The Lehigh Valley Phantoms didn’t have much to play for in their final week of the regular season. With the Atlantic Division all wrapped up, the weekend was about building momentum for the playoffs and watching other games to see who they’d play.
Friday, Apr. 13th vs. Bridgeport Sound Tigers (5-2 win)
The Phantoms fell down early to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers but stormed back with four unanswered goals to win, 5-2.
Steve Bernier opened the scoring for the Sound Tigers in the first period after a shot from the point hit a stick and travelled through a maze of bodies on its way towards the net. Dustin Tokarski stuck his pad out to make the initial save, but Bernier jammed the puck home to make it 1-0.
Midway through the period, Reece Willcox tied the game with a scintillating wrist shot that went by Christopher Gibson. Willcox got help in front from Carsen Twarynski, who set up a screen.
Halfway through the second period, Isaac Ratcliffe scored his first goal of his professional career with a deflection in front of the net. Willcox took the shot, and Racliffe was able to beautifully redirect the puck and change the speed of it, too.
Less three minutes later, Danick Martel took advantage of a Nicolas Aube-Kubel shot that found the glass. Martel grabbed the puck behind the net and banked it off Gibson while Gibson was still searching for the puck. The power-play goal made it 3-1.
Exactly 10 minutes into the third period, Martel scored again to finish a beautiful bit of passing between he, Cole Bardreau and Mark Friedman. He found himself all alone in the slot before finishing it underneath Gibson.
The Sound Tigers got one back with under three minutes left in the game, but Mike Vecchione scored an empty-netter to ice the game at 5-2. Tokarski made 29 saves on 31 shots in his last regular season appearance.
Saturday, Apr. 14th vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2-1 SO win)
In their last regular season game, the Phantoms played the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a shootout, where Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s goal ended the season on a high-note.
This was a wild game with low scoring, but it didn’t become wild until there were two minutes remaining in regulation. Garett Wilson scored with just under two minutes left in the game to put the Penguins in the lead. Alex Lyon thought he had the puck, but Wilson kept jamming away at it before it was sent over the line.
With just 46 seconds remaining, a Phantoms shot found its way to the slot. Chris Conner was sitting on the doorstep and whacking away at the puck before he was able to get a piece of it. It slowly bounced through defenseman Kevin Czuczman and Michael Leighton before rolling across the line to tie the game.
In the shootout, no one could score until the fourth round. Aube-Kubel was the Phantoms’ fourth shooter, and he pulled off a dandy of a move to close out the Phantoms’ season.
Lyon made 26 of 27 saves in the win.
Star of the week
Isaac Ratcliffe joined the Phantoms after the Guelph Storm’s season ended, and he made a big impact in his first game. He scored the Phantoms’ second goal of the game on Friday against the Sound Tigers for his first professional goal on his first shot in his first game. He earned the Third Star, too. Ratcliffe scored 41 goals and recorded 27 assists for 68 points in 67 games with the Storm this season, adding nine more points in six playoff games.
Pascal Laberge joined the Phantoms this week after the Quebec Ramparts’ season ended. Laberge was traded to the Ramparts from the Victoriaville Tigres midway through the season and recorded 47 points in 64 games combined. He is eligible to join the Phantoms next season as he is 20 years old.
As previously noted, Isaac Ratcliffe joined the Phantoms this week after the Guelph Storm’s season ended. Also, John Muse was sent down to the Reading Royals on Wednesday to join them in their playoff series against the Manchester Monarchs.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms will play the Providence Bruins in the first round of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. Here’s what the schedule looks like:
Game 1 – Friday, 4/20 at Providence
Game 2 – Saturday, 4/21 at Provdience
Game 3 – Friday, 4/27 vs. Providence
*Game 4 – Saturday, 4/28 vs. Providence
*Game 5 – Sunday, 4/30 vs. Providence
Photo by Casey Liberatore/Sons of Penn