READING, Pa. – After their second straight 100-plus point season, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are looking for a better outcome than last season’s playoffs when they take on the Providence Bruins in the Atlantic Division Semifinals. The Phantoms were in control of the Atlantic Division for most of the season and now in Scott Gordon’s third season, they have the team to make a deep run with a great mixture of young guys and veterans. Also, with the Reading Royals’ season coming to an end last night, the Phantoms will get some more reinforcements to their team.
This series will be teacher vs. student as Phantoms coach Scott Gordon coached Bruins coach Jay Leach for three seasons (2004 through 2007) when Leach was a member of the Providence Bruins.
Final Regular Season Records:
Lehigh Valley Phantoms: 47-19-5-5, 105 points (1st in the Atlantic Division, 2nd in the Eastern Conference)
Providence Bruins: 45-26-3-2, 95 points (4th in the Atlantic Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference)
Game 1 – Friday, April 20 – Lehigh Valley at PROVIDENCE 7:05 pm ET
Game 2 – Saturday, April 21 – Lehigh Valley at PROVIDENCE 7:05 pm ET
Game 3 – Friday, April 27 – Providence at LEHIGH VALLEY 7:05 pm ET
*Game 4 – Saturday, April 28 – Providence at LEHIGH VALLEY 7:05 pm ET
*Game 5 – Monday, April 30 – Providence at LEHIGH VALLEY 7:05 pm ET
*=> If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
In the regular season, these two teams met six times with the Phantoms having the edge going 4-1-1 in the series. Lehigh Valley went a perfect 3-0 inside the PPL Center against Providence this past season with the Bruins only scoring two goals in nine periods of hockey. The two goals both came in the final two minutes of the first meeting of the season back in late January. Additionally, Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward Greg Carey was a Bruins killer this season, picking up four goals in the six meetings.
How Lehigh Valley Wins:
The Phantoms are getting healthy at the right time which could be a scary sight for opposing teams come playoff time. Defenseman Sam Morin skated in a regular practice jersey yesterday for the Phantoms and could be good to go for Game 1 Friday night. Morin has been out since January 20th and has only played in 15 games this season for Lehigh Valley but his presence on the blue line will be huge for the Phantoms. Another player with a stellar year for the Phantoms was Phil Varone. The former Binghamton Senator and Rochester Americans player signed a two-way deal with the Philadelphia Flyers over the summer and played in all but two games for the Phantoms this season, setting a career high in points with 70 (23G-47A). The 23 goals were also a career-high for Varone and he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player last Friday.
How Providence Wins:
Stellar goaltending. Zane McIntyre has been the go-to goalie for Jay Leach’s squad this season. The third-year pro recorded seven shutouts this season which led the AHL, and is one more than the other four Phantoms goalies this season (Alex Lyon, Dustin Tokarski, John Muse, and Anthony Stolarz) had combined. Forward Austin Czarnik needs to be a thorn in the Phantoms side if the Bruins want to pull off the upset. Czarnik’s specialty can be seen on the power play where he put up 13 power-play goals, fourth-highest in the league.
The 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway Thursday night and Team Sin Bin will be all over it. Make sure to follow all of the AHL Sin Bin writers on Twitter for updates throughout the playoffs. As for this series, if you want to see live tweets follow @SinBinRoyals.