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 Lehigh Valley Phantoms

That's a Wrap! Phantoms' Season Ends in Hard-Fought Effort

May 11, 2024 - American Hockey League (AHL)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms News Release

Lehigh Valley Phantoms celebrate win
Lehigh Valley Phantoms celebrate win
(Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

Allentown, PA - The compete was there. And so were the early leads. But the Hershey Bears had the answers to rally back and take a 5-3 win on Saturday night and eliminate the Phantoms in the Atlantic Division semifinals. Lehigh Valley's season ended with a handshake line and a salute to their loyal and enthusiastic fans at PPL Center. The Hershey Bears advance via a 3-games-to-1 win in the series.

Lehigh Valley had early leads in the first period of 1-0 and 2-1 on goals by Rhett Gardner and Garrett Wilson. But the Bears answered back quickly each time and then eventually picked up their first lead of the game in the second period.

Ivan Miroshnichenko scored a pair of goals for Hershey. Ethen Frank and Pierrick Dube also scored for the victors.

The Phantoms closed the margin to just a single goal late in the second period after a steal by Adam Brooks set up Tanner Laczynski who rocked home his fourth of the playoffs. Lehigh Valley trailed by just a single goal for most of the third period and had several close chances to finding the equalizer against Hunter Shepard but somehow the Bears hung on and eventually picked up a late goal by Hardy Haman Aktell to provide for the final margin.

It was a bittersweet way to end it for a Phantoms team that worked and competed for each other while taking the defending Calder Cup Champions to the limit. The emotions of the end of team's fabulous run were very real.

"I'll be honest, it doesn't feel very good right now," said head coach Ian Laperriere. "So close. Up and down season with call-ups and injuries. We battled through the end of the year. Felt like we gave Hershey a pretty good fight. But we didn't get the job done."

A raucous turnout was ready to bring the energy from Phan Nation on another Orange Out Night at PPL Center complete with rally towels and thundersticks. Following Wednesday's 2-0 shutout win for Cal Petersen in Game 3, the Phantoms believed they had found a successful recipe to handle the top team in the league. In fact, the Phantoms had won the last three times the Hershey Bears had visited PPL Center as well as four of the last five in calendar year 2024. Hershey had not scored at PPL Center in the last 174 minutes of game-action.

Rhett Gardner scored at 9:01 into the game after a ludicrous save by Hunter Shepard on a push across the slot by Brendan Furry. After Shepard's scorpion-style denial, Gardner rushed into the slot to bury the rebound in midair.

But the Phantoms were caught on their heels after that and just 17 seconds later Ivan Miroshnichenko buried a breakaway goal to even the score.

Hockey is a game of mistakes. But this group has been there to pick each other up all season long. It happened over and over this season.

"I think that's a special group," Adam Brooks said. "You play on a lot of teams. But the core and the young guys that are around. It's a special group and one you enjoy coming to the rink with every day and battling with each other. The effort the guys give is for each other. It's never perfect. But guys kept going over the boards and kept working. That's respect for your coaches and the city and the fans. But also wanting to fight for the guy next to you because it's such a good group."

Lehigh Valley surged back to take a lead on a shot by Garrett Wilson splitting the defense as he cut across the line. A puck glancing off the glove of Shepard and deflecting into the net isn't one you normally expect from the top goaltender in the league. But getting pucks on net was a theme for Lehigh Valley in this postseason challenge and the team's captain succeeded in providing a 2-1 lead.

Hershey had a quick response once again. After the Phantoms pressured repeatedly in the Hershey zone with good chances from Brooks, Tanner Laczynski and Olle Lycksell, it appeared to be on the verge of turning into a 3-1 game for Lehigh Valley. Instead, the Bears just did survive. And, a few moments later, Pierrick Dube spun in the high slot and drilled a tying goal to the upper-left corner at 15:08 into the first period to again tie the score at 2-2.

The Phantoms had the better of the play for the majority of the first period but Hershey's opportunistic abilities on its chances kept them in the game at 2-2 into the first intermission.

Hershey built some momentum into the second period with a pair of snipes from the left circle beating Cal Petersen to the short side past his glove. Miroshnichenko's second off the game came at 2:36 into the second period on a nifty little touch from Jimmy Huntington to give Hershey its first lead of the night. Ethen Frank scored from the left dot on a quality wrister through a defender's stick at 10:57 for a power-play conversion that pushed the lead to 4-2.

But the Phantoms weren't done. They're never done. The will and the compete is always there.

Adam Brooks pounced on a hopping puck for a steal at the Hershey line. The aggressive pursuit set up Laczynski in the slot who worked his stick around a defender and got off the shot to beat Shepard past his blocker with 3:43 to go in the second period and pull the Phantoms back to within one goal at 4-3.

That would end up being the last goal of the season for Lehigh Valley. Despite 13 shots on goal in the third period, including some scrambles in the crease that almost got past Shepard, the Phantoms couldn't find the tying goal. Hershey barely hung on. Haman Aktell's goal past a scrambling Cal Petersen who had just made a miraculous save would close the scoring with 5:08 left. The Phantoms pulled Petersen for most of the rest of the game to no avail.

Lehigh Valley has continually improved from one season to the next in Ian Laperriere's tenure. From no postseason appearance in a year riddled with injuries and call-ups to a first-round exit at Charlotte last season to a run to the second round this year following an opening round sweep of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, it is clear the future is bright for a Phantoms group that can't wait for next year!

"We left it out there," Garrett Wilson said. "In the end it wasn't enough to get it done. But everyone battled their tails off. There's no passengers tonight and everyone wanted it tonight. Couldn't find a way to capitalize on a couple of our chances. We got to be proud as a 6-seed in the playoffs. Once we got in we were pretty happy with our team. There's still fuel for next year to get even further. Everyone will go have a good summer and come back even stronger next year."

Thank You, Phan Nation for a great season!!


1st 9:01 - LV, R. Gardner (2) (B. Furry, B. Brink) (1-0)

1st 9:18 - HER, I. Miroshnickenko (1) (C. Priskie) (1-1)

1st 12:18 - LV, G. Wilson (1) (J. Gaucher, C. Marody) (2-1)

1st 15:06 - HER, P. Dube (1) (L. Day, H. Haman Aktell) (2-2)

2nd 2:36 - HER, I. Miroshnichenko (2) (P. Dube) (2-3)

2nd 10:57 - HER, E. Frank (3) (J. Snively, H. Lapierre) (PP) (2-4)

2nd 16:17 - LV, T. Laczynski (4) (A. Brooks) (3-4)

3rd 14:52 - HER, H. Haman-Aktell (1) (L. Day) (3-5)


LV 32 - HER 27


LV 0/2, HER 1/4


LV - C. Petersen (L) (3-3) (22/27)

HER - H. Shepard (W) (3-1) (29/32)

Hershey Wins Series 3 games to 1

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Lehigh Valley Phantoms celebrate win
Lehigh Valley Phantoms celebrate win


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