High Five For The Kids!

Desnoyers and Foerster Return Sparks Five-Goal Attack and Fifth Straight Win

March 12, 2023

Lehigh Valley, PA – Tyson Foerster (19th) and Elliot Desnoyers (21st) returned from the Philadelphia Flyers and the two leading scorers for Lehigh Valley struck for goals just 79 seconds apart in the second period in a 5-2 win for “Los Fantasmas” over “Los Cometas de Utica” in the Sunday finale of Hockey Fiesta Weekend. The arrival of the youthful stars provided just the spark the Phantoms needed at the end of a busy weekend to boost the team to a season-long five-game win streak.

Garrett Wilson (12th) added a key power-play goal with just 5:59 remaining while Max Willman (9th) and Cooper Marody (12th) struck for a pair of late empty-netters to seal a victory that eventually reached a final margin not indicative of the closely contested nature of the contest.

Leading by just a slim 3-2 margin with one minute to go, Louie Belpedio came up with a huge block on an Alex Holtz blast from the left circle that was surely destined for the back of the net when Nolan Maier had already made a denial at the top of the crease. Belpedio’s play to help avoid overtime was followed in quick succession by a Cal O’Reilly steal who set up Max Willman to race down ice for the first of the team’s two empty-netters to clinch the victory.

An enthusiastic crowd loaded with meLVin jersey-wearing kids saw Lehigh Valley (31-22-6) stretch its win streak to five in a row while the team capped a perfect 3-for-3 weekend. The youngsters enjoyed receiving their yellow jersey giveaways while watching rookie goaltender Nolan Maier (4-1-2) produce a strong 27-save performance.

Having just played for the Philadelphia Flyers at the Pittsburgh Penguins the day before, Desnoyers and Foerster remained tied for the team at 39 points apiece via their consecutive markers. Desnoyers pulled to within one goal of the Lehigh Valley record for most goals by a rookie currently held by Danick Martel who had 22 goals in 2015-16.

Lehigh Valley (31-22-6) moved into a fourth-place tie in the Atlantic Division with the Springfield Thunderbirds with 13 games remaining in the regular season.

Nolan Maier was tested early including a first period that saw three big chances from New Jersey first-rounder Alex Holtz. Maier repelled a Holtz breakaway with a strong right pad save and then also swallowed another big blast by Holtz on a rush that was almost another breakaway. Holtz again had a chance as part of a two-on-one at the end of the period with Maier coming up large again. But newcomer Jake Theut in net for the Comets was equal to the task in a period that included a point-blank stop on Garrett Wilson among his 11 total denials. The 29-year-old hardly looked like he was playing in his first-ever game at the American Hockey League level.

The scoreless affair continued into the second period, and Lehigh Valley’s penalty kill unit successfully killed back-to-back power plays for Utica (29-21-8) early in the frame.

At 8:56 into the second, the Phantoms opened the scoring and solved Theut on a chance in the low slot. One day removed from his second-career NHL game, Tyson Foerster tallied his 19th goal of the season for the Phantoms. Setup by Adam Brooks, Foerster pulled the puck to his backhand and elevated his shot to beat Theut to his right. With his helper, Brooks extended his point streak to four consecutive games (2g, 7a).

Only 79 seconds later, Elliot Desnoyers doubled his team’s advantage to 2-0. Garrett Wilson spun a pass from beneath the goal line to an open Desnoyers at the net front who rifled in his team-leading 21st goal of the season off the top of the paddle of the Comets netminder to provide Lehigh Valley with a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.

The determined Comets came out charging into the third period and eventually broke through against Maier via a power-play blast from the top of the right circle by Brian Pinho (9th) at 4:45 into the final frame.

The teams traded strong chances throughout an exciting third period with Theut and Maier continuing to match each other with one big stop after another in the somewhat surprising goaltenders duel of a total newcomer and a relative newcomer in the AHL.

The Phantoms finally extended their lead on a late power play with Garrett Wilson scoring from the slot with just 5:59 left in the third period whistling a drive past the glove of Theut for a 3-1 lead. Olle Lycksell neatly connected with an open Wilson in the middle who had just enough time to navigate the puck to his forehand and get the shot off. Egor Zamula earned the secondary assist on the play and suddenly it felt a little more comfortable for the Phantoms.

But Utica wasn’t done and they found a backdoor cut to narrow the margin to one goal yet again. An extra-attacker goal for teenager Simon Nemec (9th) on a strong feed by Alex Holtz trimmed Lehigh Valley’s advantage to 3-2 with 2:45 to go.

Belpedio came up with the key block in the final minute of regulation while the Phantoms were still clinging to a 3-2 lead. Max Willman with 40 seconds left and then Cooper Marody with just 15 seconds to go finished the night with empty-net scores.

Marody capped a massive weekend that included six goals and three assists for nine points in just three games. He began with two goals at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday and then followed that up with a stunning hat-trick performance on Saturday that also saw a tying goal with 48.5 seconds remaining to complete the trifecta. He finished the weekend with one goal and one assist on Sunday.

Lehigh Valley’s five-game win streak equals its longest of the year previously accomplished November 5-19, 2022. The last time the Phantoms had a longer win streak was six in a row October 14-27, 2017.

The homestand continues Wednesday and Friday nights with consecutive rivalry games against the Hershey Bears.

2nd 8:56 – LV, T. Foerster (19) (A. Brooks) 1-0
2nd 10:15 – LV, E. Desnoyers (21) (G. Wilson, C. Marody) 2-0

3rd 4:45 – UTC, B. Pinho (9) (N. Foote, A. Holtz) (PP) 2-1
3rd 14:01 – LV, G. Wilson (12) (O. Lycksell, E. Zamula) 3-1
3rd 17:15 – UTC, S. Nemec (9) (A. Holtz, B. Halonen) 3-2
3rd 19:20 – LV, M. Willman (9) (C. O’Reilly) (EN) 4-2
3rd 19:45 – LV, C. Marody (12) (EN) 5-2

LV 34 – UTC 29

LV 1/1, 1/3

LV – N. Maier (W) (4-1-2) (27/29)
UTC – J. Theut (L) (0-1-0) (29/32)

Lehigh Valley (31-22-6)
Utica (29-21-8)

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Wednesday, March 15 (7:05) vs. HERSHEY BEARS
Friday, March 17 (7:05) vs. HERSHEY BEARS
Sunday, March 19 (4:05) vs. WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PENGUINS
Saturday, March 25 (7:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, March 26 (5:00) at Hershey Bears

Wednesday, March 15 (7:05) vs. Hershey Bears – Truist Night. Chamber of Commerce Night. $2 Pregame Happy Hour Beers

Friday, March 17 (7:05) vs. Hershey Bears – St. Patrick’s Day! Whiteout Night. $1 Hot Dogs

Sunday, March 19 (4:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Prospect Pack Trading Card Sets for First 5,000 Fans

Friday, March 24 – NCAA Tournament Hockey Allentown Regional Doubleheader Hosted by Penn State

Sunday, March 26 – NCAA Tournament  Hockey Allentown Regional Final playing for Berth in the Frozen Four