They didn’t make it easy on themselves, but the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have clinched Atlantic Division title.
With their 6-3 victory against the Providence Bruins on Sunday, the Phantoms clinched first place in the Atlantic. They currently have 100 points with two games remaining. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were the last team that could’ve contested for first, but they can only get to 100 points, and the tiebreaker (ROW) goes to the Phantoms.
— LehighValleyPhantoms (@LVPhantoms) April 8, 2018
It’s the franchise’s first division title since 2004.
The Phantoms’ magic number heading into this week was six. They went 1-2-1 in their last four games, losing to the Charlotte Checkers twice (3-1 on Tuesday, 6-1 on Wednesday) and the Hartford Wolf Pack in overtime on Saturday. The Penguins lost in regulation to the fifth-placed Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday, and that loss also meant they would not win the tiebreaker. The Phantoms currently have 43 ROW and the Penguins have 39.
With first clinched, the Phantoms will play the fourth-placed team in the Atlantic Division in the best-of-five divisional semifinal. Unfortunately, the team that will finish fourth most likely won’t be known until the final day of the season. The Penguins are in second with 94 points (three games remaining), the Providence Bruins are in third with 91 points (three games remaining), and the Checkers are in fourth with 92 points (two games remaining) due to the AHL officially ranking teams by point percentage.
If the Phantoms have a specific team they want to face in mind, it would probably be the Bruins. They have a 4-1-1 record against them this season, and their only two losses to them this season were a few weeks ago when they lost 5-4 in overtime and 6-1. The Penguins would obviously be a tough team to play, but the chances of them falling to fourth are small.
The most likely opponent would be the Checkers, and for some reason, they’ve had the Phantoms’ number this season. The Phantoms are 4-4-0 against them this season and have been outscored 28-22, and their recent losses to them this week doesn’t exactly breed confidence. No matter what, the Phantoms have two more games before the season ends this weekend against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Bridgeport to fine-tune themselves before the playoffs start.
The Calder Cup Playoffs starts the week of April 16.
Photo by Heather Barry/Sons of Penn