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AHL Game Recap/Analysis

Phantoms Continue Home Success Over Bears

Phantoms Continue Home Success Over Bears

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Hershey Bears and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms met up for the latest installment of the season series between the two teams. Though, it seems to be a recurring theme that the Phantoms find success at home against the Bears. Hershey squandered an early lead, and a controversial goal for Maksim Sushko in the third turned out to be the game-winner as Pheonix Copley made 36 saves and Pat Nagle made 21 stops in the decision. The decision marks the sixth straight time this season the Phantoms have downed the Bears at PPL Center.

Hershey jumped out to the early lead with a strong first period that saw former Lehigh Valley forward Mike Vecchione score on a loose puck rebound for his 16th goal of the season. The Bears got a solid performance from Copley, who faced the majority of shots in the game as Hershey was outshot all three periods in this contest. This was despite some positives in the form of Mike Sgarbossa returning to the lineup in addition to the AHL debut of Ethen Frank. The NCAA leading scorer had some big chances in this game, but the Bears attempted to make the lone goal stand up after two periods until Alex Kile scored on a fortunate break to even the score at one.

Lehigh Valley would score again on a controversial tally for Sushko. With the puck dribbling off of Copley towards the goal line, it appeared initially that Hershey defender Lucas Johansen kept the puck out of the net long enough to get a whistle with the net coming off its mooring before Sushko chopped it into the net.

However, upon review by the officials, the goal was awarded and ultimately stood up as the winner. Hershey ultimately gave away two points in this game despite Lehigh Valley missing several key players due to recall to the Philadelphia Flyers. One great save by Copley worth mentioning in the game was a stop on a Michigan-style play popularized recently by Anaheim forward Trevor Zegras, as Phantoms forward Wade Allison made the move but was met with the left shoulder of Copley, who very easily should have been one of the three stars in this game.

The Bears ultimately missed out on gaining some valuable ground in the standings with several favorable decisions out of town and some added intrigue to the Atlantic Division race. Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins lost to the Charlotte Checkers on this night. This result prevented the Bears from losing any ground but also saw them miss out on gaining any as well. It adds extra importance to Friday’s matchup between the Bears and Penguins as the fates of the two teams are still very much up for grabs as a possible playoff preview.

In addition, the Hartford Wolf Pack lost to the Belleville Senators, dropping into a tie with the Bridgeport Islanders for the last playoff spot while keeping Lehigh Valley’s playoff hopes alive to try and jump into the race. The Phantoms have games in hand to try and improve their positioning over the other two teams as the teams enter the stretch run.

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