Photo: Nina Weiss/Flyerdelphia
The power play for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms has been boom or bust this season, with no in between. It was boom at the perfect time for the Phantoms on Friday night. Maxim LaMarche and Nick Cousins scored power play goals less than four minutes apart in the second period, and Anthony Stolarz made 21 saves to help the Phantoms outlast the Hershey Bears, 6-4.
It wasn't looking pretty, early. After Sam Morin notched his second of the season at 3:42 off of a point slapshot from a faceoff. Hershey then reeled off three consecutive goals. Paul Carey finished off a feed from Carter Camper following the rebound of an Aaron Ness shot at 5:44. At 1o:29, Camper notched his 3rd of the season when deflected a Carey shot past Stolarz from the edge of the crease.
At 11:54, Phantom killer Chris Bourque got his 10th of the season after flying down the wing and beating the Lehigh Valley netminder with a wrist shot from the circle. Chandler Stephenson and Mike Moore collected assists. Taylor Leier pulled the Phantoms back within one with 3:12 remaining. He deflected a Petr Straka past Hershey goaltender Justin Peters.
In the second, to quote WWE's Jim Ross: "Business picked up". Roughly four minutes into the period, Hershey's Liam O'Brien boarded Mark Alt earning a match penalty for head contact and a game misconduct. On the ensuing five minute power play, the Phantoms busted the game open. Nick Cousons one-time an Andrew MacDonald pass past Peters at 5:58. Max LaMarche scored an identical goal off of an Aaron Palushaj feed at 9:42 to put Lehigh Valley up 4-3.
In the third, the Bears pushed hard for the tie with lots of offensive zone time to open the frame. They had several great chances to tie it, but Stolarz stood tall. Then, Mark Alt got the ultimate revenge. Alt tabbed his second of the campaign with a bomb of a shot from the half-wall at 8:37. Assists went to Morin and Palushaj. Cole Bardreau got his first of the season when he deflected an Andrew MacDonald point shot at 15:43. Max LaMarche got the secondary assist for his second point of the night. Ttravis Boyd got one back for Hershey when he scored with 8.4 seconds left.
Notes: Matt Lashoff was scratched with an injury that occured in the second period of Wednesday's loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Jay Rosehill was the lone healthy scratch for Lehigh Valley. This is the first timed this season that Justin Peters has been in net for Hershey against the Phantoms. It was a scheduled night off for Dan Ellis, according to Hershey officials
Quotes: Nick Cousins, on the power play clicking: "We have been working on it a lot lately. Once you get one early there on the power play, it gives you confidence. I think with AMac back there, he's probably the best in the league so we are fortunate enough to have him down here. We moved the puck really well and got traffic in front of the net. When we do that I think we are going to be successful."
On the bounce back after Wednesday's loss: "It shows a lot of character that we have in this room. We were down 3-1 early in the 1st period, then power play strikes and then it's a different game from there. A big win for us."
Max LaMarche, on his first AHL goal: "I'm happy. He (Palushaj) made a good pass to me across and I almost had, not an empty net but a big hole. I just tried to shoot and it went in."
Head Coach Scott Gordon, On tonight's win being a roadmap going forward: "We are slowly starting to figure out what we need to do to be successful. It's going to happen during the course of the year that we get a couple tough bounces against us...sometimes you can't control some of the things that happen. At the end of the day, all you can control is your effort and that's what we did from after they got their 2nd goal with about nine minutes left in the period, we put our foot on the pedal and were able to generate a lot of offense."
On Tonight's response from Wednesday's loss: "I like the way the team responded to the big hit by Colin McDonald. That was huge, seemed to get some emotion into the game for us given the situation. It didn't seem like much was going our way for a bit there and then obviously the hit O'Brien made on Alt allowed us to be on the power play for five minutes. The momentum that we gained in the end of the first period - getting that power play goal was huge... the energy carried over into the 2nd period."
3 Stars: 3) LV-Sam Morin- Gordie Howe Hat Trick (Goal, Assist, Fight) 2) LV-Max LaMarche (First Career AHL Goal, Assist) 1) LV-Nick Cousins (PPG, 2 Assists)
Up Next: Lehigh Valley travels to Binghamton, NY to take on the Binghamton Senators at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena Saturday at 7:05 PM.