Rook­ies key to Le­high Val­ley win

Bun­na­man and Hart an­swer play big roles in beat­ing Her­shey.

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Gary R. Blockus

Con­nor Bun­na­man heard op­por­tu­nity knock and an­swered the door.

Bun­na­man scored from the doorstep in the first pe­riod and fel­low rookie Carter Hart made 26 saves for his first pro­fes­sional shutout as the Le­high Val­ley Phan­toms edged the Her­shey Bears 1-0 at PPL Cen­ter on Fri­day night.

The win snapped a two-game PPL Cen­ter los­ing streak for the Phan­toms (14-7-1-1) who are in third place in the At­lantic Divi­sion while the Bears (10-13-0-1) sit in last place.

Bunny hop­ping

Bun­na­man picked up his third goal of the sea­son with 3:09 left in the open­ing pe­riod. Greg Carey passed from be­hind the net to David Kase be­tween the hashes on the left for a shot. Her­shey goalie Vitek Vanecek made the save but couldn’t con­trol the re­bound as it drifted into the crease. An alert Bun­na­man pounced on it to put the Phan­toms ahead 1-0 on their 11th shot of the night.

He did not play two of the pre­vi­ous three and three of the pre­vi­ous five af­ter play­ing a sea­son-high four games in a row.

Bun­na­man cen­tered a line with lead­ing goal scorer Carey on the right and fel­low rookie Kase on the left.

Kase, 21, also played a solid game with plenty of weav­ing in and out.

Play­ing with Hart

Hart (8-4-2-0) robbed Ryan Sproul on 2-on-1 across the crease, first play­ing the shooter com­ing down the right wing, and then mak­ing a whip-fast save on a wide-open Sproul with the right leg pad on the left side of the crease just over five min­utes into the game.

The 20-year-old rookie con­tin­ues to make progress. He wisely froze the puck twice on break­aways whereas early in the sea­son he was try­ing to play it out. His glove hand was very sharp, but so was his move­ment to close space on ei­ther side of the cage.

He also came up big with a 5-hole save on a Beck Malen­styn break­away at the start of a 4-minute power play for the Phan­toms.

AHL MVP gets a call up

Dur­ing morn­ing skate, Phil Varone, the reign­ing Les Cun­ning­ham Award win­ner as the AHL’s MVP, took shifts prac­tic­ing the power play.

By the af­ter­noon, the par­ent club Philadel­phia Fly­ers re­called the Phan­toms scor­ing leader, giv­ing him the op­por­tu­nity to play his first game as a Flyer in new gen­eral man­ager Chuck Fletcher’s first move.

He will wear No. 44 for the Fly­ers when they kick off their five-game road trip in Buf­falo 1 p.m. Satur­day.

Varone leads the Phan­toms in scor­ing (28 points) and as­sists (17) this sea­son.

He also led the team in scor­ing last sea­son with 23 goals and 47 as­sists for 70 points.

Fletcher was at PPL Cen­ter last Wed­nes­day night to wit­ness the Phan­toms loss to Cleve­land, when Varone was shut out from the scor­ing regis­ter, but he did have seven goals and five as­sists in his last nine games with Le­high Val­ley.

Varone, orig­i­nally from Vaughan, On­tario, has played in 50 NHL games split be­tween the Buf­falo Sabres and Ot­tawa Se­na­tors, but this is his first call-up with the Fly­ers, who signed Varone to a two-year con­tract on July 1, 2017.

Dur­ing train­ing camp this sum­mer, Varone had to be placed on waivers on Sept. 21 and was loaned to Le­high Val­ley the next day af­ter clear­ing waivers.

True cen­ter

With Varone called up, the Phan­toms were down to just two true full time cen­ters in Mike Vec­chione and Cole Bardreau.

Mikhail “Misha” Vorobyev, who had been sent back to the Phan­toms in Novem­ber af­ter mak­ing the Fly­ers’ sea­son-open­ing ros­ter, skated on his own fol­low­ing morn­ing skate, usu­ally in­di­cat­ing some sort of in­jury for a player. He was scratched from the lineup against Her­shey.

That left Bun­na­man and Radel Fa­zleev. Both have been in and out of the lineup all sea­son.

The Phan­toms didn’t even have the op­por­tu­nity to call up any­one from the Read­ing Roy­als, like Steven Swavely. The Roy­als are play­ing in New­found­land to­day and to­mor­row.

Deuces wild for Aube-Kubel

Nic Aube-Kubel con­tin­ues to ex­ert his in­flu­ence since be­ing re­turned from his stint with the Fly­ers.

Aube-Kubel, 22, has been play­ing with an in­creased phys­i­cal edge the past few games and un­leashed his in­ner beast 2:22 into the se­cond pe­riod by drop­ping the gloves to fight Her­shey’s Colby Wil­liams. AubeKubel got in a pair of rights to start, and landed three lefts be­fore the two wres­tled each other to the ice.

Gary R. Blockus is a free­lance writer.

APRIL GAMIZ/MORN­ING CALL FILE PHOTO

The Phan­toms’ Con­nor Bun­na­man scored the only goal in Fri­day’s 1-0 win over Her­shey at PPL Cen­ter in Al­len­town.

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