Anthony Stolarz Magnificent Again in 35-Save Gem
December 4, 2015
Wilkes-Barre, PA – Buying into head coach Scott Gordon’s pregame challenge to compete with the top team in the league, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms responded with grit and determination in a 3-1 victory at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night. In the process, the Phantoms pinned the first home-loss of the season for Wilkes-Barre ending their franchise-record ten-game home win streak. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who had won 15 of their last 16 games, fell to an overall record of 16-3-0. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, with their third win in their last four, evened their overall mark back to the .500 mark at 11-11-1.
Anthony Stolarz with one of his 35 stops at Wilkes-Barre on Friday night.
Just like Lehigh Valley’s road-trip opening win at Utica on Wednesday, it was the Anthony Stolarz show yet again. The 21-year-old netminder was perhaps a smidge better than his spectacular game on Wednesday as he turned aside 35 of 36 shots. He maybe wasn’t required to make quite as many jaw-dropping saves in the course of the game. But he received a heavier overall load of shots that came from a team with some of the deepest offensive scoring punch of any in the AHL. Incredibly, the Friday evening performance may have been even more challenging than his scintillating and sensational evening in Utica on Wednesday. Stolarz was deservedly the #1 Star of the Game for the second contest in a row.
The battle was the second of the year between the Pennsylvania rivals who will face each other 10 more times in 2015-16 including three more engagements in the month of December alone. The Penguins will surely have plenty of motivation for their rematch opportunities in their debut appearances at PPL Center on Friday, December 11 and Wednesday, December 16.
Getting geared up and motivated for an opportunity to take down the top team in the league was not difficult for the visiting Phantoms.
“We took it as a challenge for the team,” Taylor Leier said of going toe-to-toe with a dominatingly successful Penguins contingent.
“Coach (Gordon) kind of challenged us before the game,” Leier continued. ” ‘This is our biggest game of the season….’ even though we’re only 22 games into the season. I think the guys were excited before the game. (Gordon’s talk) kind of gave us a little jump. We played pretty well to start the game and we kind of just rolled with it.”
The Phantoms trailed 1-0 after one highly competitive first period. Then as the play got chippier in the second, Lehigh Valley’s offense was able to find their stride pumping in a pair of goals past another young goaltender talent, Matt Murray. Aaron Palushaj’s breakaway strike on the power play and then Mark Alt’s first of the season provided the Phantoms to a 2-1 advantage. It stayed a one-goal game for the rest of the way until Taylor Leier’s empty-net strike sailed down the length of the ice with 21 seconds remaining to seal the exciting victory.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took the early advantage with a goal at 2:58 pumped in by Conor Sheary on a goal-mouth scramble after the Phantoms were unable to clear the zone early. Scott Wilson and Kael Mouillerat assisted on the tally and the Penguins carried a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. Mike Sullivan’s crew were previously 11-0 when scoring the first goal but the Phantoms were out to change some of the Penguins’ dominating trends in this contest.
The disadvantage at the opening break could have been worse as the Penguins were offered consecutive power plays later in the first. But the Penguins were unable to build on their 1-0 lead due to some big saves by Stolarz, big blocks by the defense, and a little help from lady luck in the form of a shot off the far iron by Jean-Sebastian Dea cranking up a quality blast from the left circle.
In the second period, the Phantoms received their first power play opportunity of the night. Anthony Stolarz stopped a shorthanded drive and handed off the puck to Andrew MacDonald whose long stretch pass was perfectly on the tape for Palushaj who did a nifty forehand to backhand move thus opening Murray’s five-hole providing the breakaway conversion. The assist credited to Stolarz was his first point of the season.
Four minutes later, at almost the midway point of the game, Mark Alt scored his first goal of the season in the second period. Tim Brent in the left corner spotted an open Mark Alt across the ice and connected with the third-year defenseman who took one stride forward and wristed home his first tally of the season from just inside the right dot.
“Timmy Brent was taking it wide and I knew he looked at me,” Alt said. “So I kept saying and he threw it to the middle. It was a perfect pass right on my tape and I just let ‘er fly.”
While the Phantoms offense was making the most of their opportunities, it was Stolarz on the other end who was providing the foundation the team needed. “Stolie the Goalie” turned aside all 16 shots he faced in the middle frame.
The third period was like a slow-motion grind to the finish line against an even more motivated Penguins team determined to keep their perfect home-ice record intact. And the Phantoms found their backs to the wall even more when Davis Drewiske’s attempt to clear the zone took an unfortunate roll off his stick and sailed into the crowd for a Delay of Game penalty. But the penalty kill continued to push forth with their recent success and in the 4-on-6 situation were able to limit Wilkes-Barre’s opportunities eventually leading to Leier’s long game-sealing empty-net strike with 20.8 seconds showing on the clock. It was the team’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season and his second.
“The penalty kill was really important for our team,” Leier said. “And we scored on the power play too. Our special teams were really good tonight.”
But the Anthony Stolarz performance was still the headline grabber of the evening and Leier nicely summed up the play of the big netminder as well.
“Stolarz is the main key to our penalty kill,” Leier said. ” I persoanlly haven’t seen him play as good as he’s playing right now.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton out shot the Phantoms 36-22. The Phantoms were 1-for-3 on the power play while holding the potent Penguins power play producers to 0-for-6 including the empty-net shorthanded strike by Leier AGAINST the Wilkes-Barre man-advantage.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms conclude their three-game road swing on Saturday night at Hershey which will be the 200th meeting all-time between the Phantoms and Bears in the 20-year history of their rivalry series. All the action can be heard both nights beginning with the Countdown to Faceoff at 6:20 on 1470-AM, FOX1470.com and the iHeartRadio app.
The Phantoms return to PPL Center for their longest homestand of the year which opens on Wednesday, December 9th against Hershey. The stretch of five consecutive Allentown contests continues on Friday, December 11th against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with a T-Shirt giveaway, Ugly Holiday Sweater Style. On Saturday, December 12th against the Springfield Falcons it’s the Phantoms annual Teddy Bear Toss plus a post-game skate with the players for fans who bring their skates to the game.
Fans are encouraged to purchase tickets in advance via PPLCenter.com or by calling 610-347-TIXX (8499) or in person at the Mealey’s Furniture Box Office at PPL Center located at the corner of Seventh and Hamilton.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 1 – Status: Final
Friday, December 4, 2015 – Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
Lehigh Valley 0 2 1 – 3
W-B/Scranton 1 0 0 – 1
1st Period-1, W-B/Scranton, Sheary 4 (Wilson, Mouillierat), 2:58. Penalties-Morin Lv (slashing), 7:16; Brent Lv (hooking), 9:32.
2nd Period-2, Lehigh Valley, Palushaj 6 (MacDonald, Stolarz), 5:35 (PP). 3, Lehigh Valley, Alt 1 (Brent, Morin), 9:48. Penalties-Hagg Lv (hooking), 2:15; Mouillierat Wbs (roughing), 5:09; Palushaj Lv (slashing), 7:03; Sheary Wbs (cross-checking), 7:03; Goulbourne Lv (high-sticking), 12:51; Mouillierat Wbs (holding), 13:44.
3rd Period-4, Lehigh Valley, Leier 6 19:39 (SH EN). Penalties-Brent Lv (tripping), 0:45; Sundqvist Wbs (interference), 5:12; Drewiske Lv (delay of game), 18:01.
Shots on Goal-Lehigh Valley 9-8-5-22. W-B/Scranton 10-16-10-36.
Power Play Opportunities-Lehigh Valley 1 / 3; W-B/Scranton 0 / 6.
Goalies-Lehigh Valley, Stolarz 9-4-0 (36 shots-35 saves). W-B/Scranton, Murray 10-3-0 (21 shots-19 saves).
Referees-David Banfield (77).
Linesmen-Tom DellaFranco (71), Jud Ritter (34).
Upcoming Home Games:
Wednesday, December 9, 2015, Hershey Bears vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 7:05 p.m. | TIX
(Light the Night.)
Friday, December 11, 2015, WB/Scranton Penguins vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 7:05 p.m. | TIX
(T-Shirt Giveaway. Free Ugly Holiday Sweater Phantoms Shirt to First 8,500 Fans in Attendance.)
Saturday, December 12, 2015, Springfield Falcons vs. Lehigh Valley Phantoms, 7:05 p.m. | TIX
(Post-Game Skate with Phantoms Players presented by Big Woody’s. Teddy Bear Toss presented by Dan’s Camera City.)
In the midst of their 20th season of operation, the Phantoms are coming off 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 in Philadelphia 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 19 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).