3-2 Heartstopper at Wilkes-Barre to Open Season
October 15, 2022
Wilkes-Barre Twp., PA – Louie Belpedio barely had enough time left for a second chance to score a game-winner and buried his opportunity with just 1.4 seconds remaining in the extra period for an incredible 3-2 overtime win at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday night.
The new Phantoms defenseman, in his fifth season as a pro, jabbed the puck away from the Penguins’ Drew O’Connor and raced down ice on a breakaway only to be denied by Dustin Tokarski with just eight seconds left. But Max Willman retrieved the puck quickly from the end-boards and set up Belpedio again for the heart-stopping finish.
It was an incredible way to begin the 2022-23 season.
Elliot Desnoyers scored the first goal of the season and the talented 20-year-old rookie did it in his pro debut while Zack MacEwen had a power play goal and an assist.
But the Star of the Night for the Phantoms was easily veteran goalie Troy Grosenick who turned aside 38 of 40 Penguins’ shots in his Phantoms’ debut. After leading the league in goals-against average and save percentage last season with the Providence Bruins, the veteran goaltender showed that he hasn’t lost a step from his campaign that almost earned him a second career Baz Bastien Memorial Award as Goaltender of the Year in the American Hockey League.
First-rounders Alex Nylander and Sam Poulin scored the Penguins’ tallies on the night. And when Sam Poulin tied the game with just 59.5 seconds left, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had snagged the momentum. But the Phantoms prevailed thanks to Belpedio’s late heroics. The former Laval Rocket and Iowa Wild blueliner was again paired with prospect Cam York after the two developed some chemistry in the previous two preseason games.
Lehigh Valley is now 6-3-0 all-time in season openers and the Phantoms franchise improved to 19-8-0 on Opening Nights going back to the beginning of the Philadelphia Phantoms in 1996.
Desnoyers lit the lamp in his first-ever pro game to open the scoring with 6:19 remaining in the first period. Belpedio put the puck down low where big wingers Zack MacEwen and Garrett Wilson went to work. Wilson pulled the puck away from a pair of Penguins defenders to connect with a wide-open Desnoyers in the slot for his first career pro goal. The Flyers Round 5 pick in 2020 had scored 42 goals a season ago in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads.
The Penguins answered early in the second period with an Alex Nylander goal from the right circle on the power play after Valterri Puustinen and Xavier Ouellet found him available on the back door.
Lehigh Valley re-took the lead with 10:08 left in the second period via a power-play conversion of their own. MacEwen chopped down a Cam York center-point shot and smartly bounced the puck past the right skate of Penguins’ goalie Dustin Tokarski for the 2-1 lead. Tyson Foerster’s secondary assist on the play provided his own first point of the season as well.
It looked like the Phantoms might hang on the rest of the way for a 2-1 victory but a 6-on-5 goal in the closing moments evened the score. Sam Poulin had a point-shot from Ty Smith hit his body and then bounce in the air to his left where he was able to take a waist-high swing while it was still in mid-air to score the tying goal with just 59.5 seconds left in regulation.
Both teams traded the puck but offered very few chances in the overtime. On several occasions, the team in possession curled back to their own side for resets when they didn’t like the pressure they were experiencing.
Grosenick was eventually forced to make a save on Sam Poulin with barely more than a minute left on what was officially the first shot on goal of the overtime.
When Belpedio anticipated and then poked the puck away from O’Connor with 13 seconds remaining in the OT, the Phantoms still had not registered a shot on goal in the 3-on-3 session. But Tokarski came up with a slick pad save on Belpedio’s breakaway before Willman picked up the rebound and then carried behind and around the goal instead of shooting again on a tough angle that Tokarski had covered. Willman’s patience, even with time running out, made the difference as his pass through the slot from the side of the cage was set up perfectly for Belpedio on the left of the cage to score past a scrambling Tokarski.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms return to action Sunday afternoon at the Hershey Bears with a 3:00 p.m. start time.
1st 13:41 – LV, E. Desnoyers (1) (G. Wilson, Z. MacEwen) 1-0
2nd 5:35 – WBS, A. Nylander (1) (V. Puustinen, X. Ouellet) (PP) 1-1
2nd 9:32 – LV, Z. MacEwen (1) (C. York, T. Foerster) (PP) 2-1
3rd 19:00 – WBS, S. Poulin (1) (T. Smith, A. Nylander) (6×5) 2-2
OT 4:58 – LV, L. Belpedio (1) (M. Willman) 3-2
LV 22 – WBS 40
LV 1/3, WBS 1/5
LV – T. Grosenick (38/40) (W) (1-0-0)
WBS – D. Tokarski (19/22) (OTL) (0-0-1)
Lehigh Valley (1-0-0)
Opening Weekend at PPL Center is Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23 with a weekend series against the Cleveland Monsters featuring a Rally Towel Giveaway.
T-Shirt Throwing Sensation Cameron Hughes will perform at the game on Saturday, October 22. And fan-interaction activities return on Sunday, October 23 with a postgame photo session with the players on the ice.
Phantoms individual game tickets are on sale now. Secure your seats for your favorite promotional nights and big rivalry matchups! PHANTOMS GAME TICKETS
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