Photo credit: Frank Fimmano (fimmanophotography)
A slow start and an inability to stay out of the penalty box would prove to be too much as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms fell to the Binghamton Senators 3-2 in a game where both teams combined for an astonishing 103 penalty minutes.
Rob Zepp would make his first start since missing action with an ankle injury and the rust reared its ugly head early. Just more than two minutes into the game, Sens defensmen Guillaume Lepine fired a knuckler from the blue line weakly past the glove hand of Zepp to give Binghamton a 1-0 lead.
“That’s one I think Zepp would like to have back,” coach Terry Murray said.
The Senators would build on the lead after another shaky sequence from the Phantoms netminder. After making the save on a tough deflection in front, Zepp was unable to reel in the rebound and the puck was left on the doorstep as Matt Puempel cashed in the easy goal to extend the lead 2-0.
“The first ten minutes dictates a lot about the game,” Murray said. “It’s disappointing.”
The Phantoms were given a huge opportunity late in the period after the Senators took a major elbowing penalty to give Lehigh Valley a three minute power play. They soon made Binghamton pay as Nick Cousins fired home a long rebound off a Brandon Manning shot past Senators goalie Peter Mannino to cut the lead in half with just 1.2 seconds left in the period.
The second period was one that make any hockey purist shake his head as both teams combined for 14 penalties as the game took a backseat to physicality and fists.
The Phantoms had several opportunities to tie the game but even more chances to fall further behind as they gave the Senators not one but two different 5-on-3 power plays. Finally, the Phantoms were burned by the power play as Shane Prince scored with 35 seconds left in the period to extend the Binghamton lead to 3-1.
Forward Andrew Gordon was far from pleased with the play of his team in the second period.
“All the penalties, just killed our flow. We can’t get guys going like that,” Gordon said. “It doesn’t help us at all.”
The Phantoms came out strong in the third period as they finally were able to generate offense without continued interruption. Brandon Manning cut the lead to 3-2 on a power play goal of his own at the 12:52 mark of the period. Despite doubling their shot total of the game in the third alone, the Phantoms could not muster the game-tying goal. ‘
Cousins expressed his frustrations with the lack of discipline from the team as whole.
“It sucks,” Cousins said. “Sitting on the bench for 8-9 minutes and watching your team kill penalty after penalty. If we play a full game at [even strength], we win that game.”
Murray shared similar sentiments.
“We’re trying to get away with too many things,” Murray said. “Disciplining yourself emotionally. It’s the mental part of the game.”
The Phantoms dropped their eighth game in 11 contests as they continue to fall further behind in the playoff race. They’ll look to bounce back tomorrow night as they travel to Wilkes-Barre to take on the rival Penguins.
Leier throws down
Taylor Leier thought he had his first fight of his career tonight when he dropped the gloves against the Senators’ Buddy Robinson. Robinson only had about six inches and 50 pounds on Leier but did not get the best of him. Despite several punches thrown, Leier and Robinson were only given roughing penalties.
The website HockeyStats.ca has finally posted a breakdown of some advanced stats for AHL teams and unfortunately for Lehigh Valley, the numbers aren’t very flattering. Much like their parent club, the Phantoms are amongst the worst in the league in shot differential and overall possession, posting a 47.3 Fenwick Close percentage.
Stolarz LV bound?
With Zepp’s return to the lineup tonight, it seemed it would be only a matter of time before Stolarz was returned to the Phantoms and Zepp get the call-up with Steve Mason injured. But Murray was quick to say that Zepp would be the starter in goal tomorrow night. Puzzling as one would expect the Flyers to make the call-up quickly so Stolarz can continue to see playing time back with Lehigh Valley.