WAYNE, N.J. - After a highly successful home-opening weekend, the USPHL Philadelphia Flyers were looking to carry their momentum to the road.
Unfortunately, the Jersey Hitmen had other ideas.
Stifled for much of the match, Philadelphia fell to the Hitmen by a 2-1 final at the Ice Vault Arena.
The result comes less than a week after the Flyers swept the South Shore Kings at home by final scores of 9-2 and 5-2. Unfortunately for the orange and black, they were unable to carry over their offensive brilliance from the weekend before.
Early in the game, the teams appeared to be feeling each other out. The sky blue-clad Hitmen gradually got the better of puck possession as the first period progressed, but the Flyers did well to not allow many clear-cut chances, and Joe Young was there early on to parry away any shots that were directed at the Flyers' net.
During a period of four-on-four play, the Hitmen took a 1-0 lead on a shot from the right circle by Andrew DeBrincat at 8:47 of the first. The low shot trickled past Young and just over the line—the Flyers' goaltender reached back with his glove, but he could not pull it back in time.
After the goal, Philadelphia immediately had a bit of sustained zone time, but in a common theme for the evening, they were unable to severely test Hitmen backup goalie Kollyn Jones, who was starting for the injured Chris Funkey.
Jersey took a 1-0 advantage to the dressing room after the first, but perhaps more descriptively, they enjoyed a 12-5 advantage in shots.
The second period opened in an eerily similar fashion to the first. Jersey enjoyed the majority of the puck possession, but not did generate many significant chances. Young, who was an important rock for the Flyers in this game, expertly handled any semi-chance the Hitmen did receive.
Midway through the period, Philadelphia was whistled for too many men on the ice, triggering an important kill situation that was handled by the Flyers four-man unit. In fact, speed and pressure on Jersey point man Trevor Owens led to a holding call after he fumbled the puck at the point. The even-up penalty with 15 seconds left on the Hitmen power play eventually created a man advantage of Philadelphia's own, but the Flyers were unable to convert.
Shots in the second stanza were a bit more even, at 13-10 Jersey, but the score remained 1-0 after two largely due to Young.
The Flyers' fortune did not change much in the third. Just about four minutes in, the Hitmen took their advantage to 2-0 courtesy of a power play goal by Kenny Gillespie. John Jackson earned the primary assist for Jersey on the play.
Philadelphia was unable to turn the tides following the goal. At one point, the Hitmen led the third period shot count 13-2, but time and time again, Young was there to keep the game.
With 6:20 remaining in the third, Chris Wallace took an interference penalty, granting Philadelphia a chance to get back into the game. Ryan Badger, who was a bright spot for the Flyers, drew another Jersey penalty just about halfway through the power play, giving the Flyers a five-on-three for 51 seconds, an opportunity that they did not squander. Trevor Gooch redirected a point feed from Christian Meike just outside of the crease, beating Kollyn Jones for Philadelphia's first goal.
Despite remaining on the power play for more than a minute after the tally, that would be all the offense Philadelphia could muster, as Jones held strong to preserve the 2-1 win. The Hitmen goalie was far from flawless—he did have some shaky moments on seemingly harmless dump-ins and shots from distance—but he did enough to preserve the victory for Jersey.
The final shot count was 46-24 in favor of Jersey, who pressured Philadelphia relentlessly from start to finish.
The Flyers' record drops to 3-5-0-1, while Jersey moves to 6-1-0-0. The teams will be back at it tomorrow at 1:45 in the second match of the weekend series.
My Three Stars
1. Kollyn Jones, G (JER) – Give him credit for the shutout, but he went largely untested, save some late rallies by the Flyers.
2. Joe Young, G (PHI) – Unquestionably the Flyers' best player on this night. Fended off sustained Jersey attacks all game long.
3. Kenny Gillespie, F (JER) – His third period goal was the game-winner.