April 20, 2018
By: Kristi Fulkerson
The Phantoms who are coming off an impressive regular season at 47-19-5-5, winning the franchise’s fifth-ever division tittle, first since 2005. Lehigh Valley enters the Atlantic Division Semifinals as the No. 1 seed and will meet No. 4 Providence in a best-of-5 series beginning tonight in Rhode Island. After games Friday and Saturday at the Dunkin Donuts Center, the series will shift to Allentown and the Phantoms will host Game 3 on Friday April 27th (ideally with a chance to sweep and look ahead to Round 2.).
Depth and consistency have been the two biggest strengths of the Phantoms this season, ending the regular season second among all AHL teams in points (104), wins (27), goals scored (3.42/game), and regulation losses (19). They finished behind Toronto, the North Division champions), in all of those categories except goals — division foe Charlotte averaged a hair better with 3.45 goals per game.
It is puzzling to many that ‘home ice’ advantage for the top seeded Phantoms doesn’t begin until Game 3, but travel distance and rink availability are key to AHL scheduling, even in playoffs. When asked about starting on the road for Games 1 and 2, veteran defenseman T.J. Brennan put it best, “If you have to eat a frog, it may as well be first thing in the morning."
What should excite fans is that if the Phantoms win the series over the Bruins, they’re guaranteed to clinch at PPL Center. In fact, a playoff win at home would be a first for Lehigh Valley. In 2017, Phantoms were bounced in the opening round by rival Hershey after the road team won each of the series’ five games, including three contests in Allentown. The Phantoms have not advanced past the division semifinals since 2008.
It will be no easy feat taking on the Boston Bruins AHL affiliate. The two teams met six times in the regular season, 5 of them coming over the final 12 games. Lehigh Valley (4-1-1 vs. Providence) boasts the second best-offense (goals for) in league, while Providence ranks second-best defensively (goals against). The Phantoms have 10 double-digit goal scorers on their roster while the Bruins goaltending tandem of Zane McIntyre and Jordan Binnington led the AHL with a combined seven shutouts.
As good as the Phantoms regular season was, the team has all but put it behind them starting tonight. Captain Colin McDonald saying, “We have to get back to neutral and refocus. After 76 games, I’d like to think we know what works and what doesn’t so it’s a matter of maximizing those and limiting the others.”
76 games down, 15 wins to go. #CalderCup
Atlantic Division Semifinals – Series “A” (best-of-5)
A1-Lehigh Valley Phantoms vs. A4-Providence Bruins
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 20 – Lehigh Valley at Providence, 7:05
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 21 – Lehigh Valley at Providence, 7:05
Game 3 – Fri., Apr. 27 – Providence at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 (Live on TV2/502HD)
*Game 4 – Sat., Apr. 28 – Providence at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 (Live on TV2/502HD)
*Game 5 – Mon., Apr. 30 – Providence at Lehigh Valley, 7:05 (Live on TV2/502HD)
*if necessary… All times Eastern