Phantoms Prevail in Historic Goaltenders’ Duel

First 0-0 Regulation Game in Lehigh Valley History

March 3, 2024

Allentown, PA – It was weird. It was historic. Ultimately, it was also a Lehigh Valley win. Cal Petersen and Clay Stevenson matched each other save for save in an unusual game of matching shutouts and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms willed their way to a 1-0 shootout win over the Hershey Bears on Sunday afternoon at PPL Center. J-R Avon and Wade Allison scored in the first two rounds of the shootout while Petersen picked up a 16-save shutout win.

Fans and Mascot Friends celebrated meLVin’s Birthday in style with the Lehigh Valley win. And the players returned to the ice to enjoy the fans’ celebration in a Postgame Skate event presented by NJM Insurance.

It was the first-ever regular season game in Lehigh Valley history to see zero goals for either side after 60 minutes. And this one remained deadlocked after the overtime as well. The only other Lehigh Valley game that was also 0-0 after 60 minutes was the first-ever Lehigh Valley Phantoms playoff game in 2017, also against Hershey, in a classic goalie battle between Alex Lyon and Pheonix Copley.

The last Phantoms game to finish 0-0 at the end of regulation was with the old Adirondack Phantoms prior to the team’s move to Allentown ten years ago. On January 3, 2014 the Adirondack Phantoms defeated the Hershey Bears 1-0 in overtime on a winning goal for Jason Akeson as goaltender Cal Heeter picked up the shutout at the Glens Falls Civic Center in Upstate, New York.

Lehigh Valley (23-22-7) was pushing at the end of a three-game weekend and made sure to continue making smart plays and not beat themselves which the Phantoms knew was a frequent tactic of first-place Hershey. The Phantoms knew it wasn’t going to be easy but they were ready for the challenge.

“Yeah, very happy for the result,” head coach Ian Laperriere said. “That’s three and three hockey right there, you know, like tired group on both sides. They played two and (we had) three, so they should have been a little bit fresher. But I felt like we stayed with it. We stuck with it. We stayed with the game plan and ‘boring’ hockey, you know. But the crowd was happy about that–they were happy about the results. So was the head coach!”

Lehigh Valley also improved to 4-4-2 against the first-place Hershey Bears (41-10-4) including 3-1-0 in the last four meetings in 2024.

The Phantoms largely carried the play in the first period and enjoyed a 7-3 shots advantage from the Hershey Bears as both teams tried to find their offense. Evan Polei dropped the gloves with Hershey captain Dylan McIlrath to the delight of the crowd in the opening minutes of the contest. The scrap also served as something of a tone-setter for a hard-crunching affair with rivalry bumps and checks dealt back-and-forth throughout the contest.

Hershey got it going in the second period but Petersen was right there for the Phantoms after a low-even opening frame. The Bears outshot the Phantoms 11-4 and even had 30 seconds of 5-on-3 power play which the Phantoms successfully killed. One shot from the left of the cage squeaked through Petersen and dramatically rolled across the blue paint tantalizingly close to the line but Adam Ginning swooped in to clear away the dangerous scoring opportunity.

J-R Avon had a pair of big blasts on the power play in that second frame. One of his shots was kicked out by Stevenson off his right pad leading to a quick putback by Samu Tuomaala. But the rookie goaltender, who leads the league with a 1.89 goals-against average entering the night, moved laterally to his right for the clutch denial.

The Phantoms buckled down in the third period and limited the Bears to officially just one shot on goal as the time ticked away and fans began to wonder if either team would be able to successfully break through. But Hershey did have more chances than just the one official shot. Former Phantom Mike Vecchione put a shot past Cal Petersen tat appeared to hit the post and deflect away. And another alum, Garrett Roe of the former Adirondack Phantoms, cut across the high slot and blasted a drive off the right post that clanged out.

Shots in the third period were only 3-1 in favor of the Phantoms. And with just 29 combined shots for the two sides combined the scoreless duel would indeed proceed to overtime.

It was an unusual way to push through 60 minutes of grinding, scrapping hockey. Four combined shots in the third period, 29 in the game, and we played on.

“No, I’ve never seen that before,” Cal Petersen said. “It was a weird game. Wasn’t the cleanest game. I think we were battling a little fatigue on the ice, but found a way to get it done, so that’s all that matters.”

The Phantoms had some strong chances in the overtime that Stevenson successfully handled. But the best chance of the extra frame came for Hershey following a Phantoms’ turnover. Chase Priskie and Joe Snively emerged with a 2-on-0 as they cruised in towards Petersen. After three passes back-and-forth, Snively was ready to unload but Petersen slid to his right to make the big save as the sellout PPL Center contingent erupted.

The end of the overtime brought a Hershey power play but Rhett Gardner and Louie Belpedio made some key plays and clears to work the clock down to all zeros in the game that also remained all zeros for each side.

The energy level in the stands came to a peak in the shootout where Avon made another dazzling move for his league-leading fifth shootout goal of the season in only six tries. Wade Allison blasted one top shelf in Round 2 to put the Phantoms again into the shootout lead and then Petersen stayed with Alex Limoges and rotated over cutting off any realistic shooting attempt. When the puck slipped off the possession of Limoges in the third round that sealed the win and finished Petersen’s 11th career AHL shutout.

Clay Stevenson officially recorded his league-leading seventh shutout even though he did not win the game. That’s a tough break on his 25th birthday as he also set a Hershey franchise record. Four of Stevenson’s shutouts have come at the expense of the Phantoms. But the first three of those were before the New Year. Lehigh Valley improved to 3-1-0 against the Bears in calendar year 2024.

The Phantoms are also 4-2 in shootouts including 2-0 against the Chocolate and White. Lehigh Valley improved to 10-7 in games decided after regulation (overtime and shootout combined). The Phantoms have won their last five contests to be tied at the end of regulation including three shootout wins and two overtime triumphs. Lehigh Valley is also 7-1 in overtimes and shootouts combined since January 1.

Lehigh Valley moved back into a points-percentage tie with Springfield for the sixth-place playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The Thunderbirds technically remain two points ahead of the Phantoms but Lehigh Valley has two games-in-hand with 20 games remaining in the regular season.

The Phantoms return to PPL Center on Friday, March 8 hosting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the opener of a Home-and-Home weekend series. The Phantoms travel to Wilkes-Barre on Friday, March 9 for the first of five straight road contests.

No Goals

LV – J. Avon GOAL, W. Allison GOAL, S. Tuomaala X
HER – K. O’Neill GOAL, J. Snively X, A. Limoges X

LV 18 – HER 16

LV 0/4, HER 0/6

LV – C. Petersen (W) (16/16) (6-9-2)
HER – C. Stevenson (SOL) (17/17) (18-7-2)

Lehigh Valley (23-22-7)
Hershey (41-10-4)

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Friday, March 8 (7:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Berks Dollar Dog Night.
Saturday, March 9 (6:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, March 10 (3:00) at Bridgeport Islanders