Harper’s OT Tally Downs Hershey in Outdoor Classic

More often than not when hockey players go back to their roots, they usually go back to their hometown where they ice skated for the first time on a pond down the street from their house. For players like Sidney Crosby, he grew up practicing shooting pucks into a drier in the basement of his childhood home.

Friday night, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies became home of the Adirondack Phantoms. The Phantoms defeated the Hershey Bears 4-3 in overtime at Citizens Bank Park. Shane Harper scored his fifth goal of the season and recorded first star honors for Adirondack. A side from the outcome it was an experience that most, if not all players will remember for ever, playing hockey outdoors in a setting similar to the ones they grew up playing in.

A record American Hockey League crowd of 46,643 poured into the ballpark to witness a rivalry being renewed. From 1995-2009 the Phantoms were housed in the Wachovia Spectrum, former home of the Philadelphia Flyers. Since the demolishing of the Spectrum, the Phantoms had to pack their bags for up-state New York. Ironically enough, the Philadelphia Phantoms’ final game in Southern Philly was against the Bears, in game four of the 2009 East Division semi-finals. Hershey swept the series four games to none and ended a chapter of Philadelphia sports history eliminating the Phantoms from the postseason.

Only 28 seconds into the outdoor classic, Chris Bourque started the scoring for Hershey netting his 19th of the season giving Bears’ fans something to cheer about early on. But, the ADK Phantoms soon answered with 7:57 left in the opening stanza. Mike Testwuide sent a sharp-angle pass through the slot that bounced off Hershey defensemen Zack Miskovic and past a fooled Braden Holtby. The Capitals’ number one goalie prospect went on to stop 40 of 44 shots before the night was said and done.

Shots after one period were 9-7 in favor of the visiting team, with the Bears possessing all two power-plays in the period.

Into the middle period, the Phantoms out shot Hershey by a huge 17-5 margin. Within the frame, Adirondack piled up a countless number of odd-man rush opportunities against the Bears. It appeared in the neutral zone for loose puck battles, the Phantoms’ forwards had an extra step the majority of the time forcing the Bears’ defense to back-check quickly into their own end to defend to scoring opportunity against. Interesting enough, it was a break-away that decided the game’s outcome.

Despite being dominated in the period, with only 1:23 left before fans would hit concessions again for the second intermission Kyle Greentree scored for Hershey to carry a 2-1 lead into the dressing room.

With the Phantoms down, they were forced to pull off a ninth inning comeback and come from behind to bury the Bears. They ended up coming from behind twice, first being at the 7:03 mark and the second coming with just 22 seconds left in regulation. Luke Pither tallied his second goal of the season knocking a bouncing puck out of mid-air on a back-door try. Holtby came across in time, but the knuckleball-like shot found its way through Holtby to tie the game at 2-2.

Going into the matchup the Hershey Bears had the number one man-advantage unit in the league by far. Going into the night they were at 32-percent overall in the American Hockey League ranked number one. Graham Mink scored his 13th goal of the season with only 7:07 left in regulation. Out of Mink’s 13 goals, 11 have been via the power-play. He currently leads the league in PPG’s.

However, in front of a crowd of 46,000-plus, the home team again found away to come back. This time being, they needed an extra-attacker and were forced to pull Michael Leighton. With heavy pressure towards the third base foul line, Adirondack top scorer Ben Holmstrom scored the biggest goal of his career with 22 seconds left, dead-locking the game at 3-3.

Both teams earned at least one point with the clock hitting all zeros on the third period with the score being tied. With all the momentum in hand for Philadelphia/Adirondack, it only took 58 seconds into extra time to send home Hershey with a 4-3 defeat. Shane Harpor broke through the defense on a break-away and stuffed a low shot on Holtby sending the crowd into a frenzy and the Phantoms to win 18 of the season.

Both teams shortly after the game jumped on a bus and headed towards Hershey, PA for a rematch the very next night at Giant Center.

Game time is at 7 p.m., and this time there will be a roof.

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