One of the lasting memories fans will have the 2012 Winter Classic festivities will be the thrilling show put on by the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms and their incredible comeback and overtime victory over the Hershey Bears on Jan. 6, 2012.
That’s a date that Flyers prospect Shane Harper will never forget for the rest of his life and rightfully so.
The 5-foot-11 forward from Valencia, Calif. Provided the heroics at Citizens Bank Park by scoring the game-winning goal just 58 seconds into overtime to give the Phantoms a 4-3 win over the Bears in front of an all-time AHL record crowd of 45,653.
“I didn’t know it went in at first. I kind of got a piece of it, then it went in,” said Harper after the goal. “The place erupted, the team came off the bench and it was unbeleiveable. It couldn’t have ended better than that.
Harper is one of many future Flyers hoping to duplicate that experience in many more big game situations.
“I think he’s opened some eyes here,” said Flyers Director of Hockey Operations Chris Pryor. “I think down the road, because he has a good attitude, good work ethic and competitiveness, he’s going to give himself a chance.”
The Flyers signed Harper to an entry-level contract on Mar. 4, 2010 following a five-year junior career with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League where he amassed 100 goals and 114 assists for 214 points in 335 regular season games and another 20 points (8G-12A) in 29 postseason games.
Harper has certainly had to earn his way onto the roster, splitting part of his first full season with Adirondack and the Flyers ECHL affiliate, the Greenville Road Warriors in 2010-11.
In Greenville, Harper produced at nearly a point-per-game pace with 45 points (22G-23A) in 48 regular season games and added another six goals and 10 points in seven playoff games.
Such numbers earned Harper a permanent and key role with the Phantoms this past season where he recorded 13 goals and 14 assists for 27 points in 70 games.
“That’s a perfect example of a guy that the year before last, he was kind of feeling his way around up and down,” added Pryor. “Last year he had a good solid year after having a year under his belt. He’s not a big guy, but he plays with a lot of energy and he competes.”
That compete level and energy Pryor also likens to many of the Flyers we have already seen. Drawing comparisons to players such as Eric Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo and Harry Zolnierczyk to name a few.
If those players are any indication of what to look forward to from Harper, then Flyers fans could be getting an early look, especially at the team’s Prospect Camp in July, at another rookie class ready to make an impression in the big leagues.