Sometimes, the better team doesn’t always come out on top. Such was the case with the Providence Bruins in Friday’s 3-2 Game 1 loss to the top-seeded Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Despite holding leads of 1-0 and 2-1, and outshooting Lehigh Valley 41-24, including 15-2 in the third period, the opportunistic Phantoms struck quick and got a stellar 39-save outing from Alex Lyon.
Providence came out with their skating legs in the first part of the opening period, at one point outshooting Lehigh Valley, 12-2. But the Phantoms rattled off five consecutive shots and tilted the ice in their favor after the P-Bruins killed off a Kenny Agostino high sticking penalty.
It took a Providence power play opportunity to calm things as Phantoms winger Greg Carey committed a hooking penalty just after getting robbed in front by Zane McIntyre. The P-Bruins drew first blood when Ryan Fitzgerald scored his first of two of the night finishing an Austin Czarnik feed for the 1-0 lead at 17:38 of the first.
But as they did all night, the Phantoms responded. Just 16 seconds later, Danica Martel netted a fluke goal — after McIntyre whiffed on a glove save — for his first of two on the night.
Providence jumped ahead again on after Fitzgerald tipped a beautiful spin-o-rama backhand pass from Czarnik for his second of the evening at 3:35 of the middle stanza.
“Both goals, I was on the receiving end of great plays by [Czarnik],” Fitzgerald said postgame. “I was able to bury the first one and the second one I just kind of tapped it in.”
Czarnik had a chance just past the 14:00 mark, cutting in on Lyon but clanging his shot off the crossbar.
But things unraveled for the P-Bruins following that Czarnik opportunity. With Adam Payerl in the box for kneeing and Connor Clifton joining him in the box 48 seconds later, Leigh Valley took advantage of the 5-on-3 opportunity when Greg Carey finished off a Corban Knight feed from the faceoff circle to even things up at 2-2 with 5:28 left in the middle stanza.
The opportunistic Phantoms went ahead for good when Martel’s wrist shot beat a screened McIntyre just 41 seconds later.
Providence head coach Jay Leach obviously wasn’t too happy with the calls but acknowledged that Providence has to stay out of the box.
“Well, it’s a penalty,” Leach said on Clifton’s penalty and his initial reaction. “Sometimes your emotions get the better of you.. just emotional coaching. But as I said, we need to stay out of the box. They scored, they made the plays.”
The Baby B’s came out flying in the third and did not let up until the final buzzer. Their best chances came in a four-on-four situation with Fitzgerald and Knight serving respective holding and tripping minors 11 seconds apart.
Providence had one last power play chance when Brennan was sent off for interference with 4:19 remaining. The P-Bruins only mustered one shot on net during their final opportunity with the man advantage, albeit a pretty good chance as Lyon stoned Jordan Szwarz at the near post.
Lehigh Valley converted two of their five power play opportunities on the night while the P-Bruins would only convert on one of seven man-advantages. McIntyre stopped 21 of 24 shots that came his way.
The two teams return to the Dunkin Donuts Center for Game 2 on Saturday.
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