The Lehigh Valley Phantoms fell victim to the Binghamton Devils Friday night, dropping a winnable contest 3-1. The Phantoms are now 6-4-1-4 15 games into the 2019-20 AHL regular season.
Jean-Francois Berube got the start for Lehigh Valley, stopping 24 of 27 shots. Louis Domingue took to the net for the Devils. He faced the same amount of shots as Berube, allowing only one to pass him by. Defenseman Andy Welinski scored the lone goal for the Phantoms, giving him three on the year.
For any away team, one of the first missions is deflating the home crowd early. Unfortunately, the Phantoms were unsuccessful in doing so in the opening period of Friday’s contest. Throughout most of the first twenty minutes, the Devils controlled the game. Offensively, Binghamton was the better team by far. Not only did they pile on 16 shots on Jean-Francois Berube in the first, but most of them were also quality chances in front of the net. However, Berube stood tall, turning away every shot he faced.
On the other hand, Lehigh Valley’s offense was close to nonexistent. The Phantoms registered five shots on goal. Unlike the opposition, none of those shots were high-quality opportunities. The Devils did a nice job preventing the Phantoms from getting people close to the net. As a result, Lehigh Valley just could not get anything going in the offensive zone.
A bright spot for the Phantoms in the first period was on the penalty-kill. Lehigh Valley faced three Binghamton powerplays and even spent some time fending off a 5-on-3 opportunity. Along with Berube’s strong play in net, the team’s PK played a major role in keeping the score even at zero heading into the first intermission.
Lehigh Valley entered the middle period with a renewed sense of energy. They played much more aggressively and started peppering Binghamton’s net with more scoring opportunities. Ironically, however, they could not translate that momentum into the game’s first goal. Instead, Josh Jacobs beat Berube on a two-on-one for his second goal of the season to give the Devils a 1-0 lead. Then, on the very next Binghamton shot, Ben Street capitalized on a power-play opportunity, increasing Lehigh Valley’s deficit to two.
Just over 11 minutes into the second period, Binghamton’s Michael Paliotta placed a nasty cross-check on Matthew Strome, putting the Phantoms on the powerplay. Andy Welinski ended both Lehigh Valley’s power-play struggles and the shutout with a rocket of a shot for his third goal of the year. Veterans Cal O’Reilly and Greg Carey recorded assists on the tally.
Overall, the Phantoms played much better in the second period. Lehigh Valley entered the locker room down 2-1; however, they were able to control the momentum for a great deal of the tilt. The Phantoms recorded 12 shots but still trailed the Devils in that category by six. Through 40 minutes of play, they struggled with getting a lot of traffic in front of Louis Domingue. Binghamton, on the other hand, kept Berube busy in that area.
After cutting the lead in half and gain momentum, all signs pointed to Lehigh Valley evening up the score in the final period. Unfortunately, Binghamton had different plans. Just under four minutes into the third, Mikhail Maltsev scored his first goal of the season, giving the Devils a 3-1 lead.
Although the Phantoms received their fair share of chances, they could not cut into Binghamton’s lead anymore. Domingue turned away all of Lehigh Valley’s ten shots. The Phantoms only allowed the Devils to get four shots on goal. However, that doesn’t look so impressive when one of those shots finds the back of the net. When the final horn sounded, Binghamton captured the victory, giving Lehigh Valley its second-straight regulation loss.
J.F. Berube made some pretty spectacular saves. At the same time, all three goals he let in were of the “very stoppable” variety. It’s always unfortunate when such a solid effort is wasted away because of three goals the netminder should have stopped.
Heading into Friday’s game, Lehigh Valley looked like the team favored to win the contest. However, Binghamton simply outworked its opponent. They took control of the game early and never fully took their foot off of the gas pedal. This will certainly go down as a game the Phantoms would love to hit the reset button on.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms will continue their road trip Saturday night. They take on a familiar foe, the WBS Penguins, at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 P.M.
Mandatory Credit: Alex McIntyre