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Syracuse Outlasts Phantoms 2-1

February 17, 2024

Allentown, PA – Fluky bounces abound in a tightly played contest between the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Syracuse Crunch with all three goals finding little or big redirections as part of a 2-1 triumph for visiting Syracuse on Saturday night at PPL Center. Rhett Gardner (6th) scored the lone tally for the Phantoms on a redirect of a Bobby Brink shot but the Phantoms were unable to acquire another equalizer in the third despite a bevy of chances on Crunch netminder Hugo Alnefelt.

A packed house crowd filled PPL Center on an electric Saturday night as the team posted a Standing Room Only sign at the box office window for the first time since 2017. The jammed and noisy contingent of 8,758 represented Lehigh Valley’s largest crowd in over four years. The fans were undoubtedly motivated by the meLVin Youth Jersey Giveaway that was provided to the first 2,000 kiddos in attendance courtesy of our friends at Velaspan and Service Electric.

The game marked the 39th time for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to break the 8,700 attendance mark at PPL Center where seating capacity is 8,420.

Parker Gahagen (5-5-3) had another strong game in net with 24 saves on 26 shots but was on the wrong end of some unfortunate puck-luck. All three goals were scored on the power play and found some tips and sticks on their way in.

Syracuse (27-15-5) broke a scoreless deadlock at 11:26 into the second period when captain Gabriel Dumont (10th) slid the puck across the crease to inadvertently play a bank off a Phantoms defender for an unlucky goal on Gahagen. The power-play marker had given the Tampa Bay Lightning affiliate a 1-0 lead.

Lehigh Valley (20-19-7) pushed through some of the suffocating defense of the hard-working Crunch to find its own power-play goal at 18:02 into the second period. Bobby Brink carried across the high slot from right to left. His pump-fake froze the defenders in front of him and allowed him to go back against the grain to connect with Gardner’s stick presented in the low-right slot for a redirection perhaps off a Syracuse stick as well and past the left leg of Alnefelt to forge the 1-1 tie. Brink has scored 3-3-6 in eight games since joining the Phantoms a little less than a month ago. Samu Tuomaala received a secondary assist on the play and rates third among AHL rookies this season having scored 13-23-36.

It was another bouncer for Syracuse to take the lead again at 1:32 into the third period when Cole Koepke (13th) had an apparent pass from the top of the right circle on the power play that had Gahagen moving to his right. But an attempt to block by a Phantoms penalty killer changed the direction of the puck back to Gahagen’s left and he was unable to recover in time as the Crunch against benefitted from the accidental ricochet.

The Phantoms had extra jump for much of the third period in which they out shot the Crunch 10-4. That included a flurry of seven straight shots on Alnefelt who denied Lehigh Valley repeatedly about midway through the third period.

Ethan Samson had a pair of quality chances as he showed his assertiveness from the point as well as on a push to the net-front. Brendan Furry had a nifty redirection of a center-point shot from Adam Ginning that required a strong denial from Alnfelt sliding to his left. Wade Allison and Bobby Brink among others also had strong scoring tries in the third but the Crunch were able to hold off the Phantoms just enough to earn the victory in a heavy and hard game.

The Phantoms next play four consecutive away games beginning with a Wednesday night clash up the Northeast Extension at the rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.


2nd 11:26 – SYR, G. Dumont (10) (W. Merela, D. Carlile) (PP) (0-1)
2nd 18:02 – LV, R. Gardner (6) (B. Brink, S. Tuomaala) (PP) (1-1)

3rd 1:32 – SYR, C. Koepke (13) (J. Thompson, G. Goncalves) (PP) (1-2)

LV 26 – SYR 26

LV 1/4, SYR 2/4

LV – P. Gahagen (24/26) (L) (5-5-3)
SYR – H. Alnefelt (25/26) (W) (11-5-4)

Lehigh Valley (20-19-7)
Syracuse (27-15-5)

Wednesday, February 21 (7:05) – Phantoms at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Saturday, February 24 (4:00) – Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers
Sunday, February 25 (1:00) – Phantoms at Charlotte Checkers
Friday, March 1 (7:05) – Phantoms at Utica Comets

Saturday, March 2 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders—Hockey is for Everyone, SNHL ft. DJ Brad Scott
Sunday, March 3 (3:05) vs. Hershey Bears—meLVin’s Birthday, Post-game skate with players presented by NJM Insurance, Faith Night