Lehigh Valley beats Bears in outdoor hockey game
Years ago, the great John Facenda, the voice of NFL Films used his legendary voice to refer to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field as he talked about the Green Bay Packers’ historic playing field.
It wasn’t quite that dramatic, but the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears took to the frozen tundra of Hersheypark Stadium recently, with Lehigh Valley skating to a 5-2 win over Hershey.
The temperature at game time was 40 degrees, making life at least tolerable for the 13,091 fans who streamed into Hersheypark Stadium for the 10th outdoor game in the history of the AHL.
In addition to the game, there was a fan-fest area that featured live music and gave fans the chance to play some street hockey.
The seating in the stadium was slightly reconfigured with the seats normally past the end zones moved in to just behind the net.
The rink was surrounded by snow that covered the football field at the stadium, giving a great atmosphere to the festivities and the Phantoms dressed for the occasion, wearing their all orange “color rush” uniforms with the black Phantoms logo on the jersey.
The star of the game was Lehigh Valley goaltender Alex Lyon, who made 41 saves in the game as he was continuously peppered with shots.
“It was awesome,” said Lyon. “So professionally done. Hershey did a great job and the AHL. That being said, it’s a lot nicer when you win. That’s important and that’s number one. It was a great experience.”
Lehigh Valley took a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals byColin McDonald and Alex Krushelnyski and late in the second period, Chris Conner, a former member of the Bears, scored the first of his two goals on the night to give the Phantoms a 3-1 lead.
Hershey made it 3-2 late in the third period, but just over a minute later, TJ Brennan scored an empty-net goal and Conner netted his second goal of the night just a minute after Brennan’s empty-netter.
Coach Scott Gordon thought that the key to the win was Conner’s first goal as the Phantoms bounced right back to keep a two-goal distance between them and the Bears.
“Anytime you have a two-goal lead and you lose it, all of a sudden you feel a little momentum shift.” Gordon said. “For him to come back and get that goal, a timely goal, was huge for us.”
In all honesty, Hershey is probably tired of seeing the Phantoms. The win was the third for Lehigh Valley over the Bears in an eight-day stretch.
The Phantoms lost two players to injury during the game. Reece Willcox left the game early in the first period after a big hit from Garrett Mitchell, and didn’t return. A little more than halfway through the third period, Sam Morin, who has had an injury plagued season, left the ice with an injury.
The injuries weren’t disclosed and it’s unclear how long either player may be out.
Forward Chris McCarthy joined the Phantoms from the Reading Royals last week. McCarthy was third on the Royals in points with 25 when he was recalled.
The Flyers switched out defensemen with Lehigh Valley, bringing Mark Alt to Philadelphia and sending Travis Sanheim back to Lehigh Valley. Sanheim made his NHL debut with the Flyers on October 5 and scored his first NHL goal on December 14 in a 2-1 win over Buffalo.
Alt has played 23 games with the Phantoms this season and eight with the Flyers. He’s amassed 10 points with Lehigh Valley and is looking for his first point with Philadelphia.
Forward Oskar Lindblom was added to the Atlantic Division All-Star Roster for the upcoming game in Utica, New York on January 29. Lindblom will take the place of teammate Danick Martel, who is injured and won’t return from jaw surgery in time to play in the game.
If you take a quick look at the standings, you find Lehigh Valley third behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Providence.
Here’s the thing: The standings are done by percentage points, and the Phantoms have played one more game than the Bruins and three more than the Penguins even though all three teams have the same number of wins. Looking at the points, the Phantoms are a point ahead of both division rivals, albeit having played more games.