Another Comeback Win

Phantoms Down T-Birds 3-1 to Pull Further Ahead in Playoff Race

March 20, 2024

Allentown, PA – This is getting to be incredibly normal for the Phantoms. Teams that lead at the second intermission are supposed to cruise to victories. That isn’t the case in games against Lehigh Valley. Not at all. Not against this group.

Wednesday night was yet another third-period rally for the Comeback Phantoms. A league-leading eighth win when trailing at the second intermission as a matter of fact. But this one perhaps felt a bit bigger than some of the other exciting and dramatic come-from-behind triumphs for the Phantoms who pushed past the Springfield Thunderbirds 3-1 to secure an even stronger hold on the last playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with just 13 games remaining.

Evan Polei’s second goal of the season came on a pretty give-and-go with Elliot Desnoyers with just 8:11 left to break a 1-1 tie and firmly implant the Phantoms in the driver’s seat of the Calder Cup Playoff race. The Phantoms now lead the seventh-place Thunderbirds by three points and also have one game-in-hand to now possess even greater control of their own destiny in their push for the postseason.

The contest had an intensity befitting the late-season importance of the rivalry clash. A regulation loss would have allowed Springfield to leapfrog ahead of the Phantom by one point. But, instead, it was a strong defensive effort that eventually led to an important win for Lehigh Valley and a three-point lead for the Phantoms who improved to 4-1-1 in their last six games.

Lehigh Valley (27-24-8) received third-period goals from Adam Brooks (7th), Even Polei (2nd) and then Tanner Laczynski (13th) who iced it with an empty-netter with just 2.1 seconds left on its way to yet another third-period comeback win.

Adam Gaudette scored on the power play in the second period for his league-leading 37th goal of the season to give the T-Birds a 1-0 lead but that was all Springfield would get against Cal Petersen who was again on top of his game with 23 saves on 24 shots in improving to 8-11-3.

Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere referenced the caliber of play out of his veteran left-handed goaltender since his return to the Phantoms from the Philadelphia Flyers on February 29 and said he’s been great since coming back. He’s not wrong. Petersen improved to a 1.97 goals-against average in his last six starts with a .914 save percentage going 3-3-0.

His biggest stop came on a spectacular odd-man rush denial in the third period to keep the game tied at 1-1. Petersen leaned forward and used his wingspan to get a glove on Drew Callin’s blast at almost point-blank range.

“You saw that save Cal made tonight on that three-on-two. Unbelievable,” Evan Polei said about the veteran goaltender. “There’s nothing more I can say about this group. It’s such a good group of guys in there. And they come to work every single day. And the energy’s high all the time. You will lose games, but you move on. You win games, you can’t get too high. We still got a job to do. We’ve got 13 more games left, so we’re going to get it done.”

The Phantoms had the puck-possession advantage in the first period and outshot Springfield 10-7 but were unable to break AHL-rookie netminder Colten Ellis.

Springfield (27-28-5) took advantage of four Lehigh Valley penalties to eventually break through in period two. The Thunderbirds thought they had scored when Will Bitten’s shot off the paddle of Petersen deflected in the air and towards the cage. Springfield went through the high-five line believing the puck had crossed the line for a power-play goal at 4:19 into the period but the officials’ ruling on the ice was no goal and that call stood upon video review.

The Thunderbirds would eventually find the net at 13:17 into the middle frame during a four-minute double-minor power play via Gaudette’s rifle on the move in transition after a handoff from Jakub Vrana.

Springfield carried a 1-0 lead into the third but trailing after two periods hasn’t bothered the Phantoms all season. And they again would find a way to rally tonight.

“I love that about our group. It’s like they stay with it,” Laperriere said. “We’re down one-nothing, and it could have–at the beginning of the year, we would have crumbled, maybe. But now, I got to give credit to guys like Brooks and Polei. We talked about that before…Furry, Wisdom. They were in and out of the lineup. We had young guys here that had to play, but they stayed with it and they’re getting rewarded and they’re helping us. And I got to tip my hat to them. I’m proud of them because of that. That’s a huge win, but we’ve got to keep working. I mean, we want to climb, we want to keep getting points and we’ll enjoy tonight and we’ll go back to work tomorrow.”

Lehigh Valley took just nine seconds to bury it on its second power-play of the game to finally cash in when Tanner Laczynski from the left corner connected with Adam Brooks sliding into the backdoor to slam it home at 4:53 into the third period evening the score at 1-1. Brooks was coming off a five-point game at Providence on Saturday that tied a Lehigh Valley record and had also assisted on the last two goals in Friday’s game at Providence. This strike was the EIGHTH consecutive Lehigh Valley goal that Brooks was a part of.

The Phantoms were feeling it and had Springfield on its heels. A new line combo paid off for Lappy’s Legion when Even Polei on the right wing found Elliot Desnoyers on the left boards who smartly connected back to the rugged fourth-liner knifing into the slot to blast home just his second goal of the season. But it couldn’t have come at a better time. Polei’s tally with just 8:11 left gave the Phantoms a 2-1 lead.

Springfield never seemed to get on track in its late-game desperation push even with a pulled goalie. After a long clear down ice, Brendan Furry sped past the Thunderbirds’ defense to beat the icing race and keep the clock ticking and eventually force a faceoff in the Springfield zone with barely more than a minute left. The hard-working Phantoms just wouldn’t let them off the hook.

Finally, a Helge Grans pickoff amd subsequent connection to Jacob Gaucher would lead to Furry finding Laczynski for the empty-netter to seal the deal. It was Laczynski’s fifth goal in the last three games including a hat trick on Saturday at Providence. Last Wednesday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was the valuable center’s first game back in the lineup after missing almost two months with an injury. And it only took him just one more game to begin lighting it up as he quickly has pushed his game back into top form.

The Phantoms are in top form as well. At the perfect time.

The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Saturday night against the Bridgeport Islanders and Sunday afternoon against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. There are just 13 games remaining in the regular season including just six home games at PPL Center.


2nd 13:17 – SPR, A. Gaudette (37) (J. Vrana, C. Rosen) (PP) (0-1)

3rd 4:53 – LV, A. Brooks (7) (T. LAczynski, S. Tuomaala) (PP) (1-1)
3rd 11:49 – LV, E. Polei (2) (E. Desnoyers) (2-1)
3rd 19:57 – LV, T. LAczynski (13) (B. Furry, J. Gaucher) (EN) (3-1)

LV 25 – SPR 24

LV 1/2, SPR 1/4

LV, C. Petersen (W) (23/24) (8-11-3)
SPR, C. Ellis (L) (22/24) (5-5-0)

Lehigh Valley (27-24-8)
Springfield (27-28-5)

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE


Saturday, March 23 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders – Margaritaville Night

Sunday, March 24 (3:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Kids Takeover Day / Postgame Autographs Presented by NJM Insurance

Friday, March 29 (7:00) at Syracuse Crunch
Saturday, March 30 (6:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Tuesday, April 2 (7:00) at Hershey Bears