Willman WOW’s! Phantoms Thump Hartford 5-2

Four Phantoms record multipoint nights in strong first game after All-Star Break

February 10, 2023

Hartford, CT – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms returned to action following the All-Star Break and thumped the Hartford Wolf Pack by a 5-2 margin on Friday night at XL Center. Max Willman (5th, 6th) opened the scoring, and Sam Ersson continued his brilliant play in net with a 33-save performance. Willman’s multi-goal night marked the third in his American Hockey League career and first since February 27, 2021 against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Elliot Desnoyers (15th) scored a pivotal power-play goal late and Zayde Wisdom (2nd) struck in the second period assisted by Desnoyers. Olle Lycksell (9th) put the game away with an empty-netter while Bobby Brink and Cooper Marody both contributed a pair of assists apiece as part of the Phantoms’ balanced scoring attack. 

Lehigh Valley (23-17-5) and Hartford showed little rust and only jump in their first period back in action following the highly anticipated midseason break. Sam Ersson and Louie Domingue countered save-for-save in an opening stanza that combined for 25 shots on goal. Domingue stopped a glorious bid from Garrett Wilson from in-tight, and later in the frame, Austin Rueschhoff was robbed by Ersson who scrambled to his left to deny a chance at the left post. 

But at the 16:34 mark, Max Willman cracked the goalie code with his fifth tally of the season to give Lehigh Valley a 1-0 advantage. Bobby Brink threaded the needle from the right wing for Willman, who roofed a perfect backhander along the right post to beat Domingue on his blocker side. With the Phantoms eventual victory, Lehigh Valley improved to an outstanding 12-2-5 record when scoring the game’s first goal. 

In the second period, Hartford finally solved Ersson for the equalizer, but the Phantoms soon punched back twice as hard. Turner Elson at 9:11 blasted home a shot from the right face-off circle, low to the ice for his 11th goal of the campaign. 

Lehigh Valley’s quick answer came after only 70 seconds and a speedy video review courtesy of Willman’s second goal of the night. Willman danced into the offensive zone and went backhand-forehand in tight proximity to Domingue, and unleashed a picture-perfect shot. After the initial call on the ice was no goal, video review determined Willman’s shot entered and exited the net in a blink of an eye for the go-ahead marker. 

At 12:50, more persistence and gritty hard work by the Orange and Black beneath the dots led to a key insurance marker and eventual game-winner. Zayde Wisdom buried a backhander from the low-slot past Domingue for his second goal of the season. Elliot Desnoyers, after a two-game absence due to injury, recorded the primary assist in his return to the lineup. 

The Phantoms’ 3-1 lead carried into the third period when both teams traded blows on the power play before an eventual empty netter to round out the 5-2 final. Hartford cut their deficit to one on a power-play goal from Zac Jones on his team’s first man-advantage of the night at 10:24.

Lehigh Valley found similar success on their third power play of the night to restore a late, two-goal cushion. Bobby Brink played quarterback once again with a perfect dish from beneath the goal line into Elliot Desnoyers’ wheelhouse. Desnoyers earned his 15th goal of the season by blasting home a chance from between the face-off circles at 16:16. Willman, Brink, Desnoyers and Marody all finished the night with multipoint games. 

Hartford elected to pull Domingue for the extra-attacker, but Olle Lycksell hit the empty net at 18:58 to complete the 5-2 final. Thanks to Lycksell’s finishing touches, the Phantoms have posted five-goal performances in each of their last three wins, outscoring the opposition by a 15-5 margin.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms return to action and PPL Center on Saturday, February 11 against the Bridgeport Islanders at 7:05 p.m. It’s Hockey is for Everyone Night, where we celebrate and honor the inclusive spirit within our organization. Also, in recognition of Sunday’s big game for our local, beloved Philadelphia Eagles, fans can take advantage of Saturday’s Philly Special ticket offer, which features four tickets, four hot dogs and four sodas at the cost of only $88. 

1st – 16:34 – LV M. Willman (5) (B. Brink, L. Belpedio) 1-0

2nd – 9:11 – HFD T. Elson (11) (A. Rueschhoff, M. Robertson) 1-1
2nd – 10:21 – LV M. Willman (6) (J. Cates) 2-1
2nd – 12:50 – LV Z. Wisdom (2) (E. Desnoyers, C. Marody) 3-1

3rd – 10:24 – HFD Z. Jones (7) (T. Fritz) (PP) 3-2
3rd – 16:16 – LV E. Desnoyers (15) (B. Brink, C. Marody) (PP) 4-2
3rd – 18:58 – LV O. Lycksell (9) Unassisted (EN) 5-2

LV 24 – HFD 35

LV 1/3, HFD 1/1

LV – S. Ersson (W) (14-10-1) (33/35)
HFD – L. Domingue (L) (11-9-6) (19/23)

Lehigh Valley (23-17-5)
Hartford (19-18-9)

Saturday, February 11 (7:05) vs. BRIDGEPORT ISLANDERS
Tuesday, February 14 (7:00) at Charlotte Checkers
Wednesday, February 15 (7:00) at Charlotte Checkers
Saturday, February 18 (7:05) vs. WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON PENGUINS
Sunday, February 19 (5:05) vs. HARTFORD WOLF PACK

Saturday, February 11 (7:05) vs. Bridgeport Islanders – Hockey is for Everyone! Philly Special ticket packages available 

Saturday, February 18 (7:05) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – United Way Housing Heroes presented by PPL

Sunday, February 19 (5:05) vs. Hartford Wolf Pack – meLVin’s Birthday with his Mascot Friends! Postgame Skate with the Phantoms Players