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AHL Game Recap/Analysis

Penguins Power Past Phantoms With Playoffs at Stake

#AHL | With important points on the line, the latest Battle of Pennsylvania between @WBSPenguins and @LVPhantoms meant that much more. @FPHBears has the recap.

Photo via Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Twitter.

Penguins Power Past Phantoms With Playoffs at Stake

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – It was the tenth installment of the Pennsylvania rivalry between the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from PPL Center on Sunday afternoon. This game had a little extra meaning as both teams looked to bank important points heading into the final race for the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. The two teams have gotten familiar with each other over the course of the season. In this one, the Penguins emerged victorious as Drake Caggiula and Jonathan Gruden posted three points each, while Dustin Tokarski made 36 saves in a 5-2 decision. Samuel Ersson made 25 saves in the defeat, the third straight for the Phantoms on home ice.

If there was any doubt that the Penguins meant business, they squashed it early as the late-arriving fans to the afternoon clash were finding their seats. Caggiula found himself in front of the net and received a bump pass from Valtteri Puustinen for his first goal of the game on just Wilkes-Barre’s second shot on goal. Caggiula scored again at almost the same time in the second period, but this time it was a shorthanded tally as he stole the puck at his own blue line and beat Ersson on the rush the other way to make it 2-0.

Lehigh Valley fans would get to hear the Mack truck horn sound in this one as Jackson Cates cut into the lead with his 11th goal of the year as he banked a pass off of Tokarski from a severe angle. Before intermission, the Penguins got the goal back with just 37 seconds to spare in the middle stanza as the Phantoms’ goal was being announced. Gruden tallied his 14th season on a rebound of a Caggiula shot to get the Penguins ahead by two goals going into the final frame.

The two teams exchanged goals in the latter stages of the third period. It started with an impressive goal for rookie Justin Addamo as he stashed a loose puck off of a blocked shot by Jack St. Ivany past the goaltender for his fifth of the season in just his 13th game with the Penguins. The tally gives Addamo a goal in each of his last three games as a valuable depth contribution for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Phantoms struck back less than 20 seconds later as Bobby Brink tallied his eighth goal in just his 31st game in the American Hockey League. Ultimately the Penguins put the game away with a Filip Hallander goal inside of the final minute to squelch a comeback and take the win.

Both teams have five wins in the ten games of the season series, and the two points for the Penguins look to be essential in keeping their playoff hopes alive. Wilkes-Barre is now only four points out of the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with 11 games to play, while the Phantoms stall out to stay in fifth.

The two teams are set to rematch at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, March 25, the next game on the schedule for both clubs. Lehigh Valley looks to snap a three-game winless skid, while the Penguins hope to get back into the playoff hunt by closing in on the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Bridgeport Islanders. Hartford is on the schedule after Saturday’s game for Wilkes-Barre, making for an interesting set of games with implications on the playoff picture.

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