Lehigh Valley’s 2nd Straight OT Affair and 8th of the Year

December 14, 2014

Atlantic City, NJ – Lehigh Valley Phantoms fans have certainly been getting their money’s worth this season. Extra hockey has been a hallmark of the 2014-15 campaign. The Phantoms played their eighth overtime game of the season and second consecutive such encounter of the weekend in a 4-3 decision for the host Albany Devils on Sunday evening in Atlantic City.

Trailing 1-0 into the third period, the Phantoms received goals from Taylor Leier (8th), Zack Stortini (3rd) and Andrew Gordon (7th) to take leads of 2-1 and 3-2. But Joe Whitney quickly answered with tying goals each time the Phantoms had gained the scoreboard advantage. And then Tim Sestito’s second goal of the game would come after regulation for Albany’s first overtime victory of the season.

The Phantoms completed another grueling three-in-three weekend with a 1-1-1 mark securing three out of a possible six standings points. Lehigh Valley had the disadvantage of playing their third weekend game and second straight tiring overtime tilt against an Albany team who entered the contest fresh following days off for the Devils on Friday and Saturday.

Lehigh Valley also had to switch their anticipated lineup at the last minute when Blair Jones left during pregame warm-ups with an apparent injury. But similar to their Saturday night victory at PPL Center over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Phantoms were able to battle through the adversity and grind out a solid effort on their way to securing the standings point.

Albany struck first and carried a 1-0 lead for much of the day on a Tim Sestito blast from the left circle following a Paul Thompson interception at center-point. Sestitio’s drive short-side past the blocker of Lehigh Valley goalie Rob Zepp at 13:43 of the first would be the only tally for either side for the next 45 minutes.

The Phantoms had an opportunity to equalize late in the second period and beginning of the third with a 5-on-3 power play but the Devils penalty-kill held strong for the concluding 62 seconds of the second period and the opening man-advantage ticks of the third.

The Phantoms finally broke through seven minutes into the final period with Taylor Leier’s high-slot blast beating Albany goalie Scott Wedgewood. Leier’s team-leading eighth tally of the season was set up by a nice steal and quick pass by Austin Fyten for an impressive looking assist from behind the Devils goal.

Lehigh Valley would take the lead just three minutes later when Zack Stortini pulled the puck away from Wedgewood’s attempt to dive and cover the rebound of a Robert Hagg shot. Stortini neatly kept the play alive and was then able to curl the puck around the prone netminder and tuck it into the cage for his second goal of the weekend and third of the season with Hagg and Delisle receiving assists.

The Phantoms first lead of the day wouldn’t last long though. Just 100 seconds later, Joe Whitney would tee-up a big one-timer from the left dot to beat Rob Zepp with just eight minutes in the third to forge a 2-2 deadlock.

Andrew Gordon quickly put the Phantoms back out in front just 27 seconds after that with his drive from the high slot with 7:33 remaining for his seventh of the season. Kevin Goumas and Jason Akeson had worked the puck into the zone and set up the play although the Gordon goal was officially listed as unassisted perhaps with a quick Albany possession and turnover from the right boards while Goumas was attempting to center.

Whitney again would even matters for the Devils this time with under six minutes remaining. He tied the score at 3-3 with his fine spin-move in the high crease to curl the puck around the right skate of Zepp following a centering feed from Rob Thompson. The scrappy, little winger from Boston College may be only 5-feet-6 but has loomed large against the Phantoms in past seasons when the former Adirondack Phantoms and Albany Devils were top rivals playing each other 12 times per year.

Whitney almost finished the contest with a flourish but his bid for a hat-trick game-winner with seven seconds left on a drive from between the circle would be kicked aside by Rob Zepp to set up the second consecutive overtime game for the weary Phantoms contingent.

Albany’s Graham Black almost won the game with a shot through the right chest of Zepp that dribbled just barely wide of the left post and then had to be swept away from an open net by hustling Lehigh Valley defense.

But veteran Mark Fraser would steer the team to victory with his 3-on-2 push into the Phantoms zone finding Tim Sestito on the back of the crease. Rob Zepp made one spectacular save with the left leg kicked across on Sestito but the younger brother of former Phantom and Philadelphia Flyer Tom Sestito was not to be denied on his second crack at it and was able to convert for the game-winner.

The Phantoms record stands at 11-10-4 after playing a combined total of 190 minutes of hockey in a stretch of just under 48 hours from the Friday 7:00 p.m. weekend opener at Binghamton to the conclusion of the Sunday matinee in Atlantic City which wrapped up just before 6:00 p.m.

Lehigh Valley has played eight games to overtime this year sporting an overall mark of 4-4 in extra-hockey contests. The Phantoms are 2-3 in overtime decisions and are 2-1 in shootouts. The Phantoms are fifth in the AHL and second in the Eastern Conference for most overtime games this season. The only Eastern Conference team with more overtime games than the Phantoms are the St. John’s IceCaps who have played 10. Not surprisingly, the Phantoms and IceCaps went to overtime in the one game they have played against each other on November 22 at PPL Center.

While historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City serves as an alternative home venue for the Albany Devils, the crowd on hand was largely rooting for the Phantoms and Flyers. Albany out shot the Phantoms 37-32 in the game. Albany was 1-for-5 on the power play while the Phantoms went 0-for-3.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms return to PPL Center for a pair of tilts this week. First, Lehigh Valley is back at home on Wednesday night for a showdown with the Binghamton Senators. Then, the Phantoms enjoy their final game at PPL Center before the Holiday Break on Friday night when Lehigh Valley hosts the Hershey Bears. It’s another Orange Out with all fans in attendance receiving a FREE Holiday-themed Phantoms shirt.

Tickets for both games are available now at the Mealey’s Furniture Box Office at PPL Center (701 Hamilton), by calling 610-347-TIXX (8499) or online at pplcenter.com.

Check it out! Phantoms Holiday Plans are on sale now offering tremendous value on four game tickets in a great stocking-stuffer package that includes a Melvin Mini-Stick or special Phantoms beer stein AND a game program. Call the Phantoms to order your Phantoms Holiday Plan at 610-224-GOAL (4625).

For all the Holiday Shopping for the Phantoms fan in your life, check out the team’s merchandise and souvenir kiosk now open at the Lehigh Valley Mall through December 31. The Phantoms team store inside PPL Center is also open throughout the week from 11am until 5pm Monday through Saturday.

Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3 at Albany Devils 4 (OT) – Status: Final OT
Sunday, December 14, 2014 – Boardwalk Hall

Lehigh Valley 0 0 3 0 – 3
Albany 1 0 2 1 – 4

1st Period-1, Albany, Sestito 5 (Thompson), 13:43. Penalties-Gordon Lv (interference), 5:33; Rosehill Lv (interference), 15:03; Flemming Lv (fighting), 17:52; Thomson Alb (fighting), 17:52.

2nd Period- No Scoring.Penalties-Matteau Alb (boarding), 7:00; Hextall Lv (slashing), 10:20; Goumas Lv (tripping), 13:48; Faust Alb (holding), 18:08; D. Zajac Alb (tripping), 18:58.

3rd Period-2, Lehigh Valley, Leier 8 (Fyten), 7:17. 3, Lehigh Valley, Stortini 3 (Delisle, Hagg), 10:20. 4, Albany, Whitney 9 (Scarlett, Boucher), 12:00 (PP). 5, Lehigh Valley, Gordon 7 12:27. 6, Albany, Whitney 10 (Thompson, Sestito), 14:19. Penalties-Hextall Lv (tripping), 10:46.

OT Period-7, Albany, Sestito 6 (Boucher, Fraser), 2:50. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Lehigh Valley 10-12-10-0-32. Albany 11-12-11-3-37.
Power Play Opportunities-Lehigh Valley 0 / 3; Albany 1 / 5.
Goalies-Lehigh Valley, Zepp 7-5-1 (37 shots-33 saves). Albany, Wedgewood 4-4-1 (32 shots-29 saves).
Referees-Darcy Burchell (42), Ryan Fraser (14).
Linesmen-Jud Ritter (34), Matt McNulty (26).

Upcoming Home Games:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014, Binghamton Senators vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 7:05 PM
(Lighting the Night! With a special lighting of the menorah!)

Friday, December 19, 2014, Hershey Bears vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 7:05 PM
(FREE Shirt Friday! FREE Holiday-themed Phantoms shirt for all fans in attendance!)

Saturday, December 27, 2014, Norfolk Admirals vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 7:05 PM
(Post-Game Photographs with Phantoms Players!)

In their 19th season of operation, the Phantoms are currently in the midst of their Inaugural Season as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms playing at the brand-new PPL Center. Established in 1996, the Phantoms spent their first 13 seasons at the Spectrum before re-locating to Glens Falls, New York in 2009 where the team spent the next five seasons as the Adirondack Phantoms. A new era of Phantoms hockey began in the fall of 2014 when the Lehigh Valley Phantoms began play at the state-of-the-art PPL Center. Through 18 incredibly successful campaigns, the Phantoms have captured two Calder Cup Championships (1998, 2005), two Conference Championships (1998, 2005), two Regular Season Titles (1996-97, 1997-98) and four Division Championships (1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2003-04).