Samu Strikes Again But Monsters Bounce Phantoms

12th of the Year for Sensational Samu

January 19, 2024

Cleveland, OH – Samu Tuomaala (12th) and Jacob Gaucher (4th) scored the first and last goals of the night but in between came four markers from the host Cleveland Monsters, including two from James Malatesta (9th, 10th), in a 4-2 decision on Friday night in northeast Ohio. The Phantoms were pressuring in the closing minutes of the game which included a 6-on-4 power play and extra attacker with three minutes to go. But the Phantoms were unable to break through and cut the deficit any further on goaltender Jet Greaves as the Monsters escaped with the victory.

Lehigh Valley (16-15-6) drew first blood late in the first period with Tuomaala’s quick putback on a Ginning shot that was tipped by Olle Lycksell and then rebounded back in front quickly off the end-boards. The 21-year-old rookie and Phantoms All-Star representative was ready for the opportunity with a fast stick and a shot to the upper-far corner for a 1-0 lead.

But the Phantoms’ lead was especially short-lived as the first-place Monsters countered just 12 seconds later. Rookie Luca Del Bel Belluz picked off a Lehigh Valley clearing try and was already for a quick effort on net to beat Cal Petersen to the far post from the right slot thus forging a 1-1 tie.

Lehigh Valley outshot the Monsters 14-7 in the first period and broke up several rapid counter-attacks from the fast-paced Cleveland forwards.

Cleveland (24-10-2) struck twice to begin the second period with a pair of tallies by rookie James Malatesta. His first goal came on the power play on the deflection of a point shot to tip the drive to the right post after Petersen was moving the opposite way. That goal at 1:33 into the second period made it 2-1 and it was less than two minutes later for Malatesta to strike again.

His next strike would come at 3:14 on the back-end of a 2-on-1 where he would hang on to the puck an extra tick to draw out Petersen. Malatesta still had enough of an angle to fling the puck behind the Phantoms goalie and slide the extra marker into the net for a 3-1 cushion.

The Phantoms had peppered away with 14 shots on goal in the first period but Cleveland secured its defense somewhat in the second frame surrendering just one shot on goal in the opening 11 minutes of the middle stanza.

Lehigh Valley kept pushing but eventually surrendered momentum when Cleveland was afforded another power-play opportunity. This time it was Christensen sniping on the rush to beat Petersen with another man-advantage goal for a 4-1 lead at 18:11 into the second period.

The Phantoms pushed back in the third with Victo Mete driving up the left boards and offering a sharp-angle drive for a nifty deflection en route by Gaucher to cut the deficit to 4-2 with 12:46 remaining. Gaucher had scored his first goal with the Phantoms on December 27 to jump-start his offensive output. The second-year pro who had 22 goals last season with the Reading Royals of the ECHL now has four goals in the last nine games with the Phantoms.

Lehigh Valley had some strong efforts at 6-on-4 and 6-on-5 in the closing minutes but Cleveland held off the Phantoms long enough to snag the win.

The Phantoms and Monsters rematch on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in the finale of Lehigh Valley’s three-game road trip.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms open a six-game homestand at PPL Center on Friday, January 26 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and then take on the Toronto Marlies on Saturday, January 27 on Racing Night and also Phantoms Youth Winter Hat Night presented by Reilly Children’s Hospital of the Lehigh Valley.

1st 17:31 – LV, S. Tuomaala (12) (A. Ginnig, O. Lycksell) (1-0)
1st 17:43 – CLE, L. Del Bel Belluz (5) (Unassisted) (1-1)

2nd 1:33 – CLE, J. Malatesta (9) (S. Svozil, H. McKown) (PP) (1-2)
2nd 3:14 – CLE, J. Malatesta (10) (J. Pearson, C. Clayton) (1-3)
2nd 18:11 – CLE, J. Christiansen (7) (L. Del Bel Belluz, J. Malatesta) (PP) (1-4)

3rd 7:14 – LV, J. Gaucher (4) (V. Mete, B. Furry) (2-4)

LV 26 – CLE 22

LV 0/4, CLE 0/4

LV – C. Petersen (L) (5-8-2) (18/22)
CLE – J. Greaves (W) (18-5-1) (24/26)

Lehigh Valley (16-15-6)
Cleveland (24-10-2)

Saturday, January 20 (7:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Cleveland Monsters

Friday, January 26 (7:05) – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley
Saturday, January 27 (7:05) – Toronto at Lehigh Valley – Racing Night and Youth Winter Hats from Reilly Children’s Hospital of Lehigh Valley

Friday, February 2 (7:05) – Hershey at Lehigh Valley – 10th Anniversary Celebration Weekend
Saturday, February 3 (7:05) – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Lehigh Valley – 10th Anniversary Celebration Weekend