ALLENTOWN, Pa. – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Springfield Thunderbirds met up for the first installment of their season series on Friday night at PPL Center. Despite both teams having the capability to score goals, this game was a low-scoring affair that saw a third-period goal from Louie Belpedio stand up as the game-winner in a 2-1 final score. Samuel Ersson got the win in his return from a brief stint in the NHL with 21 saves, while Joel Hofer suffered the loss with 24 stops.
Despite a shot advantage for the Thunderbirds in the opening stanza by a 12-8 margin, the Phantoms would open the scoring with Cooper Marody’s first goal of the season. Marody, an offseason acquisition by the Philadelphia Flyers, had only played in Lehigh Valley’s season opener after sustaining an injury. He was originally drafted by the organization and figures to be a key contributor after chipping in 55 points a season ago with the Bakersfield Condors, in which he registered his second 20-plus goal season. Cal O’Reilly and Adam Ginning would draw the assists. Marody tapped in a rebound on the left side to give the Phantoms the early lead.
There would be no scoring in the middle stanza as the two netminders would stop all the shots fired their way. Early in the third, the Thunderbirds broke through with a goal from their top scorer, Nathan Todd, who tallied his eighth goal of the season just over a minute into the final frame to even the score at one. Todd’s goal snaps a four-game goalless drought for him and brings him back into a tie for second place in the league in goals. Todd’s goal came from a fortunate bounce as Luke Witkowski took a shot from the point that bounced off the end boards and right to Todd for the tuck-in. The eventual game-winner came off of the stick of Belpedio, who took a pass from Marody in the slot and made a quick move to beat Hofer. The Phantoms would hold on for the win, their second straight after snapping a skid against the Laval Rocket in their last outing.
Marody would collect an assist on the goal to give him a multi-point night and his team a multi-point result as the Phantoms collected two points on home ice. The loss is Springfield’s third straight, as they’ve come up with just one point in their last three contests. The Thunderbirds travel to Mohegan Sun Arena to take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, while the Phantoms stay home to host the Laval Rocket as they continue their stint on the road. Laval won a wild 5-4 decision in overtime against the Utica Comets on Friday evening and should prove to be an entertaining opponent.
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