ALLENTOWN, Penn. – After a thrilling overtime victory to eliminate the Providence Bruins back on Saturday, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms attention is now on the Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division Finals. Entering Friday night’s game, the Phantoms have a nine-game home winning streak while the Checkers have a 10-game winning streak so one of them will come to an end.
The Phantoms were given an offensive piece back in the lineup as Mikhail Vorobyev, who was out since early April. At the same time, the Phantoms were missing the leagues MVP for the second straight game as Phil Varone was sidelined with his injury. It is expected that Varone will return to the lineup sometime this series. Another player that is expected to return to the Lehigh Valley lineup soon is defensemen, Sam Morin. Morin only played in 15 games with Lehigh Valley this season and hasn’t played in a game since the Outdoor Classic in Hershey back on January 20th.
Alex Lyon was in net for Scott Gordon’s squad in game one. Lyon made 49 saves in his last outing including 14 in the overtime. As for the Checkers, Alex Nedelikovic was between the pipes for Mike Vellucci’s team. Both teams were figuring each other out for most of the opening period and for the first time this postseason Charlotte found the scoreboard first thanks to Valentin Zykov who led the AHL with 33-goals in the regular season.
On the team’s first power play of the game, the Checkers looked to double their lead but Alex Lyon came up huge keeping his team down one, for the time being, For Charlotte, their power play woes this postseason would continue as they went 1-15 in their first-round series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The Phantoms would tie the game at 1 with 13:43 to go in the second as Alex Krushelynski would go backdoor on a rebound after Colin McDonald missed wide left. For Krushelnyski, it was his first goal since January 24th.
The Phantoms and Checkers would play even hockey for the majority of the game hoping not to slip up giving the other side some momentum. With less than two minutes to go in the game, the Checkers were given their fifth penalty of the game as Valentin Zykov was sent to the penalty box for the third time in the game as he made knee-to-knee contact with Travis Sanheim. Sanheim was down on the ice and needed help getting off the ice. Six seconds into their power play Greg Carey went top shelf on Nedejkovic to give Lehigh Valley a late lead on his third goal of the playoffs.
When the final horn sounded, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms extended their home winning streak to 10-games as they squeak by and take game one of the Atlantic Division Finals by the score of 2-1.
For the first time all playoffs, the Phantoms didn’t take the foot off the gas in the third and outshot Charlotte in the final 20 minutes 13 to five. It was the first loss in regulation for the Checkers since March 18th. It was their first road loss in regulation since March 2nd.
Game 2 of this series is tonight with puck drop set for around 7:05 EDT. Be sure to follow @SinBinPhantoms for updates on this series.