The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were the only team in the Philadelphia Flyers organization to advance to the second round of the playoffs. After winning their first-round, best-of-five series against the Providence Bruins in four games, the Phantoms will face the Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division Final.
The Phantoms split the first two games against the Bruins, winning Game 1, 3-2, before dropping Game 2, 5-3. The Flyers’ season ended before Game 3 began, leading to Oskar Lindblom and Travis Sanheim being sent to Lehigh Valley to help lead the charge. Lindblom scored twice in Game 3 and was assisted by Sanheim on his second goal en route to a 4-1 victory. The Phantoms wrapped the series up with a 4-3 overtime victory in Game 4 with Max Lamarche scoring the game-winner.
The Charlotte Checkers swept the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in their first-round series. The Checkers outscored the Penguins 14-6 in three games, winning Game 1 in overtime, 3-2, Game 2, 4-1, and Game 3, 7-3. The Checkers were on a 10-game point streak in their furious race to a playoff spot, going 9-0-1-0. No matter what, the Penguins were not expected to be battered like they were. They finished with 99 points and had home-ice advantage in the playoffs.
The Phantoms’ leading scorers in the playoffs are Chris Conner and Danick Martel, who have five points each. Conner’s three-point night on Saturday earned him the Second Star of the Game. Martel was given the First Star of the Game for two goals in Game 1, including the game-winner. Alex Lyon served as the team’s starter and recorded a .930 save percentage.
The Checkers’ leading scorers in the playoffs are Greg McKegg and Haydn Fleury with five and four points, respectively. McKegg was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes from the Pittsburgh Penguins on the NHL’s trade deadline day, February 26. He played 26 games in the NHL with the Penguins this season, recording four points. After only recording 12 points in 28 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, he scored 23 points in 19 games with the Checkers. Fleury spent the season with the Hurricanes and was sent down to Charlotte following the Hurricane’s season ending.
Needless to say, the Checkers have NHL talent on their roster. Along with Valentin Zykov and Lucas Wallmark’s brilliant seasons, they have some serious firepower. The Phantoms do too, with Lindblom, Sanheim, Phil Varone and Grey Carey leading the charge.
If one Atlantic Division playoff team was the Phantoms’ kryptonite during the regular season, it was the Charlotte Checkers. The Phantoms finished with a record of 4-4-0-0 against the Checkers this season, including two losses in the final weeks of the season that saw the Phantoms lose 3-1 and 6-1. They haven’t performed well against the Checkers this season, so something will have to change in their game plan if they are to make the conference final.
This series will be a best-of-seven, with Games 1, 2, 6, and 7 being contested in Allentown and Games 3 through 5 being played in Charlotte. The series will start on Friday with Game 1 and will continue with Game 2 on Saturday. After that, the series will shift to Charlotte with Game 3 on Tuesday Game 4 on Wednesday, and Game 5, if needed, next Saturday. Games 6 and 7 will be played the following Monday and Tuesday.
Here is the full schedule.
Game 1 – Friday, 5/4 vs. Charlotte
Game 2 – Saturday, 5/5 vs. Charlotte
Game 3 – Tuesday, 5/8 at Charlotte
Game 4 – Wednesday, 5/9 at Charlotte
*Game 5 – Saturday, 5/12 at Charlotte
*Game 6 – Monday, 5/14 vs. Charlotte
*Game 7 – Tuesday, 5/15 vs. Charlotte
This is a tricky series to predict. If the Phantoms don’t let things get out of hand early in the series, they will have an easier path to the next round. But it’ll be hard to stop the Checkers’ momentum if they can’t do so at home in Games 1 and 2.
Game 1 starts at 7 p.m. on Friday night in Allentown.
Photo by Casey Liberatore/Sons of Penn