Binghamton Senators (10-17-2-0) continue to find a way to win as they fought a hard battle with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (15-16-1-1) and extend their winning streak to four but it came at a price, and perhaps a costly one. Matt O'Connor was splendid for almost two periods as the Phantoms were pelting the rookie netminder repeatedly before something had to give.
It appeared he tweaked his groin (but later found out it was his knee instead) as he lunged from one side of the net to the other to make a spectacular glove save on Nick Cousins during a Phantom power play. He remained in the game for another series of saves before skating off the ice to the locker room under his own power favoring his left leg with much of the crowd cheering him on for his efforts.
Richardson said O'Connor tweaked a knee, stayed in and hurt it further before exiting. Not looking serious but may miss a few games. #BSens— Matt Weinstein (@SteinTime44) December 30, 2015
In came back-up Chris Driedger (7-6-0, 2.91 GAA, 0.909 SV%) and he didn't allow a goal including the three set-series in the shootout as he earns the win in relief along with Star of the Game honors with his 12 save performance. Not bad as Driedger came in cold to an already heated up battle between growing rivals on a rare Tuesday night contest in Binghamton.
Much of the game would feature a dull first period with defenseman Andrew MacDonald of Lehigh Valley the only goal scorer as his shot from the bluline grazed off of Coiln Greening in the slot that re-directed by O'Connor. That was then followed by a goaltending duel in the second and a highly entertaining third leading to overtime.
Give credit to Phantoms' goalie Anthony Stolarz as he played one heck of a game making point blank saves on Puempel and Schneider, along with Greening that kept his team in the lead in the opening period as they held a 17-8 shot advantage.
However, it was the stingy play of both teams that led to the third period with Binghamton able to tie it up just 1:08 in as Puempel got a piece of the puck from a slapper from Michael Kostka as Stolarz was fooled for the first time, setting up a battle for the go-ahead goal. That wouldn't come to fruition in the overtime as Driedger and Stolarz were solid setting up the shootout.
In the shootout Puempel scored on a sweet wrister that landed upper net by Stolarz's glove as the netminder sat on his butt in disbelief afterwards while Pumps cocked his wrist in celebratory manner for the game winner. Shots ended up 41-39 BSens.
After the team met near the bench for some happy exchanges, they made the short distance to center ice for a stick salute for the third straight time as this team is beginning to come together, slowly but surely. The real test comes Thursday with a game against St. John's.
POST GAME NOTES
- Before O'C left in the second he was cruising stopping 26 of 27 and keeping it a one goal game as the Senators didn't come alive to the latter half of the contest. Good to see it may not turn into anything serious but you have to expect Scott Greenham will be called-up and is available on Thursday serving behind Driedger.
- Buddy Robinson with a big effort in the third creating a shorthanded breakaway only to come up short with Stolarz making a huge play in preventing a goal.
- Tobias Lindberg appeared a little lost on three-on-three action in OT as he wasn't very keen on what was happening with several chances to shoot and some unsteady play when pressured. First for everyone I suppose.
- A furious attack in the first by Lehigh Valley as the Senators' defense was out of position and looked lost with O'Connor bailing them out. As the night wore on, improvements on defense with multiple forwards playing sound backchecking in helping out including lots of stick tie-ups from both sides.
- A too many men call late in OT is not what you want to see. That gave the Phantoms a 4 on 3 advantage with 51 seconds left that should never have happen. It could've easily turned into a different outcome but Driedger was solid, and lucky.
The annual New Year's Eve contest this Thursday with the IceCaps, followed with another meeting down in Hershey again on Saturday.
*Cover Pic & Insert Courtesy of Alicia Strauch.