ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins squared off for the second time this season at PPL Center as the two Pennsylvania rivals went head-to-head. The Penguins continued their strong start to the season by rallying from an early deficit to take a 3-1 decision on enemy ice, thanks to Tyler Sikura’s first as a Penguin with two and a half minutes remaining in regulation time. Samuel Ersson made 32 saves in the loss while Dustin Tokarski continued his impressive start with the Penguins with 22 stops.
The Phantoms got on the board first and snapped Tokarski’s shutout streak at even strength at just shy of 180 minutes. Max Willman tallied his second goal of the season on a nifty individual effort, protecting the puck around the Penguins’ defense and finishing the play while falling down to open the scoring in Allentown.
Wilkes-Barre struck back late in the second period on the power play when Valtteri Puustinen buried a third rebound attempt past a sprawling Ersson to even the score at one apiece. That was Puustinen’s third goal of the season. He now has a goal in three straight games for the Penguins.
The eventual game-winner came late in the third. Corey Andonovski made an excellent play at the blue line to disrupt Lehigh Valley’s breakout and get the puck to Filip Hallander, who found Sikura off to the right side for a blast past Ersson that stood up as the winner.
Sikura's first goal as a Pen is also tonight's GWG 🙌 pic.twitter.com/51CCMAazY3
— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) October 29, 2022
Andonovski would be rewarded for his strong play just over a minute later when he’d score on a breakaway from the blue line off of a great feed by Jonathan Gruden, and he’d make a deft move to get Ersson moving before slipping the puck between his pads for his second goal of the season. The effort would be recognized, as he’d be named the game’s first star, with a goal and an assist as a major factor in Wilkes-Barre’s latest win.
The Penguins won their fifth consecutive game and have not lost since the season opener, when the Phantoms bested them in overtime as perhaps the biggest surprise of the early season in the AHL, vaulting the team to first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Phantoms did a good job of hanging around in this game, as they’ve shown the ability to do this season, but some trends, including a parade to the penalty box, ultimately played a hand in this loss. Lehigh Valley gave up one power play goal on six penalty kills in this game while coming up empty in three power play attempts. Two of those misses loom large when looking at this game as a whole, with both chances preceding the eventual game-winner for Sikura and the Penguins.
Both teams will look to get in the win column again on Saturday, with Wilkes-Barre visiting Hershey for the first of 12 meetings this season, while Lehigh Valley will host the Bridgeport Islanders in Atlantic Division action.
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