Hershey Bears drop a 2-1 OT decision to Lehigh Valley as Phantoms stay alive in this best-of-five
Three one-goal games. Two overtime results.
Sounds about right for this Atlantic Division semifinal between Hershey and Lehigh Valley.
And in Game 3, with the Phantoms staring at a best-of-five sweep by the Bears at Giant Center Wednesday night, it was the visitors who received the much-needed breaks. Game 4 is Saturday night at Giant Center.
Phantoms forward Chris Conner scored on a breakaway 1:49 into overtime to lift Lehigh Valley past Hershey 2-1 with a crowd of 8,842 looking on
Conner took advantage of a carom off a Lehigh Valley blocked shot by Andy Miele in the Phantoms’ end. The puck kicked out toward the middle of the ice and found its way to Conner, who split the Hershey defense and beat Hershey goalie Pheonix Copley on the blocker side.
The other break? Lehigh Valley wiped out a 1-0 Bears lead on one of the more bizarre goals allowed by Hershey in recent playoff history.
Less than a minute into the third period, the Phantoms’ Colin McDonald fired a puck into the Hershey zone — and on goal — from just inside the red line, from the far right side.
Copley couldn’t stop it.
The odd score squared things 1-1 at the :37 mark.
Hershey struck first, courtesy of an odd-man rush finished by Stanislav Galiev at 11:35 of the second period.
Three games. Three road wins in this series. And give credit to Lehigh Valley goalie Martin Ouellette, making his first start of the series after regular goalie Alex Lyon suffered an apparent lower-body injury.
“I don’t know if anybody thought we would sweep Lehigh (Valley),” Hershey coach Troy Mann said.
“They had 101 points for a reason. The series has been very, very close. We got our break in overtime in Game 1. It certainly would have been nice to close it down tonight but, you know, shot block there and Connor made the key play there in overtime.”
“It’s tough to sweep any team in this league, let alone a team that came in higher seeded than us,” Hershey forward Garrett Mitchell said.
“They’ve definitely worked for what they got this season and, you know, it comes down to a breakaway.”
The teams finished even in shots (30-30) but the Phantoms spent a lot of time in the Hershey zone in the final 40 minutes of regulation.
Lehigh Valley players put several good chances over the net and Phantoms forward Mark Zengerle hit the crossbar with 8:16 to in the third period.
Hershey had a few chances to extend its one-goal lead before McDonald tied it, including a failed three-on-one with roughly 20 seconds left in the second period.
“I thought it was a pretty even game in terms of the momentum swings, from start to finish,” Mann said.
“I thought that we came out very well. Normally, that’s how games play out in terms of, the home team kind of has the advantage in the first … and then in the second period, the visiting team usually comes back and that’s what they did.”
“Unfortunately,” Mann added, “we couldn’t bury our odd-man rushes.’