Bears Rally from Behind against Phantoms
Hershey, PA - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms raced out to a 2-1 lead in the first half of their Saturday night clash in Chocolate Town but the Hershey Bears would rally from behind to post a 4-2 win in the finale of the 12-game rivalry series between the two Pennsylvania foes. The night marked the late road game of the season for the Phantoms and was also the second-to-last game of the year. Lehigh Valley concludes the regular season at PPL Center on Sunday at 5:05 against the Syracuse Crunch.
Dalton Smith scored his first goal as a member of the Phantoms while Reading native Steven Swavely notched his second goal as a pro. Anthony Stolarz had yet another other-worldly performance with a number of spectacular and highlight-reel caliber saves that even drew ooh's and aah's from the Giant Center crowd.
Hershey's victory, which officially secured the Atlantic Division crown for the Bears, came on the strength of goals by rookies Riley Barber (26th) and Travis Boyd (21st) along with veterans Zach Sill (9th) and Sean Collins (16th) whose empty-netter culminated the festivities. Hershey also ended up rallying from behind in the season series as Lehigh Valley finished with a 6-6-0 record against the Bears in the 20th edition of the classic rivalry.
But it was Stolarz who stole the show yet again at Hershey where he has enjoyed some of his best road performances of his career. Stolarz was forced to be more acrobatic and athletic than usual for some of his most show-stopping denials. Eric Burgdorfer's chip in the slot in the first period was snagged in the glove of Stolarz diving backwards to his left in the first of his multiple jaw-dropping moments. In the second period he fell backwards and somehow kept out consecutive backhanders by Riley Barber point-blank. He also rejected the breakaway try of AHL Most Valuable Player Chris Bourque in the first period among other great plays.
An early power play afford the Bears the opening opportunity to register on the scoreboard. Riley Barber's drive from the top of the right circle at 1:38 was assisted on some crisp passing by Jakub Vrana and Aaron Ness for a 1-0 lead.
Lehigh Valley struck less than three minutes later when Dalton Smith would neatly backhand a free puck that was popped off the end-boards by Robert Hagg and landed in perfect position for the equalizer.
The goal was Dalton Smith's first as a member of the Flyers organization. He is the son and nephew of former prominent Flyers Derrick Smith and Keith Primeau. It was Smith's second goal overall on the season having registered a strike earlier in the campaign as a member of the Providence Bruins.
A waived off goal would turn into a Lehigh Valley lead midway through the second period. Oskar Lindblom from behind the net sent a puck out in front that Hershey goalie Justin Peters had difficulty securing. Steven Swavely was successful in poking the puck through but tIm Mayer blew the whistle and signaled no goal. After discussion with his linesmen and then a quick review of the video, the initial decision was overturned and the play was ruled as a goal for Swavely and the Phantoms who took a 2-1 lead t 9:51 of the second period.
Hershey kept the Phantoms pinned in their zone on an extended offensive push and eventually were able to connect with Boyd in the slot whose drive off the blocker of Stolarz made it through for the tying tally at 16:21 of the second period. Boyd's goal was assisted by Ryan Stanton and Chandler Stephenson.
A similarly long cycle would push the Bears to the lead again early in the third period with Zach Sill converting on his one-timer in the slot at 2:19 on an entry from behind the goal by Liam O'Brien.
Another referee decision would keep the Phantoms alive when Riley Barber appeared to have scored his second goal of the game late in the third period. But Anthony Stolarz was contacted on the play and the goal was immediately waived off due to the goaltender interference decision.
Late in the third period, rookie Oskar Lindblom had his point-blank offering repelled by Peters with about 1:05 to go. On the other side of that bit of late-game thievery, Sean Collins would seal the decision with an empty netter with 37 seconds remaining.
Hershey out shot the Phantoms 32-28. The Bears were held to 1-for-7 on the power play while Lehigh Valley finished at 0-for-3.
The Phantoms conclude the 2015-2016 regular season on Sunday, April 17 when they welcome the Syracuse Crunch, the AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, to PPL Center for a 5:05 p.m. contest. Don't miss the final chance this season to catch the heart-pumping excitement of Phantoms hockey live in downtown Allentown. A limited number of tickets remain for Sunday's regular season finale and can be secured online at pplcenter.com, by calling 610-347-TIXX or in-person at the Mealey's Furniture Box Office at PPL Center [701 Hamilton Street].
RISE UP! Reserve your season tickets for the 2016-2017 season of Lehigh Valley Phantoms hockey. For more information on how to reserve your seat at PPL Center to the hottest ticket in town, call the Phantoms front office today at 610-224-GOAL (4625)!
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