Two More for Gardner Drives Win at Bridgeport

Adam Karashik Scores First Career AHL Goal

March 10, 2024

Bridgeport, CT – Rhett Gardner (9th, 10th) capped a massive six-point weekend with two more goals to lead the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to a 4-3 win at the Bridgeport Islanders on Sunday afternoon. Adam Karashik scored his first career goal in the AHL and Louie Belpedio called “Bank” for his third of the season as Lehigh Valley picked up its second straight win to open a five-game road trip.

Lehigh Valley (25-23-7) also took sole possession of the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division moving ahead of the Springfield Thunderbirds who lost 5-0 at the Providence Bruins.

The resilient Phantoms showed their character on the other side of a Friday loss against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and also found their offense with eight goals in a stretch of three periods. And this time they did it without their captain, Garrett Wilson, who was forced to sit out in the first of a three-game suspension.

It was 28-year-old Rhett Gardner leading the way each game. After scoring both goals in Friday’s home game, Gardner was key in Saturday’s comeback win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with a pair of assists. Gardner picked up his second multi-goal game of the weekend, and third of his career, as he equaled a career-high with 10 goals this season.

The Phantoms were off and running right from the start in their efforts to end a four-game win streak for Bridgeport (20-30-7). Versatile Adam Karashik blasted home his first career goal in the AHL on a perfect setup from Matt Brown after Evan Polei won the puck along the boards. The defenseman-turned-forward slammed home the game’s opening tally at 2:28 into the contest.

Just over two minutes later, it was Garnder getting to the net-front on the power play. Emil Andrae’s center-point shot hit his teammate but Gardner located the puck at his skates and swiftly flipped the puck past goaltender Henrik Tikkanen while his back was facing the goal to give the Phantoms a 2-0 lead just 4:47 into the contest.

The Islanders were slow to get going in the game but the early deficit inspired the hosts to get it in gear. Jeff Kubiak (8th) deflected a blast from the right circle by former Phantom Cole Bardreau to put the Islanders on the board at 2-1 with 8:43 remaining in the first period.

Tyce Thompson (3rd) weaved into the zone on a 2-on-2 rush with Brian Pinho and connected in the closing minute of the frame to equalize the count at 2-2 into the first intermission.

The Phantoms retook the lead early in the second period. Louie Belpedio’s point-shot off a faceoff win initially looked like it had been deflected in by Brendan Furry. But Furry immediately indicated that the goal was actually Belpedio’s. In fact, the shot/pass went off the pants of a Bridgeport defender, somehow deflected high in the air, and then over the shoulder and past the stick of Tikkanen for an unusual goal at 4:26 into the second period that put the Phantoms ahead again at 3-2.

Furry picked up his second helper of the game setting up another Rhett Gardner strike, this time at 7:16 into the second period. Gardner’s sixth point of his massive weekend gave Lehigh Valley a 4-2 cushion.

That was enough for goaltender Cal Petersen who was on top of his game. And he needed to be for much of the third period with several close-range denials including a breakaway save on Bridgeport leading scorer Ruslan Ishakov and then at the end of the game on an open chance for William Dufour with just 15 seconds left aiming for the equalizer.

Daylan Kuefler (2nd) had made it a one-goal game with 3:00 left finding a Dennis Cholowski effort in the blue paint and pushing it past Petersen to make the score 4-3.

But Emil Andrae helped seal the victory for the Phantoms with his shot-block in the last seconds of the game as Lehigh Valley improved to 2-1-0 against the Islanders this season.

The consecutive wins in regulation ended a streak of the Phantoms picking up its last five wins in a row all after regulation (two in overtime and three in shootout) and improved Lehigh Valley’s road record to 13-9-5.

The Phantoms have won two straight and are also 3-1-0 in their last four. Lehigh Valley is 7-5-0 in its last 12 games since the return from the AHL All-Star Break on February 9.

Lehigh Valley is 17-0-2 when scoring four or more goals and the Phantoms are now 13-4-3 when striking for the first goal of the game.

Lehigh Valley’s road trip continues with a Wednesday rematch at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins followed by a pair of games at the Providence Bruins next Friday and Saturday.

1st 2:28 – LV, A. Karashik (1) (M. Brown, E. Polei) (1-0)
1st 4:47 – LV, R. Gardner (9) (E. Andrae, S. tuomaala) (PP) (2-0)
1st 11:17 – BRI, J. Kubiak (8) (C. Bardreau, P. LaDue) (2-1)
1st 19:07 – BRI, T. Thompson (3) (B. Pinho, D. Cholowski) (4×4) (2-2)

2nd 4:26 – L. Belpedio (3) (R. Gardner, B. Furry) (3-2)
2nd 7:14 – R. Gardner (10) (B. Furry) (4-2)

3rd 17:00 – D. Kuefler (2) (D. Cholowski, R. Salo) (4-3)

LV 34 – BRI 32

LV 1/2, BRI 0/2

LV – C. Petersen (W) (29/32) (7-10-2)
BRI – H. Tikkanen (L) (30/34) (7-4-2)

Lehigh Valley (25-23-7)
Bridgeport (20-30-7)

Phantoms Tickets are available HERE

Wednesday, March 13 (7:05) at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Friday, March 15 (7:05) at Providence Bruins
Saturday, March 16 (7:05) at Providence Bruins

Wednesday, March 20 (7:05) vs. Springfield Thunderbirds – Joe Watson Book Signing / $1 Pretzels
Saturday, March 23 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders – Margaritaville Night
Sunday, March 24 (3:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – Kids Takeover Day / Postgame Autographs Presented by NJM Insurance