Saturday, October 18, 2014

Phantoms work a little extra to beat Flames, collect win No. 700

Allentown, PA --  Just about the only disappointment in Lehigh Valley's home opener was that we didn't get to see the new hybrid 4-on-4 overtime rules give way to 3-on-3 action.

In the end, it didn't matter as Brandon Manning scored at the 1:24 mark of the new seven-minute extra session and the Phantoms posted a 4-3 victory over the Adirondack Flames in front of 8.647 fans at PPL Center on Friday night. 

More than just a win in the home opener for the third iteration of the Flyers' AHL farm club, it was the 700th total victory for the franchise, which originated in the Spectrum back in 1996.

Manning ripped a shot past Flames goaltender Joni Ortio from the left boards, on a play which was started by defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere. The Union College product wasn't on the ice long before gaining control of a bouncing puck on the right wing and shipping a pass across ice for his partner who potted the deciding tally. 

 "It was a great player making a great play," said Manning. "I gave him a yell and it came across on the fresh ice and I thought maybe I could get a good rebound and it went straight in."

Scott Laughton picked up his first two-goal game in the AHL, while Petr Straka also lit the lamp for the Phantoms, who had six days off from a season-opening 5-2 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last Saturday. Rob Zepp snagged his second win in as many starts with 29 saves.

Ortio stopped 27 shots in defeat, Adirondack's (0-3-1) fourth to start the season. Sena Acolatse, David Wolf and Dustin Stevenson also picked up a goal apiece for the visitors.

These are not your kids from Glens Falls, where hard work in all three zones didn't exactly lead to smooth transitions, quick passing or flow on the rush. The Phantoms were all over the Flames in the early going, receiving the game's first two power-play opportunities, but despite great puck movement and several close calls, didn't put one home.

"We want to play offense. We have a lot of young guys who are offensive-minded," said Phantoms forward Andrew Gordon, who picked up two key assists on the power play. "It would be a crying shame to put a leash on these guys. We want to play up-tempo, but at the same time we don't want to sacrifice things on the back end. You gotta make sure you're in position, and that's going to come with time."

Shortly after the second advantage expired, Brett Hextall snaked from the left wing near the goal line and between the circles, narrowly missed a chance to put the hosts ahead, but his shot -- ticketed for the top-right corner -- hit the glass several inches off the mark.

Laughton finally made the sellout crowd stand up and cheer shortly into the third chance up a man, when he punched home a rebound at 11:01.

Zack Stortini engaged in his usual tactics with 4:07 remaining in the first, leveling Flames forward Mathieu Tousignant with a check to the head in open ice along the boards inside the Phantoms' zone. His teammates killed off the shorthanded situation, then Stortini narrowly missed putting his team up two when Gordon's centering feed found his stick in the slot. Only the quick pad of Ortio kept it a one-goal margin.

Jay Rosehill then cranked up his brand of mayhem at 2:42 of the second period, drawing a double minor for horse-collaring an opposing forward and also garnering a 10-minute misconduct.  Oliver Lauridsen committed an egregious boarding penalty just 30 seconds later, and the Phantoms were five seconds away from killing off the 5-on-3 when Acolatse's drive from the left circle sailed home to tie the game at 6:07.

Manning took a double-minor for high-sticking a short time later, and when Tousignant's feed from behind the net was one-timed through Zepp's pads by Wolf, it was 2-1 for the Flames at the 10:45 mark. By this time, Adirondack was up 11-1 in shots on goal thanks to five power-play chances.

"It's a two-way game. There were a few too many odd-man rushes for my liking (tonight), and I'm sure for coach's too," Gordon added. "Over the next little while, when we get more practice time, we'll start to perfect our system."

Lehigh Valley had a potential tying goal from Straka waved off with 6:38 to play in the second, and Stortini was sent to the box again, this time for interfering with Ortio as the shot hit the net. They got a prime chance to draw even with a 20-second two-man advantage late in the second and cashed in when Laughton slammed home a cross-ice dish by Gordon from the top of the right circle.

"Right on the goal line, just beside the net on my off-side, I just tried to get it up as best I could," Laughton admitted. "The thing is, instinct just took over, and Gordo made an unbelievable pass right to my stick and I was fortunate enough to bury it. It was tough to do late in the period with the ice (being worn)."

The hosts regained the lead at 2:26 of the third, when Straka retrieved his own batted-down pass and ripped a shot by Ortio from the left circle, but Stevenson countered just over two minutes later when he deflected a shot out of mid-air. A long review upheld the original on-ice call of a goal, though it appeared from some replays the puck might have gone in from the outside.

Notes: The Phantoms won an inaugural home opener for the first time since Philadelphia claimed a 3-1 decision over Rochester at the Spectrum on Oct. 6, 1996 ... Adirondack was 2-for-8 on the power play and Lehigh Valley finished 2-for-7 ... Several persons of interest in the Flyers organization were present, including Philly president Paul Holmgren, ambassador Bob "Hound" Kelly and injured defenseman Kimmo Timonen ... Gostisbehere and Nick Cousins added two assists each ... Adirondack's Trevor Gillies did not play, having begun to serve his 12-game suspension, handed down earlier this week, for bouncing the head of a Rochester Americans' player off the ice during a scrum last weekend ... The clubs finish off the home-and-home set, the final of two meetings this season, in Glens Falls on Saturday night. Anthony Stolarz will make his first professional start.
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