An incredibly strong game by the Adirondack Phantoms (1-3-0-2), unfortunately lead to a shootout loss to the undefeated Springfield Falcons (5-0-0-0). Nick Cousins scored his second goal in back-to-back games and Rob Bordson contributed a goal, but it was not enough.
Yann Danis was very solid in net, stopping 27 of 29 shots — including a couple really nice glove saves and a diving play that could have changed the momentum of the game in the Falcons’ favor.
The Phantoms jumped out to the early lead when Chris VandeVelde skated down the slot with the puck, dumping it back to Cousins, who wristed it past Mike McKenna a mere 46 seconds into the opening frame. Jason Akeson also had an assist on the play.
The trio of Akseon, Cousins, and VandeVelde continued to buzz around the ice, proving to be a dangerous adversaries for the Falcons. Looking at how Akeson skated and handled the puck throughout the game, you could definitely tell he trained with Claude Giroux this past offseason.
“They caught me a little bit because it is the first time they have played together on a line,” said Phantoms head coach Terry Murray. “They played big minutes against a top opponent.”
The Phantoms power play was dismal in the first period, going 0-2 with just one shot on goal. Their first power play coming off of Springfield’s Will Weber’s interference infraction found Adirondack holding the puck in Springfield’s end, but they were unable to get the puck to the net. The Phantoms’ second attempt on the extra man advantage also saw little results.
The Falcons turned on the pressure after Adirondack’s Zack FitzGerald took a less than intelligent unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, resulting in a dominant Springfield power play. The Phantoms were lucky to come out of there still up 1-0, and they would hold onto that lead for the rest of the first period.
It didn’t take long into the second period for FitzGerald’s shenanigans to continue. He got lucky not getting caught spearing a guy, and then decided to knock over a Springfield player and lay on top of him for about 10 seconds. Neither one resulted in a penalty.
The Phantoms upped the ante at 4:38 as a bouncing puck through traffic somehow made it into the net. The goal was credited to Bordson, with assists going to Matt Mangene and Brandon Manning. The initial shot came from just over the blue line in front of the Phantoms bench and bounced around until it dropped behind McKenna.
“It was just hard work,” said Phantoms forward Bordson. “Just shot it towards the net with a bunch of bodies there and it went in.”
FitzGerald’s lack of play continued as he gave the Falcons another power play at 7:14 after a high-sticking penalty. Springfield’s power play was not quite as dominant as in the first period, but was still dangerous.
Springfield’s intensity and physicality noticeably picked up around the 15-minute mark of the second period and shortly thereafter lead to a Falcon’s goal. Broc Little threw the puck at the Phantoms net from a bad angle, which deflected off an Adirondack defenseman and went in. It was a case of another bouncing puck that somehow made it into the net.
Despite Springfield cutting the lead in half, Danis continued to play a strong game. His positioning was very sound, causing him to be in the right place at the right time. However, he did get lucky with a couple of Springfield players missing some open net chances.
The Phantoms carried their strong performance into the third period. They got into passing lanes, forcing the Falcons to carry the puck into the zone. Adirondack also limited Springfield’s second and third attempts at the rebound.
Desperation started sinking in for the Falcons midway through the third. Their offensive play started opening up, increasing their scoring chances. Springfield also seemed to increase their physicality, allowing them to have more puck possession. Still, Adirondack was able to keep the puck away from Danis.
Then, at 11:10, Weber threw the puck at the Phantoms’ net from the left circle and somehow, through traffic, made it in past Danis, tying the game at 2 apiece. Danis never saw the puck until it was behind him. This was a time when the Phantoms may have collapsed, but instead they continued to play their game and played well despite Springfield’s attempts.
The game would not be decided in the third. The overtime frame would lead to a couple of scoring chances for each team but the respective goalies would do their job.
Adirondack was given a golden opportunity at 2:49 when Weber was given two minutes for boarding. The Phantoms were able to control the puck in the Falcons’ zone, but had too much passing and not enough shooting. Akeson and Gervais literally spent 25 seconds passing the puck back and forth.
The overtime ended still tied at 2. During the shootout, the Phantoms kept losing the puck off their sticks, much like the Flyers.
Springfield continues to be undefeated although Adirondack truly deserved to win the game. Both goals against were no-chance goals. They got a point out of it, but the frustrations are already starting to mount.
Walking into the locker room after the game, every player’s head was down. They worked hard, they played their system, they had chances, goaltending was great and yet somehow they still ended up with a loss.
“You can take positives away from this, but it is still a loss,” said Bordson. “They don’t count, good efforts and whatnot. Yeah, it’s a boost of morale but we’ve got to start winning.”
This team wants to win. They played like winners. They don’t want to be the last place Phantoms anymore and it is already weighing very heavily on the team.
But their play in this game, despite the loss, was impressive. If they continued to play like they did against the Falcons, the wins will eventually come.