Phantoms Unable to Trim Magic Number

Penguins Prevail 5-1 in Weekend Finale

April 7, 2024

Wilkes-Barre, PA – Phan Nation arrived in full force on multiple phan busses as the Phantoms Premier Members had their own invasion into Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ territory but a magnificent performance by Joel Blomqvist propelled the Baby Pens to a 5-1 victory on Sunday afternoon in the rivalry matchup.

Lehigh Valley’s Magic Number to clinch a playoff spot remains at seven points with five games remaining in the regular season. The Phantoms maintain a four-point advantage over the Springfield Thunderbirds for the last postseason position.

Lehigh Valley (29-29-9) certainly deserved a better margin in this game in front of their roughly 350 fans dressed in orange and black who trekked up the northeast extension to bring a Phantoms Phlavor inside Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.  However, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Joel Blomqvist was ready for the challenge and was magnificent in improving to 6-1-2 against Lehigh Valley with an impressive 35-save gem that may rate as his best against the Phantoms for the rookie from Finland. A number of spectacular saves held the Phantoms out and kept the Penguins ahead on the scoreboard. A slumping power play that finished at 0-for-6 also didn’t help.

Lehigh Valley enjoyed three power-play chances in the first period but couldn’t break through and, in fact, allowed the Penguins to strike for the first goal of the game. Avery Hayes up the right boards connected with Jack Rathbone rushing up the middle for the shorthanded goal at 13:29 into the contest and a 1-0 lead.

Earlier in the period, Felix Sandstrom made a highlight-reel caliber save of his own when he denied Vinny Hinostroza on the breakaway out of the box. Hinostroza put on a strong move but Sandstrom was ready to reach back with the left leg to make the against-the-grain style denial.

Zayde Wisdom came close near the end of the first period when his shot from the right circle handcuffed Blomvist and then his backhand put-back while following his own rebound was also fought off.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (36-22-9) took control in the opening moments of the middle period when they scored on the power play just 11 seconds in. Radim Zohorna chased down a puck behind the Phantoms defense in the corner and connected with an onrushing Hinostroza with the tap-in on top of Sandstrom and a 2-0 lead.

Sandstrom made some strong saves in the second period to keep the Phantoms within a pair. His quick rotation to his left to deny rehabbing Jansen Harkins one-timer from the right-dot was probably the best of the bunch.

Harkins also threatened early in the third period but his power-play drive from the top of the left circle clanged off the right post and came back out.

Wisdom responded with a post shot of his own for Lehigh Valley zipping one of his chances off the iron as the Phantoms just missed on an opportunity to cut into the deficit.

Newcomer Mathieu St. Phalle got a piece of a Xavier Ouellet point shot to extend the Penguins’ advantage to 3-0 at 4:37 into the third period after Sandstrom made an initial save on a shot from the opposite point.

The Phantoms kept pushing though and racked up 18 shots on Blomqvist as part of an offensive barrage in the third.

Finally, with the goaltender pulled, Jacob Gaucher (8th) buried the team’s first goal of the day on a scramble at the net front past a diving and flailing Blomqvist to get the Phantoms on the board with 5:03 remaining.

Lehigh Valley pulled the goaltender again but this time Avery Hayes (3rd) would connect for an empty-netter from the red line. Lukas Svejkovsy concluded the scoring with a power-play snipe in garbage time with under a minute remaining to provide for the 5-1 final.

The Phantoms are 4-6-1 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton who has now won the last four head-to-head meetings in the season series.

The Phantoms and Penguins are currently projected to meet in the first-round of the Calder Cup Playoffs in a 6 vs. 3 matchup that would be a Best of 3 series.

Up next is a Friday matchup at the Hershey Bears before the Phantoms return home on Saturday to return to their Los Fantasmas identity on Hockey Fiesta Night against the Bridgeport Islanders.

1st 13:29 – WBS, J. Rathbone (8) (A. Hayes) (SH) (0-1)

2nd 0:11 – WBS, V. Hinostroza (15) (R. Zohorna, A. Rueschhoff) (PP) (0-2)

3rd 4:37 – WBS, M. De St. Phalle (1) (X. Ouellet, C. Andonovski) (0-3)
3rd 14:57 – LV, J. Gaucher (8) (E. Desnoyers, E. Samson) (6×5) (1-3)
3rd 15:31 – A. Hayes (3) (EN) 1-4)
3rd 19:02 – L Svejkovsky (2) (E. Vierling, R. Ansons) (PP) (1-5)

LV 28 – WBS 36

LV 0/6, WBS 2/7

LV – F. Sandstrom (L) (23/27) (12-7-3)
WBS – J. Blomqvist (W) (35/36) (24-10-6)

Lehigh Valley (29-29-9)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (36-22-9)


Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Friday, April 12 (7:00) at Hershey Bears
Saturday, April 13 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders – Hockey Fiesta!! Los Fantasmas!

Friday, April 19 (7:00) at Bridgeport Islanders
Saturday, April 20 (7:05) vs. W-B/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, April 21 (3:05) vs. Charlotte Checkers – Our Valley, Our Home Day – End of Regular Season!