Hershey Hangs on in Feisty Rivalry Affair

Magic Number Down to Five Points

April 12, 2024

Hershey, PA – A strong third-period push at the powerhouse Hershey Bears was ultimately not enough to get the Phantoms back to even in what was eventually a 4-1 loss in Chocolatetown on Friday evening in the team’s penultimate away game of the 2023-24 campaign.

Garrett Wilson (8th) scored the lone Phantoms tally midway through the second period to pull Lehigh Valley to within a goal and the Phantoms later had clutch back-to-back penalty kills to stay in contention but after that had a difficult time getting over the hump and breaking through against the league’s top goaltender, Hunter Shepard, who turned aside 24 of 25 shots.

But there was good news as well for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as they continue their Push for the Playoffs, presented by Provident Bank. The Springfield Thunderbirds dropped a 5-3 decision at the Hartford Wolf Pack thereby trimming Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to just five points with four games remaining. The Phantoms maintain a four-point lead over Springfield in the competition for the last postseason position in the Atlantic Division.

Hershey (51-12-5) received contributions from Matthew Phillips (2nd), Ethen Frank (29th) and then in the third period from former Phantom Logan Day (5th) and leading point-producer Joe Snively (12th).

It was a gritty and feisty effort that featured a number of skirmishes and hard collisions somewhat befitting the energetic rivalry and playoff intensity typically expected in such a late-season battle with important ramifications.

Lehigh Valley (29-30-9) had a strong start and generated a bevy of chances in the first period with several of the best tries developing on nifty steals on the forecheck. Jacob Gaucher, Brendan Furry, Zayde Wisdom and Garrett Wilson were among those picking off Bears passes and attempted exits. But Shepard was there each time to bail out his teammates.

Recent acquisition Matthew Phillips, who had 36 goals with the Calgary Wranglers last year, got a piece of a Chase Priskie drive from the point for his second goal since joining the Bears.

The Phantoms thought they had an equalizer a few moments later when Emil Andrae dangled around a pair of Hershey defenders in the high slot and connected with Cooper Marody on the left of the cage. Marody’s attempt to push one through short-side was barely denied by Shepard although Marody raised his stick up high thinking the puck must be across the line and under the pad of Shepard who was trying to hold it out. After a lengthy video-review, the officials determined it to still not be a goal for Lehigh Valley and the Phantoms still trailed 1-0.

Garrett Wilson picked off a pass at center and connected with an onrushing Tanner Laczynski who offered a shot on the move that he whipped past the right shoulder of Shepard in the very last seconds of the first period. Shots in the first finished even at 9-9.

The Phantoms got in some penalty trouble in the second period and it ended up costing them in the form of a blast from the left dot by Ethen Frank whose power-play goal short-side on Petersen doubled Hershey’s advantage to 2-0 at 6:38 into the middle frame.

Lehigh Valley surged back just four minutes later when Samu Tuomaala gained entry up the left wing and found Wilson down low who rotated behind the goal and over to the right circle to eventually score to the far post on the stick-side of Shepard effectively getting the Phantoms right back into the game at 2-1 with 9:20 remaining in the second period.

The Phantoms neatly killed off back-to-back Hershey power plays late in the second period to stay within a goal with several key blocks along the way.

Lehigh Valley had a power play to conclude the second period and open the third period but the Phantoms were unable to get on track and find the tying tally.

Hershey successfully dug the puck away after an extended board-battle in the corner and eventually rotated a couple passes over to an open Logan Day on the backdoor who walked up to the right dot and rifled a pivotal goal to the far post at 6:34 to boost the Bears’ advantage to 3-1.

Emil Andrae had his stick knocked out of his hands and also appeared to take some contact in the corner when Hershey was able to take advantage and seal the win with a shot-pass connecting to Joe Snively on the back door at 11:56 of the third period for a 4-1 final.

The Phantoms finished the season series with a 4-6-2 record against Hershey which is the most wins and most points against the Bears of any team. Lehigh Valley could potentially meet Hershey again in Round 2 of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Bears as a 1-seed would receive a first-round bye while the Phantoms most likely placement would be as a 6-seed. That would guarantee a Lehigh Valley vs. Hershey Best of 5 matchup in early May provided the Phantoms qualify for the postseason and then win their Round 1 series which would most likely be against either Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or Charlotte.

The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Saturday night to take on the Bridgeport Islanders ith the return of “Los Fantasmas” as part of our Hockey Fiesta featuring Spanish announcements and music as well as specialty merchandise.

1st 14:48 – HER, M. Phillips (2) (C. Priskie, G. Roe) (0-1)

2nd 6:38 – HER, E. Frank (29) (J. Snively, A. Limoges) (PP) (0-2)
2nd 10:40 – LV, G. Wilson (8) (S. Tuomaala) (1-2)

3rd 6:34 – HER, L. Day (5) (H. Haman Aktell, H. Rybinski) (1-3)
3rd 11:56 – HER, J. Snively (12) (C. Priskie, J. Huntington) (1-4)

LV 25 – HER 29

LV 0/3, HER 1/5

LV – C. Petersen (L) (25/29) (9-15-3)
HER – H. Shepard (W) (24/25) (26-3-3)

Lehigh Valley (29-30-9)
Hershey (51-12-5)

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Saturday, April 13 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders

Friday, April 19 (7:00) at Bridgeport Islanders
Saturday, April 20 (7:05) vs. W-B/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, April 21 (3:05) vs. Charlotte Checkers – Our Valley, Our Home Day – End of Regular Season!