Phantoms Late Rally Falls Short

Alumni Greats Return for Weekend Celebration

February 3, 2024

Allentown, PA – J-R Avon (8th) scored a late goal at 6-on-5 to break up a shutout bid for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Joel Blomqvist but the Penguins added an empty-netter shortly thereafter and held on for a 3-1 victory at PPL Center on Saturday night.

Phantoms fans enjoyed the return of several alumni greats and enjoyed the pregame Meet and Greet and autograph session with Colin McDonald, Sam Morin, Will O’Neill, Greg Carey, Steven Swavely and Chris McCarthy. It was a special trip down memory lane for all as part of the team’s 10 Years in the Valley Celebration Weekend.

Will O’Neill even got on the microphone and called for the Phantoms to break through and even specifically requested a goal from Bobby Brink to the delight of the large Saturday house.

Unfortunately, the Phantoms were unable to follow-through and carry-over momentum from Friday night’s 4-1 win over Hershey when Lehigh Valley produced perhaps its best and most consistent effort of the season.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (24-16-6) took an early 1-0 lead at 12:44 into the game when Ty Smith (7th) shot from the right boards following a faceoff win with a shot that squeaked through Parker Gahagen. The Penguins out shot the Phantoms 10-2 in the first period as Lehigh Valley equaled its lowest shot total in a period this season.

Similar to Friday night, the Phantoms again had to kill a long 5-on-3 late in the second period. On Friday, that was the spark for the third period rally to break a 1-1 tie. In Saturday’s game, Jacob Gaucher and Ronnie Attard as well as Adam Ginning and others pulled off a repeat performance on the extended two-man disadvantage to keep the score at just 1-0.

Lehigh Valley (18-18-7) had a huge opportunity with an early third-period power play following the first Penguins’ penalty of the night. But Joona Koppanen took a lead pass and zipped a shot past the blocker of Gahagen for a shorthanded tally at 4:41 into the third for a 2-0 lead.

The Phantoms killed a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton power play late in the third to stay within striking distance and J-R Avon broke through with a blast from the high slot beating Blomqvist to the stick side with 1:54 to go to pull the Phantoms to within a goal again. Ronnie Attard flipped the puck over to Avon for the big drive and Wade Allison received a secondary assist on the play.

But Jonathan Gruden (10th) put the game on ice just 30 seconds later when he pushed his way through for an empty-netter from the left circle.

The Phantoms and Penguins will resume their rivalry with a Friday night rematch at PPL Center when both teams return from the All-Star Break. In an unusual trend, the away team has won all three gams of the season series so far with the Phantmos taking an overtime victory at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on January 6 while the Penguins have won a pair of games at PPL Center during this homestand on January 26 and February 3.

Samu Tuomaala will represent the Phantoms at the AHL All-Star Classic in San Jose, CA on Sunday and Monday before the Phantoms and Penguins meet again next Friday in Allentown.

1st 12:44 – WBS T. Smith (7) (J. Koppanen) (0-1)

3rd 4:41 – J. Koppanen (5) (S. Poulin, R. Shea) (SH) (0-2)
3rd 18:06 – J. Avon (8) (R. Attard, W. Allison) (6×5) (1-2)
3rd J. Gruden (10) (Unassisted) (EN) (1-3)

LV 21 – WBS 26

LV 0/1, WBS 0/3

LV – P. Gahagen (L) (23/25) (4-4-3)
WBS – J. Blomqvist (W) (20/21) (14-7-3)

Lehigh Valley (18-18-7)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (24-16-6)

Sunday, February 4 and Monday, February 5 – AHL All-Star Classic in San Jose, Cal. Samu Tuomaala will represent the Phantoms on the Atlantic Division All-Stars.

Friday, February 9 (7:05) – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley

Saturday, February 10 (7:00) – Lehigh Valley at Bridgeport

Saturday, February 17 (7:05) – Syracuse at Lehigh Valley – Youth Jersey Night from Velaspan and Service Electric