Felix Sandström's Amazing 37-Save Effort Leads 3-2 Win
Lehigh Valley, PA - Felix Sandström moved and kicked and maneuvered his way to 37 saves in a showstopping performance that easily qualifies as his best of the year to help the Lehigh Valley Phantoms escape with a 3-2 win on Saturday night over the Binghamton Devils. The Phantoms were under siege for much of the third period and were out shot 18-4 in the final frame but Sandström kept the Phantoms on top all the way through to his last three saves in the final minute when the Devils were pushing with an extra attacker.
Tyson Foerster (9th) scored at the net-front while Isaac Ratcliffe and Ralph Cuddemi both recorded their first goals of the season. Lehigh Valley enjoyed a 3-0 lead in the first half of the game before the Devils would rally to close the gap on goals by Aarne Talvitie (1st) and Grahme Clarke (6th) to narrow the margin and put them just inches away from evening the score.
Defenseman Egor Zamula also stood out with multiple goal-saving plays to cap a noticeably strong and impressive weekend for the 21-year-old Russian blueliner.
Cal O'Reilly recorded his 497th career assist in the AHL on the Foerster goal in the first period moving past Darren Haydar for sole possession of 10th all-time in the American Hockey League and putting him just three away from joining the exclusive 500 Assist Club in the AHL currently occupied by just nine players.
Lehigh Valley (14-4-3) improved to 6-0-2 against the Binghamton Devils in the season series and will attempt to sweep the three consecutive games in this stretch when the teams rematch in Newark on Monday.
Isaac Ratcliffe opened the scoring with a blocked shot that he turned into an unassisted breakaway conversion past Devils netminder Mareks Mittens for a 1-0 advantage at 2:34 into the game. It was a big moment for the second-year pro who began the season on the sidelines after a freak injury before training camp resulted in a fractured rib and a punctured lung.
Tyson Foerster stayed hot with his seventh goal in the last six days jamming in a free puck at the net-front on a blocked attempt by O'Reilly. Foerster stayed with it and was able to sneak it through on the left-leg side of Mittens for a 2-0 lead.
But, otherwise, the period perhaps belonged more o the Devils who out shot the Phantoms 11-6 in the opening frame. Seventh overall selection in the 2020 draft, Alexander Holtz, was cranking up his big shot in his pro debut but was continually denied, as were the rest of the Devils, at the beginning of Sandström's strong performance.
The Devils were on the verge of charging back in the opening minutes of the second period but Sandström and Zamula stood tall again. Zamula hustled back to knock the puck away from Alexander Holtz who appeared to be past him on the breakaway. Moments later, Sandstrom made a strong poke on a breakaway and Zamula rotated in behind him to deny an opportunity by Travis St. Denis at an otherwise open net.
Lehigh Valley eventually built its lead to 3-0 at almost seven minutes into the second period with Ralph Cuddemi burying a rebound opportunity from the left of the cage following a Chris Bigras drive that handcuffed Mittens.
That's when the Devils started their comeback. Penn State product Aarne Talvitie registered his first pro goal on the rebound of a Reilly Walsh shot to pull the Devils to within 3-1 by the second intermission.
Early in the third period, Clarke blasted a one-timer off a faceoff win to cut the score to 3-2. But after that it was all Sandström for the rest of the game despite the relentless efforts of the Devils to equalize.
The Phantoms have won back-to-back games over the Devils on Friday and Saturday and the two teams will complete their three-game series against each other on Monday at 6:00 p.m. in Newark.
Lehigh Valley's next home game is Saturday, May 1 against the Binghamton Devils. Tickets are available and on sale for all remaining five home games in the 2021 season at phantomshockey.com
Tickets are on sale for Saturday's game and remain available for all upcoming Phantoms home games at phantomshockey.com
1st 2:34 - LV, I. Ratcliffe (1) 1-0
1st 18:54 - LV, T. Foerster (9) (C. O'Reilly, E. Zamula) 2-0
2nd 6:57 - LV, R. Cuddemi (1) (C. Bigras, B. Saulnier) 3-0
2nd 10:24 - BNG, A. Talvitie (1) (R. Walsf, F. Zetterlund)
3rd 1:13 - G. Clarke (6) (T. St. Denis)
LV - Felix Sandstrom (37/39) (3-2-1)
BNG - Mareks Mittens (19-22) (1-2-0
LV -22 - BNG 39
LV 0/1 - BNG 0/3
LV (14-4-3) - BNG (5-13-6)
Images from this story
Lehigh Valley Phantoms right wing Ralph Cuddemi vs. the Binghamton Devils
Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Felix Sandström vs. the Binghamton Devils
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American Hockey League Stories from April 24, 2021
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