The best writers could not have scripted this
night to be more magical than it was. In front
of an incredible AHL record-setting crowd of 45,653
at the Outdoor Classic in Philadelphia, the Phantoms
put together a fairy-tale comeback for an amazing
4-3 overtime win against the Hershey Bears.
Ben Holmstrom tied the score with 20.2 seconds
remaining with his extra-attacker goal from the
slot. And Shane Harper raced in behind the Bears
defense to accept a perfect flip forward from
Eric Wellwood for the backhanded game-winner 58
seconds into overtime.
It was a butterflies-in-your-stomach evening throughout
due to the massive attendance that more doubled
the previous AHL record of 21,673 set last year
in Hartford at their outdoor game. But the heart-stopping
victory was more than anyone could ask for and
the crowd responded with huge celebration as the
Phantoms took to center-ice to salute the Citizens
Bank Park contingent.
45,653 fans. It's almost impossible to comprehend
a crowd of that size for a minor-league hockey
game. A few years ago nobody in their right mind
would have realistically envisioned that as even
a remote possibility. The terrific feat of putting
on a show of this magnitude in the culminating
event of the Winter Classic series of games in
Philadelphia left the fans and both teams with
a magical feeling in the air. The whole evening
was a celebration of the Phantoms, Bears, the
American Hockey League and the sport of hockey
in general at all levels.
Many of the 45,653 in attendance were kids, all
of whom delighted in cheering the Phantoms on
to a victory that seemed somewhat improbably in
the game's closing moments. The weather was unseasonably
mild with a starting game-time temperature of
47 degrees greeting the fans and participants
on both ends. The ice appeared to be in terrific
shape despite its frequent use through the week,
with minimal delays or issues. In fact, the play
and movement of the puck seemed to be quite crisp.
But Eric Wellwood, who assisted on both dramatic
goals, rifled one towards the slot from the right-wing
half-wall and a deflected puck in the middle was
found by the Phantoms captain, Ben Holmstrom,
who stopped and shot past the right skate of Bears
goalie Braden Holtby for the equalizer.
Holmstrom is the 24-year-old captain of the Phantoms
who was also the Most Valuable Player on the team
a season ago.
After the Phantoms regained the momentum with
that timely goal, it seemed in some ways inevitable
that the home team would be able to finish the
The Phantoms won the puck in their zone and chipped
one forward to Eric Wellwood who quickly got racing
down the more open-ice in the 4-on-4 overtime
with fellow speedster Shane Harper. The Southern
Califronia native would flip the puck over to
his backhand and then jam it through Holtby for
the game-winner. Harper went to his knees in celebration
raising his arms and racing back the other way
as his team unpiled off the bench to celebrate
their fourth overtime win of the season. The goal
was set-up by a perfect feed from Wellwood who
flipped the puck into open-ice in the slot with
the knowledge that Harper could out-race the defense
and meet the puck there with still enough space
to put on his best move for the goal.
Harper is a second year pro out of the Everett
Silvertips in the WHL where he was that team's
all-time leading scorer. He grew up in the Los
Angeles area in the 1990's when hockey was becoming
the cool sport there due to the arrival of Wayne
Gretzky with the Kings. But even "The Great
One" never had the experience of scoring
an overtime winner in front of 45,000 crazed fans.
22-year-old Shane Harper has. It was his sixth
goal as a Phantom and fifth of the season.
Michael Leighton secured the victory with a number
of fine saves in his second effort in an outdoor
venue. He had also started in the Winter Classic
for the Flyers in their 2010 appearance at Fenway
Park in Boston against the Bruins but lost that
Chris Bourque opened the scoring in the opening
28 seconds of the game depositing a rebound from
a Keith Aucoin shot for a 1-0 Bears lead.
Mike Testwuide equalized for the Phantoms on a
sharp-angle attempt from the right-wing corner
that appeared to deflect off Bears defenseman
Zach Mishovic and through Holtby to tie the score
at 1-1 at 12:03 into the first.
The Phantoms clearly had the better of the play
in the second period. They outshot the Bears 17-5
and were denied on a number of remarkable saves
by Holtby including a point-blank kick-save with
his left leg on Testwuide's bid for his second
goal of the night.
It would end up being Kyle Greentree, a former
Philadelphia Phantom with the Hershey Bears, who
would score the middle frame's only tally. With
1:23 remaining in the second he rifled home a
rebound on one fo the few scrambles in the Phantoms'
Adirondack would tie the score seven minutes into
the third. Cullen Eddy raced to the high-slot
to a loose puck and blasted it intentionally wide
of the cage to the left-wing side where Luke Pither
was able to deflect in his second of the season
and his first since opening night. The second
year Phantoms, Pither, chose the ideal time and
setting for his second goal of the year at 7:03
into the third.
The fairy-tale finish for the Phantoms looked
to be in jeopardy however when Graham Mink would
score his 13th of the season with 7:07 left in
regulation to give Hershey the 3-2 lead. The Phantoms
fans ha started the wave at Citizens Bank Park
in their efforts to boost the home team in their
penalty-kill efforts but the Bears responded with
the fastest wave-killer of them all, the go-ahead
But that turned out to simply be the stage-setter
for the late, heart-stopping dramatics of the
Phantoms who were boosted by the humongous attendance.
The Phantoms outshot the Bears 44-27 and improve
to 2-0 versus Hershey in 2011-12 with two more
meetings left in the season series.
Interestingly, the all-time series between these
two long-time rivals is now even at 82 wins apiece
(with 8 ties). Somebody will re-take the lead
in the all-time series less than 24 hours later
though. The Phantoms and Bears meet again on Saturday
night in Hershey at Giant Center in what should
prove to be an engaging and fiercely-contested
The Phantoms improved to 18-14-2 with the win
and are 4-1 in overtime games this year. Overtime
heroes for the Phantoms this season include tonight's
star, Shane Harper, New Year's Eve hero Mike Testwuide,
and Ben Holmstrom and Jon Kalinski early in December
and late November. All four Phantoms overtime
wins have been on "home" ice.
The game began with a wonderful pregame ceremony
honoring Phantoms greats of years' past including
the Calder Cup Championship teams of 1998 and
2005. A roaring ovation greeted Frank "The
Animal" Bialowas as well as Neil Little and
several other popular Phantoms names. The conclusion
of the evening was a spectacular fireworks display
beyond the Liberty Bell display in centerfield
of the stadium in a scene reminiscent more of
a mid-July evening during Phillies baseball season
than a hockey night in January.
Two full busloads of Phantoms fans cranked it
up inside the stadium as well and many others
from the North Country drove down to witness the
historic and almost unbelievable event.
It was truly a perfect occasion for all. And it
was a night that all of the Phantoms players will
easily rate as one of their favorite moments of
their lives. And that's very much in thanks to
all of you Phantoms fans who came out in massive
numbers and made this evening as magical and incredible
Upcoming Phantoms Events
Saturday, January 7, 7:00 - Adirondack Phantom
at Hershey Bears
Monday, January 9, 7:00 - Phantoms Power Hour
LIVE at McGinny's Tavern. Player guests Ben Holmstrom
and Eric Wellwood. Also with Tim McManus of the
Friday, January 13, 7:00 - Hamilton Bulldogs
at Adirondack Phantoms. Fun in the Sun Weekend!
$2 draft-beer specials
Saturday, January 14, 7:00 - Manchester Monarchs
at Adirondack Phantoms. Fun in the Sun Weekend!
Post-game Pics with Players on the Ice.
Get great savings with the Phantoms when you
bring your group of 15 friends or co-workers to
a game. Group-rates available as low as $13 per
person. Call the Phantoms to find out more at
Catch all the action of Phantoms hockey all season
long on the team's flagship station, Classic Hits
Q101.7 and on phantomshockey.com. Bob Rotruck
has the broadcast coverage 30 minutes prior to
game-time with Countdown to Faceoff.. Be sure
to follow the Phantoms on twitter @phantomshockey
and on facebook.com/adkhockey
Hershey Bears 3 at Adirondack Phantoms 4 (OT)
- Status: Final OT
Friday, January 6, 2012 - Citizens Bank Park
Hershey 1 1 1 0 - 3
Adirondack 1 0 2 1 - 4
1st Period-1, Hershey, Bourque 19 (Aucoin, Greentree),
0:28. 2, Adirondack, Testwuide 6 (Holmstrom),
12:03. Penalties-Eddy Adk (interference), 8:18;
Marshall Adk (interference), 12:38.
2nd Period-3, Hershey, Greentree 3 (Eakin, Bourque),
18:37. Penalties-Ford Her (tripping), 5:59; Hanson
Her (tripping), 15:17; Holmstrom Adk (high-sticking),
3rd Period-4, Adirondack, Pither 2 (Eddy), 7:03.
5, Hershey, Mink 13 (Bourque, Aucoin), 12:53 (PP).
6, Adirondack, Holmstrom 10 (Akeson, Wellwood),
19:39. Penalties-Kundratek Her (delay of game),
1:32; Testwuide Adk (holding), 12:26; Micflikier
Her (tripping), 13:12; Testwuide Adk (high-sticking),
OT Period-7, Adirondack, Harper 5 (Wellwood),
0:58. Penalties-No Penalties
Shots on Goal-Hershey 9-5-13-0-27. Adirondack
Power Play Opportunities-Hershey 1 / 5; Adirondack
0 / 4.
Goalies-Hershey, Holtby 11-8-1 (44 shots-40 saves).
Adirondack, Leighton 12-11-0 (27 shots-24 saves).
Referees-David Banfield (44), Jamie Koharski (84).
Linesmen-Bob Goodman (90), Leo Boylan (97).