Phantoms Punch Their Ticket Via Exciting Comeback
April 8, 2023
Lehigh Valley, PA – It doesn’t get much better than this. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms officially clinched a berth in the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs by scoring three straight goals in the third period to rally from behind and defeat the Springfield Thunderbirds 4-3 on Saturday night at PPL Center. A roaring and raucous crowd exploded in celebration when the videoboard animation confirmed that the Phantoms had indeed made it in.
Trailing 3-1 in the third period, the Force was with Adam Brooks on the team’s annual Star Wars Night. Brooks helped set up three consecutive goals as the Comeback Phantoms showcased yet another Rally in the Valley as has been their hallmark all season in finally breaking through Garret Sparks’ forcefield in the Springfield crease.
First, it was Emil Andrae on the power play who had a “Nice Shot Kid, That was One in a Million” to close the score to 3-2. Then Kevin Connauton’s laser tied the game at 3-3. Finally, Olle Lycksell put the Phantoms ahead for the first time in the game with just 3:24 remaining with the game-wining goal. Lehigh Valley was like Red Five Standing By. Then the team learned that Bridgeport’s 8-2 loss against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins made it official.
Lehigh Valley also vaulted from fifth place up to third place in the division with the coveted two points while receiving a little help from their Death Star rival Hershey Bears who defeated Charlotte 5-2. Lehigh Valley, Springfield and Charlotte are all tied at 80 points apiece but the Phantoms are the top team in that group based on the first tiebreaker which is regulation wins. If the Phantoms finish in the top four in the division then they will receive home-ice advantage for the Best of Three opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Springfield struck for the fastest goal of the season when Tyler Tucker (3rd) buried a rebound just 34 seconds into the game. The Phantoms stormed back with a 14-shot barrage but Garret Sparks conveniently dodged Lehigh Valley’s laser blasters and kept the Phantoms out of the net.
The T-Birds built their advantage to 2-0 on Hugh McGing’s (15th) strike from Will Bitten at 4:14 into the second period for a 2-0 lead while the Phantoms continued to be stymied by the strong netminding of Sparks. Sam Ersson was also solid despite the 2-0 deficit. The Phantoms goaltender made a number of impressive denials including on several odd-man rushes and breakaways.
The Phantoms finally broke through with 3:53 left in the second period on Jordy Bellerive’s eighth goal of the season on a strong assist by Bobby Brink. Bellerive’s big drive from the slot was also assisted by Emil Andrae. That’s great, kid. Don’t get cocky.
But Springfield stretched its lead to 3-1 on a goal for Mikhail Abramov (9th) at 2:11 into the third.
The Phantoms responded exactly one minute later on a power-play rocket from center point by Emil Andrae that he blasted to the upper-right corner to cut the margin back to a single goal at 3-2. Marody and Brooks assisted on the play and it seemed all momentum had tilted in Lehigh Valley’s favor as the PPL Center Saturday night crowd’s energy boosted the team’s frenetic charge.
Kevin Connauton, now that’s a name I have not heard in a long time, received a strong drop from Adam Brooks. His timely third goal of the season was blasted home from the top of the right circle with 10:55 remaining in the third to tie the score at 3-3.
Olle “Light Saber” Lycksell helped set up the tying goal and then scored the winning tally on the back door on a strong cross-ice feed by Brooks with Tyson Foerster keeping the play alive. Lycksell is also on a three-game goal streak. While Foerster extended his combined point streak to 11 games between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley combined. His seven-game point streak with the Phantoms is the team’s longest of the season.
Ersson picked up his 24th win of the season via a 33-save performance in another strong effort.
The Phantoms recently had a three-game win streak in which they rallied from deficits from the third period each time. Lehigh Valley has won six of its last seven games and in four of those contests the Comeback Phantoms have trailed in the third period. The Phantoms are also on a three-game win streak and have gone 11-4-0 in their last 15 games since March 4 as the team is peaking down the stretch of the regular season.
The Phantoms have three games remaining in the regular season in their current drive to clinch home-ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Lehigh Valley plays at the Bridgeport Islanders on Wednesday night and then returns to PPL Center for the last home game of the season on Friday against the Charlotte Checkers. The regular season finale is on Saturday, April 15 at the Hershey Bears.
1st 0:34 – SPR, T. Tucker (3) (N. Alexandrov, H. McGing) 0-1
2nd 4:14 – SPR, H. McGing (15) (W. Bitten) 0-2
2nd 16:07 – LV, J. Bellerive (8) (B. Brink, E. Andrae) (PP) 1-2
3rd 2:11 – SPR, M. Abramov (9) (M. Laferriere, T. Tucker) 1-3
3rd 3:11 – LV, E. Andrae (2) (C. Marody, A. Brooks) 2-3
3rd 9:05 – LV, K. Connauton (3) (A. Brooks, O. Lycksell) 3-3
3rd 16:36 – LV, O. Lycksell (13) (A. Brooks, T. Foerster) 4-3
LV 36 – SPR 36
LV 1/3, SPR 0/1
LV – S. Ersson (W) (24-14-1) (33/36)
SPR – G. Sparks (L) (1-2-0) (32/36)
Lehigh Valley (37-26-6)
Phantoms Tickets are available HERE
Wednesday, April 12 (7:00) at Bridgeport Islanders
Friday, April 14 (7:05) vs. CHARLOTTE CHECKERS
Saturday, April 15 (7:00) at Hershey Bears
UPCOMING AT PPL CENTER
Friday, April 14 (7:05) vs. Charlotte Checkers – Regular Season Home Finale. Berks $1 Hot Dogs
CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS – TBD