Hartford, CT - Vinni Lettieri’s second goal of the game 31 seconds into overtime gave the Hartford Wolf Pack a 6-5 win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, in a wild game Friday night at the XL Center.
John Gilmour had five points for Hartford, a goal and four assists, only the second five-point game ever by a Wolf Pack defenseman, and Peter Holland had two goals and two assists.
On the winning play, Gilmour passed to Holland from along the goal line on the right side, and he relayed the puck from the top of the circle to Lettieri in the opposite circle. He one-timed a shot that Lehigh Valley goaltender Anthony Stolarz, who made 37 saves in the game, got a piece of with his right arm but could not stop.
“He’s got a great shot, great release, and it jumps off his stick when he gets a hold of it,” Wolf Pack head coach Keith McCambridge said of Lettieri.
The Phantoms jumped ahead twice in the first, and both times the Wolf Pack came back to tie.
Mark Friedman opened the scoring for Lehigh Valley at 6:40, joining a rush as the third man into the offensive zone. Mikhail Vorobyev dropped a pass for Friedman, who snapped a hard shot past the stick side of Wolf Pack goaltender Dustin Tokarski (23 saves).
Lettieri got that one back for the Wolf Pack only 1:51 later, at 8:31, with his first of the game. Gilmour fed a slick pass to Lettieri in the left circle, and he one-timed the puck just past Stolarz, who was sliding to his right.
Connor Bunnaman put Lehigh Valley back in the lead at 12:57, on a 5-on-3 power play. Phillippe Myers got the puck to Chris Conner, who headed behind the Wolf Pack net moving left to right. He then reversed the puck to Bunnaman, who was easily able to put it past Tokarski inside the goal post to his right.
Holland then got the first of his two goals in the game at 17:34, tying the score at two. After Rob O’Gara made a good play to keep the puck in the Phantom zone high in the slot, newly-acquired Connor Brickley fed across the slot to Holland on left wing, and his shot went off of a Lehigh Valley stick and through Stolarz’s legs.
The two teams would again split four goals in the second frame, starting with Holland’s second of the night at 6:55. That was on Hartford’s first power play of the game, with Justin Bailey off for elbowing.
Lias Andersson fired a shot from the top of the left-wing circle, and Holland, stationed just to Stolarz’s right, deflected the puck out of the air and into the net. That increased Holland’s team-leading goal total to 17 on the season.
Lehigh Valley responded, though, with a pair of goals in a span of only nine seconds shortly thereafter.
Greg Carey scored the second Phantom power play goal of the night at 10:26, only 14 seconds after Chris Bigras was called for high-sticking. Philippe Myers fed a pass from the middle of the blue line to Carey in the right circle, and he blasted a slap shot past Tokarski on the glove side.
Then, at 10:35, Colin McDonald, the Lehigh Valley captain and a Wethersfield, CT native, gave the Phantoms a 4-3 lead. Bailey, who was playing his first game in a Phantom uniform after being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo organization, carried the puck down left wing and backhanded a pass to McDonald in front. Tokarski nearly stopped his shot, but it trickled just past him and over the goal line.
That lead lasted until there were only 27.9 seconds left in the period, when Brickley scored his first Wolf Pack goal to level the score at four apiece. Holland made a great pass across the slot from left to right, on a rush, and Brickley’s backhand went through Stolarz’s five-hole and into the net.
The Wolf Pack dominated the third period territorially, outshooting the Phantoms 16-6, and the home side would jump in front again at 6:37. Bobby Butler swatted the puck toward the net from the right-wing side, and Stolarz made the save. Gilmour found the rebound, though, and got to his forehand, ripping a snap shot into the back of the net.
The Phantoms were not done, however, as they would tie matters back up again with exactly five minutes left in the third. After McDonald had a shot tipped wide, Bailey picked up the puck and carried it out high in the zone. At the top of the slot, he flung it towards the net, and it found its way through a maze of players and trickled through Tokarski’s pads and in.
Lehigh Valley’s Mike Vecchione was called for a high-sticking double minor with 41.7 seconds left in the third, after his stick clipped O’Gara in the face. That created the man advantage that carried into overtime, and led to Gilmour’s winner.
“Two good teams exchanging chances back and forth, and we’re happy to come out on the right side of it,” McCambridge said.
The Wolf Pack are right back at the XL Center Saturday night, hosting the Springfield Thunderbirds in a 7:00 PM game. The first 1,000 kids 12 or younger into that game will receive a free Wolf Pack rally towel, presented by Carvel.
Tickets for all 2018-19 Wolf Pack home games are on sale now at the Agera Energy Ticket Office at the XL Center, on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com and by phone at (877) 522-8499. Tickets purchased in advance for kids 12 or younger start at just $13 each, and all tickets will have a $3 day-of-game increase.
Season ticket information for the Wolf Pack’s 2018-19 AHL season can be found on-line at www.hartfordwolfpack.com. To speak with a representative about all of the Wolf Pack’s many attractive ticketing options, call (855) 762-6451, or click here to request more info.
Lehigh Valley Phantoms 5 at Hartford Wolf Pack 6 (OT)
Friday, January 18, 2019 - XL Center
Lehigh Valley 2 2 1 0 - 5
Hartford 2 2 1 1 - 6
1st Period-1, Lehigh Valley, Friedman 4 (Vorobyev, McDonald), 6:40. 2, Hartford, Lettieri 9 (Gilmour, Fontaine), 8:31. 3, Lehigh Valley, Bunnaman 11 (Conner, Myers), 12:57 (PP). 4, Hartford, Holland 16 (Brickley, O'Gara), 17:34. Penalties-Tokarski Hfd (tripping), 12:04; Holland Hfd (slashing), 12:30.