves level just three and a half minutes into the last period after a rush that was started by defenseman Conner Carrick, the talented 20-year-old who spent most of last season with the Washington Capitals (34 ga, 1 go, 6 pts) and also represented the United States at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Sweden; former Adirondack Phantoms center Kris Newbury, the 32-year-old American Hockey League veteran who now has 509 points (170 goals) in 678 career AHL games finished with aplomb to net his league-leading 10th goal of this season.
The duration of the contest developed into a genuine duel between two goaltenders who each started multiple games for Germany at the 2014 IIHF World Championships last spring. Lehigh Valley netminder Rob Zepp, the reliable 34-year-old veteran who appeared in four games for Deutschland at the annual IIHF affair last season, needed to make a big save on a breakaway by Hershey center Chandler Stephenson, the 20-year-old rookie who was tabbed in the third round (# 77 overall) by the Washignton Capitals at the 2012 NHL Draft, late in regulation time. Meanwhile, Grubauer, who started two games (3-2 win over Latvia, 0-3 loss to Russia) for Germany in Belarus last spring after Hershey uncharacteristically missed the playoffs last term, was continuously challenged in overtime and would finish the contest with an impressive 37 saves.
The Bears were certainly unlucky to have Michal Cjakovsky, the undrafted 22-year-old defenseman who skated for Slovakia at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championships and was named to the East Coast Hockey League’s All-Rookie team last season after scoring 14 goals in 66 games for the Reading Royals last term, clank his shot off the iron in extra time. On hand to clear the puck off the line was Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg, the 19-year-old rookie who earned a silver medal for Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships last winter. It was the second time in as many games that the Philadelphia Flyers’ second round pick (# 41 overall) at the 2013 NHL Draft made a critical defensive play very late for Lehigh Valley.
And so it was off to the shootout for the very first time at the newly-constructed PPL Center in downtown Allentown. The Phantoms required only two penalty shot attempts with the newly-arrived Jones, who has skated in 132 NHL games (7 go, 17 pts) in his nine-year pro career, capped off his Lehigh Valley debut by netting what would prove to be the winner. This because the workhorse Zepp, who has started eleven (2.48 avg, .921 svpct) of the Phantoms’ fourteen AHL games this season, was able to halt all three of Hershey’s shooters and procure Lehigh Valley the extra point in the offical league standings.
November 19, 2014
PPL Center – Allentown, Pennsylvania
Attendance : 6,991
Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3 – Hershey Bears 2 … (shootout)
03:21 … LV – Gordon (Jones, Hagg)
06:50 … LV – Manning (Cousins)
37:12 … HER – Byers (Conner, Newbury) – ppg
43:30 … HER – Newbury (Carrick, Byers)
shootout … LV – Jones
shots-on-goal : LV 39 ( 20 + 5 + 7 + 7 ) – HER 29 ( 9 + 11 + 9 + 1 )
penalty minutes : HER 10 – LV 6
power play : HER 1/3 – LV 0/5
fights : none
Lehigh Valley : Zepp – Manning, Delisle ; Hagg, Pettersson ; Lauridsen, Flemming – Leier, Jones, Gordon ; Straka, Cousins, Sortini ; Rosehill, Powe, Hextall ; Alderson, Goumas, Fyten
Hershey : Grubauer – Schilling, Kundratek ; Oleksy, Carrick ; Cajkovsky, Burgdoerfer – Walker, Newbury, Wellman ; Cornet, Kennedy, Galiev ; Byers, Stephenson, Conner ; Spencer, Broda, Gazley
Notes — the Phantoms must now soldier on without leading goal-scorer Scott Laughton (13 ga, 6 go, 11 pts, -4 def rat), the first round pick (# 20 overall) of the Philadelphia Flyers at 2012 NHL Draft who captained Canada at 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships last winter.
The injury-hit Hershey Bears were missing two key veteran blueliners against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Jon Landry, the 31-year-old Canadian legionnaire from little Bowdoin College (NCAA Division III) who had a brief spell with Koelner Haie in the German elite league a few seasons back, leads all Hershey players with a + 9 defensive rating in 14 games (1 go, 3 pts) this season. Mike Moore, the 29-year-old Canadian legionnaire out of Princeton University who has six NHL games for the San Jose Sharks under his belt and captained the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, has been out with an injury for a little while now.