Pat Nagle Backstops 29-Save Gem
Decemer 21, 2021
Lehigh Valley, PA – Pat Nagle improved to 4-0-2 in a 29-save effort that might have been his best game of the season as the Phantoms hung on for a 2-1 win over the Hershey Bears on Tuesday night at PPL Center.
Hershey broke Nagle’s shutout bid with just 3:07 to go on a goal for Ryan Dmowski. And the Bears later scored what WOULD have been a tying goal but the Phantoms were saved by the horn as the game ended approximately a half-second before the puck went in.
Connor Bunnaman (4th) extended his goal-streak to three and Charlie Gerard scored his first goal for Lehigh Valley (7-11-6) to provide the Phantoms with just enough offense in this tense goaltenders’ dual.
The Phantoms’ five-game point streak has seen the team go 4-0-1 since December 11. Lehigh Valley improved to 2-1-0 against their rivals from Hershey (12-9-3) with whom a rematch is scheduled for Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. over in Chocolatetown.
Lehigh Valley leaned on its penalty kill in the first period as the team worked through three Hershey power plays.
The Phantoms had a power play of their own and ultimately converted on the carry-over of the momentum of that man-advantage late in the first period. Cal O’Reilly’s pass from the right boards for Maksim Sushko in the slot was deflected through when Sushko’s stick was tied up. But the puck bounced over to Gerard on the backdoor on the right side of the crease for the tap-in. The speedy winger from Rocky River, Ohio has been afforded an opportunity by Ian Laperriere to play on a top line and was further rewarded for his strong play with his first goal of the season with 5:48 remaining in the first period for a 1-0 lead.
Lehigh Valley boosted its lead at 7:14 into the second period when Connor Bunnaman took the puck from the right boards and dashed his way towards the crease on a power-move to the net. He might have originally been intending to find an opening to connect with Garrett Wilson in the slot but Bunnaman determined that the lane to drive to the goal was availabe and he was proven correct. His initial try to stuff the puck five-hole on Pheonix Copley was stuffed off the Hershey’s goaltender’s right knee but the rebound to Copley’s right followed the track that Bunnaman was already heading thus offering a quick put-back opportunity that Bunnaman buried on the backhand for a 2-0 lead.
Gerry Mayhew and Egor Zamula assisted on the tally. The assist gave Mayhew sole possession of the team-lead in points with 16 just hours after he was planning on making his Flyers’ debut following a recall earlier in the morning that preceded Philadelphia’s game being postponed.
Bunnaman almost scored again in the same period when he was on the backdoor to receive a cross-ice pass from O’Reilly on the right boards. But Copley got over there with an acrobatic save kicking out his right leg to deny the red-hot scorer.
Much of the rest of the period was an exercise in the Phantoms trying to hang on againt a heightened Hershey push. Nagle made a number of strong stops along the way as the Phantoms were out shot 11-5 in the second including 11-3 in the last 18 minutes of the period.
The situation was almost similar for portions of the third period in which Hershey enjoyed an 11-4 shot advantage. But Nagle was there to stuff the Bears repeatedly. Ryan Dmowski finally broke through with 3:07 left when he slipped underneath the Phantoms coverage and on top of Nagle to put in a backhander to the glove side of the veteran goalie.
Hershey had a 6-on-4 power play chance with 11 seconds left and almost ended up tying the game but Lehigh Valley escaped with the win.
Nagle has been a goalie every night of the five-game point streak including three starts and two relief appearances. The 34-year-old on an AHL contract is the ECHL’s active winningest goalie with 198 wins. At the AHL level, Nagle recorded his 20th career win and fell just barely more than three minutes shy of his first career AHL shutout after recording 17 blank sheets in the ECHL.
The Phantoms return to action on Wednesday night with a rematch at Hershey before departing for the holiday break.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms return to PPL Center on Wednesday, December 29 hosting the Cleveland Monsters. The Phantoms are also at home on New Years’ Day with a game on Saturday, January 1 at 6:05 p.m. against the Bridgeport Islanders.
1st 14:12 – LV, C. Gerard (1) (M. Sushko, C. O’Reilly) 1-0
2nd 7:14 – LV, C. Bunnaman (4) (G. Mayhew, E. Zamula) 2-0
3rd 16:53 – HER, R. Dmowski (4) (K. Clark, D. Rymsha) 2-1
LV 19 – HER 30
LV 0/3 – HER 0/5
LV – Pat Nagle (W) (4-0-2) (29/30)
HER – Pheonix Coply (L) (8-5-2) (17/19)
Lehigh Valley (7-11-6)