CHARLOTTE, N.C.- After Thursday and Friday off for much-needed rest after playing in the longest AHL history back on Wednesday night into early Thursday morning, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Charlotte Checkers were back in action Saturday night for game 5 of the North Division Final.
Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon was flat out terrific in the five-overtime thriller last time out. He made 94 saves which are the second most in American Hockey League history and most of them were made with Lehigh Valley only playing with five defensemen. Sam Morin left in the first period back in game 4 after sustaining another injury during what for him is, unfortunately, a lost season due to all the injuries he’s been dealing with.
Lyon was once again in net for the Phantoms and the Checkers went with Alex Nedeljkovic between the pipes with their season in the balance.
The Phantoms actually had practice after playing almost eight periods of hockey last game, while the Checkers did not and it showed early as Corban Knight through traffic with a wrist shot was able to slip the puck past Nedeljkovic for his first goal of the postseason. The Checkers were in shorthanded on a 3-on-1 rush, but as he has done all series long, Lyon would come up huge and preserve the lead for Lehigh Valley after the first two minutes.
With 6:04 to go in the second, the Phantoms would double their lead, thanks to Chris Conner‘s breakaway 5-hole goal in which he went coast-to-coast. The marker was Conner’s fourth goal of the playoffs and his eighth point which is a new Calder Cup playoff career high for the 34-year-old. With less than three minutes to go in the second one of the most unlikely Phantoms found the back of the net as Tyrell Goulbourne knocked Philip Samuelsson down and was able to beat Nedeljkvoic for only his ninth goal of the season.
With panic starting to show on the Charlotte side, the Phantoms wanted to make the possibility of elimination more of a reality. Philippe Myers who led the Phantoms in minutes played in the game 4 marathon was able to rocket one past the Checkers netminder for his third goal of the postseason at 3:58 of the final period. The goal was all set up by Corban Knight, who was able to keep the puck in the Phantoms attack zone to prevent offsides being called.
With little to no emotion left, the Checkers were finally able to solve Alex Lyon less than two minutes later. Roland McKewon was the last Checker to score a goal this season.
But, any momentum the Checkers had after McKewon’s goal it was gone in a matter of minutes as Phantoms captain Colin McDonald gave his club a four-goal cushion once more off a Charlotte turnover on his tenth career playoff goal.
When the final horn sounded, it was handshake time at the Bojangles’ Coliseum, as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms eliminated the Charlotte Checkers in five games with a 5-1 victory. In all four of the Phantoms victories in the series, Alex Lyon gave up only four goals (one in each game) and made 184 saves out of the 188 shots he faced. The Phantoms also won this series without the league MVP, Phil Varone, playing a single minute.
The Phantoms will now advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2005 and will take on the Toronto Marlies. Game 1 of this series will be Saturday afternoon inside Ricoh Coliseum with puck drop at 4:00 EDT.