Late Lineup Add Alex Kile Scores Twice in Third-Period Comeback
February 18, 2023
Lehigh Valley, PA – Before a wild and raucous atmosphere at PPL Center, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms staged a tremendous late comeback against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for an exciting 4-3 shootout win on Saturday night.
Lehigh Valley (25-19-5) was trailing 2-0 after two periods Alex Kile scored his first two goals of the season in the final frame after Egor Zamula sparked the rally with his first goal of the campaign. Troy Grosenick had 24 saves in his first win since October 23. This game had a little bit of everything, including a penalty-shot save for Grosenick with just 35.5 seconds left in overtime to keep the Phantoms alive.
Kile wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup. The recent addition from the Maine Mariners of the ECHL was an insurance policy in case any additional Phantoms players picked up the flu bug that had been hampering the team. That’s exactly what happened so when Cooper Marody joined Alex Brooks and Ryan Fitzgerald on the unavailable list, in stepped Kile to play a big role.
The wild action left the noisy fans out of breath in what was likely the loudest crowd of the season. And with the action they were witness to on this Whiteout Night, the fans’ reaction wasn’t the least bit surprising.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (21-21-6) took a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes with a pair of second-period strikes against Troy Grosenick. Drake Caggiula (11th) and Alex Nylander (20th) on the power play scored almost exactly 10 minutes apart on rebounds at the net front.
The Phantoms weren’t at their best in the second period but pushed forth with a determined effort in the third period that saw the team generate 19 shots in the final 20 minutes. Zamula and Kile scored just 16 seconds apart, the fastest consecutive goals of the season for Lehigh Valley, to successfully turn the tables of the Baby Pens.
Egor Zamula blasted a drive from right point that beat lefty-style goalie Taylor Gauthier to the stick-side at 3:05 into the third. Zamula’s elated first of the year came just four seconds after a power play had expired and couldn’t have come at a better time for Lehigh Valley.
“Finally! Finally I scored my first one,” Zamula said. “I think now I feel a little bit better (about my game) and I need to keep going.”
With the crowd still roaring from the team’s debut lamplighter of the evening, it was Kile’s turn to shine. Adam Karashik’s shot hit the face of defender Ty Smith at the net front and quickly was tipped by Hayden Hodgson over to Kile on the right of the cage who deposited the rebound for his first goal of the season in his first game with Lehigh Valley of calendar year 2023. It was Kile’s first game with the Phantoms since December 3 after he spent the last two-plus months with the Maine Mariners of the ECHL. The tallies just 16 seconds apart were the team’s fastest consecutive goals of the season.
The Penguins weren’t ready to throw in the towel and Valtteri Puustinen (20th) rocked a power-play one-timer from the left circle to put the visitors back in the lead at 3-2 at just 6:34 into the third period.
Cue another Phantoms comeback. With just 8:39 remaining, Ronnie Attard zipped up the left wing and offered a shot that handcuffed Gauthier. The rebound off the blocker popped over to Kile crashing from the other side whose put-back just eluded the sprawled left skate of Gauthier for the tying tally at 3-3 to practically blow the roof off the building as the crowd erupted.
Kile was ready to jump into the lineup after re-joining the team in Charlotte on Wednesday.
“I feel super-comforatable here,” Kile said. “I’m 28 years old so I’m not a scared rookie or anything like that. Lappy is a great coach and he trusts me in situations in the third period. I’m really familiar with the faces around here and it helps me play better.”
Both teams traded some strong chances in the closing minutes. Then in overtime it was Wilkes-Barre/Scranton controlling the puck for the first two minutes while the Phantoms were chasing after them trying for some possession. But some disruptions led to opportunities the other way. Elliot Desnoyers and Tyson Foerster both had quick entries and offered rapid shots at the net that were deflected away by Gauthier.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton connected with Tyler Sikura past the Phantoms defense. When Kevin Connauton caught up to him and broke up the breakaway he was assessed a penalty and Sikura was granted a penalty shot with just 35.5 seconds to go. But the crowd got even louder when Grosenick showed he was ready for it and denied Sikura in the big moment.
Grosenick went on to stop all three Penguins in the shootout while Bobby Brink scored in the first round for Lehigh Valley. Brink’s rifle off the left post barely bounced across the line before top-spin pushed it back out. The Penguins contended that the puck had not gone into the cage off the post but video-review confirmed it was indeed a good goal for Brink in the first round.
Grosenick anticipated Sam Houde’s attempt in the third round and jumped on a poke-check opportunity to finish the game and clinch the win for the new Daddy of Three who said the incredible energy and intensity of the crowd helped boost the team as well.
“It was awesome,” Grosenick said. “That’s the loudest I think I’ve heard it in here all year. It was great. We came out and got that power play in the third (period) and started buzzing. The fans were a huge part of that comeback. That’s the reason you get that second goal right away.There’s a lot of electricity in the building and the fans were a big part of this one tonight.”
The Phantoms improved to 4-2-1 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and have a rematch with the Penguins in northeast Pennsylvania on Wednesday night.
Lehigh Valley is now 3-2 in shootouts this year and stands at 7-5 in games decided after regulation. Tonight was Lehigh Valley’s first overtime or shootout game in almost a month going back to Louie Belpedio’s second overtime goal of the season on January 18 at Cleveland.
The Phantoms return to action Sunday at 5:05 p.m. at PPL Center taking on the Hartford Wolf Pack. Sunday’s game is meLVin’s Birthday with all his mascot friends and also includes a postgame skate with the players. Fans are encouraged to bring their own skates to the game as there will only be a limited supply available at the arena.
2nd 5:21 – WBS, D. Caggiula (11) (T. Sikura) 0-1
2nd 15:22 – WBS, A. Nylander (20) V. Puustinen, T. Smith) (PP) 0-2
3rd 3:05 – LV, E. Zamula (1) (A. Anisimov, G. Wilson) 1-2
3rd 3:21 – LV, A. Kile (1) (H. Hodgson, A. Karashik) 2-2
3rd 6:34 – WBS, V. Puustinen (20) (A. Nylander, M. Reinke) (PP) 2-3
3rd 12:21 – LV, A. Kile (2) (R. Attard, A. Ginning) 3-3
LV – Brink GOAL, Foerster X
WBS – Nylander X, Svejkovsky X, Houde X
LV 38 – WBS 28
LV 0/3, WBS 2/4
LV – T. Grosenick (W) (3-2-0) (25/28)
WBS – T. Gauthier (SOL) 6-2-2) (34/37)
Lehigh Valley (25-19-5)
Phantoms Tickets are available HERE
Sunday, February 19 (5:05) vs. HARTFORD WOLF PACK
Wednesday, February 22 (7:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Saturday, February 25 (7:00) at Hershey Bears
Sunday, February 26 (5:00) at Bridgeport Islanders
Sunday, February 19 (5:05) vs. Hartford Wolf Pack – meLVin’s Birthday with his Mascot Friends! Postgame Skate with the Phantoms Players
Saturday, March 4 (7:05) vs. Toronto Marlies – Slap Shot Night with Dave Hanson!
Sunday, March 5 (7:05) vs. Providence Bruins – Team Poster Giveaway and Postgame Autographs
Saturday, March 11 (7:05) vs. Belleville Senators – Hockey Fiesta Weekend
Sunday, March 12 (4:05) vs. Utica Comets – meLVin Youth Jersey Day (first 2,000 kids age 4 and younger) and Hockey Fiesta Weekend