Sandstrom Strong in Loss to P-Bruins

Providence Bests Phantoms 2-0

December 8, 2023

Allentown, PA – Felix Sandstrom put forth a strong 23-save performance, but the Providence Bruins came away with a 2-0 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Friday night at PPL Center. The Phantoms will look to turn the page in a matter of hours and spread the holiday cheer versus the Charlotte Checkers on Teddy Bear Toss Night presented by Big Woody’s on Saturday.

John Farinacci and Reilly Walsh scored power-play markers for Providence (12-8-3) to lead the visitors while Michael DiPietro stopped all 19 shots he faced for his second shutout of the season and the Phantoms second blank sheet against this year.

Sandstrom kept the Phantoms in the game. And especially so in the first period with 11 saves including several dazzlers. One sequence featured back-to-back denials in tight including a sparkling left-pad save flashing out the leg to deny Jayson Megna on the rebound down low.

The Phantoms were slow to get started and had a season-low two shots on goal in the first period but came out with renewed focus and determination in the second on some stronger challenges in the Providence end.

But penalty issues would cost Lehigh Valley in this contest and Providence would finally find an answer against Sandstrom almost exactly midway through the game but needed two extra skaters on the ice to do so. The Bruins tallied on the 5-on-3 man-advantage with John Farinacci converting his seventh goal of the season at the net-front  with a chip upstairs at 9:43 into the second frame.

Lehigh Valley (9-9-4) was pressuring hard again in the third period and DiPietro and the Bruins defense were barely hanging on when Lehigh Valley was assessed a momentum-killing penalty at precisely the wrong time. Providence would take advantage of its good fortune with its second power-play goal of the evening courtesy of Reilly Walsh at the 8:09 mark of the final period.

Lehigh Valley pulled goaltender Felix Sandstrom with just under 3:30 remaining and eventually had another power-play chance of its own for a 6-on-4 opportunity. That was the strongest push of the night for the Phantoms but Michael DiPietro stopped all 19 Lehigh Valley shots in the game.

The Phantoms entered the night with a 25.6% power-play conversion ratio which rated #1 in the AHL but had their impressive streak of nine consecutive games with a man-advantage marker snapped in this contest.

Lehigh Valley and Providence faced off three times in the last three weekends but will not see each other again until a two-game series in Rhode Island in mid-March.

Next up for the Phantoms is Teddy Bear Chaos! Saturday is the team’s annual Teddy Bear Toss Night, presented by Big Woody’s. Phans get to throw their Teddy Bears and stuffed animal donations onto the ice after the Phantoms score their first goal of the game against the Charlotte Checkers. Last year, Phantoms Phans donated 8,480 total stuffed animals on the special night when Cooper Marody triggered the Flying Furballs with his goal in the second period. Nic Aube-Kubel has the record for Lehigh Valley’s fastest Teddy Bear Goal when he scored just 59 seconds into the game in 2016.

It’s a special holiday tradition that benefits area kids with the team’s goal scorer personally delivering the thousands of teddy bears to our friends at Valley Youth House.



2nd 9:43 – PRO, J. Farinacci (7) (G. Merkulov, J. Megna) (PP) (0-1)

3rd 8:09 – PRO, R. Walsh (2) (J. Brazeau, G. Merkulov) (PP) (0-2)

LV 19 – PRO 25

LV 0/5, PRO 2/6

LV – F. Sandstrom (23/25) (L) (1-1-2)
PRO – M. DiPietro (19/19) (W) (6-3-0)

Lehigh Valley (9-9-4)
Providence (12-8-3)


Saturday, December 9 (7:05 p.m.) – Charlotte Checkers at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Teddy Bear Toss presented by Big Woody’s!

Wednesday, December 13 (7:05) – Charlotte Checkers at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Military Appreciation Night
Friday, December 15 (7:05) – Laval Rocket at Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Saturday, December 16 (7:05) – Springfield Thunderbirds at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Hispanic Heritage Night, Los Fantasmas!!