Phantoms Rally Late for OT Win in Season Opener

Rookie Wyatte Wylie Ties Game with 44.7 Seconds Left

February 6, 2021

Hershey, PA – Rookie defenseman Wyatte Wylie made the most of his pro debut. The 21-year-old defenseman from Everett, WA scored the dramatic tying goal with just 44.7 seconds remaining and then sent a lead pass to Ryan Fitzgerald who scored the winning goal in overtime in a thrilling 2-1 season-opening triumph on the road in Hershey.

It took over 59 minutes before the Phantoms could break through with their first goal of the season on head coach Scott Gordon’s birthday. But veteran Chris Mueller won a clean faceoff in the right circle perfectly setting up Wylie for a big one-timer from center-point that finally beat Pheonix Copley for Lehigh Valley’s first goal of the season and Wylie’s first of his career.

Mueller almost won the game in overtime but was denied at the doorstep on back-to-back point-blank tries by Copley just moments after Max Willman had pushed through on a hard drive to the net.

But just a few seconds later, Wylie, from the neutral zone, spotted an open Ryan Fitzgerald up the left wing who blasted the winning goal past Copley from the top of the left circle with 3:02 remaining in overtime to cap the incredible comeback.

Hershey drew first blood at 13:02 of the second period on a two-on-one with Kody Clark deflecting Eddie Wittchow’s centering pass for a 1-0 lead. And that advantage held up almost the rest of the way before the Never-Say-Die Phantoms eventually broke through.

Zane McIntyre was exceptional in his Phantoms debut. The former long-time Providence Bruins netminder had played for the Utica Comets and Binghamton Devils last year. The University of North Dakota product turned aside 34 of 35 Hershey shots to keep the Phantoms in contention and give the team a chance for the last minute rally. On one play in the third period, a turnover from behind the Phantoms goal led to a glorious chance in front of an open net. But McIntyre scrambled back out in front to barely get a piece of the shot with about seven minutes remaining thus keeping the Phantoms within a single goal.

With his first shift in the first period, newcomer Zayde Wisdom established a Phantoms record as the youngest player in franchise history. The fourth-round selection of the Flyers in 2020 from the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League is 18 years and 6 months and 30 days old which is 20 days younger than Derek Mathers was when he debut with the Adirondack Phantoms in March 2012. Wisdom becomes the first 18-year-old in Lehigh Valley history and the fourth ever 18-year-old in franchise history joining Mathers, Nick Cousins and Scott Laughton.

The game also marked the (North American) professional debuts of several other rookies including first-round selection Tyson Foerster, Egor Zamula, Linus Sandin, Linus Hogberg and Tanner Laczynski.

The Phantoms had their chances to begin the game with three power plays in the first period but Copley, as well as the Hershey Penalty Kill, hung on to keep the game scoreless.

Lehigh Valley was slow out of the gates to begin the second period while the Bears pressed hard with a 9-0 shots advantage in the middle frame. Head coach Scott Gordon adjusted the line combos which changed the tide significantly with the Phantoms generating more chances but Hershey successfully broke the scoreless deadlock a couple minutes later.

It looked like Hershey’s 1-0 lead might hold up the rest of the way. The Bears kept disrupting the Phantoms efforts to push into the zone with a couple minutes left and Lehigh Valley had difficulty finding a clean opportunity to remove goalie Zane McIntyre for an extra attacker. But one of several key faceoff wins for 34-year-old AHL veteran Chris Mueller made the difference for Wylie’s tying goal. The two-time Calder Cup winning Mueller notched his 566th career point in his 772nd AHL game to set up Wylie’s first career pro point in his first pro game.

Lehigh Valley is now 5-2-0 in season openers and the Phantoms franchise improves to 18-7-0 all-time dating back to the beginning of the Philadelphia Phantoms in 1996. The Phantoms are 2-0-0 in season openers at Hershey having also won in overtime at Giant Center on October 5, 2013 as the Adirondack Phantoms on a winning goal by Brandon Manning assisted by Petr Straka.

It was the first Phantoms game in 332 days since March 11, 2020.  And it was the first Phantoms overtime victory in almost exactly one year. The last overtime win for the Phantoms was February 14, 2020 at PPL Center against Bridgeport.

Hershey out shot the Phantoms 35-28 but the Phantoms had the shots advantage in overtime 5-0. Hershey held a 17-7 shots advantage at just past the midway point of the game but Lehigh Valley out shot the Bears 21-11 for roughly the second half of the game and the overtime.

Lehigh Valley was 0-for-5 on the power play while Hershey finished at 0-for-4. The two Pennsylvania rivals will meet 13 more times in the 2021 season.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms jump out to the lead in the inaugural Provident Bank Pennsylvania Cup Standings with a 1-0-0 record in intra-state play while Hershey is 0-0-1 and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 0-0-0.

The Phantoms continue their season-opening four-game road-swing on Wednesday night in Newark, N.J. against the Binghamton Devils and will return to ChocolateTown on Sunday, February 14 for a Valentine’s matinee at 1:00 p.m.

2nd, 13:02 – HER, Kody Clark (1) (Eddie Wittchow)
3rd, 19:15 – LV, Wyatte Wylie (1) (Chris Mueller)
OT, 1:58 – LV, Ryan Fitzgerald (1) (Wyatte Wylie)

LV – Zane McIntyre (34/35) (1-0-0)
HER – Pheonix Copley (23/25) (0-0-1)

Power Plays
LV – 0-for-5
HER – 0-for-4

Records: LV (1-0-0), HER (0-0-1)