Catasauqua Press

Monday, June 18, 2018

Phantoms swept out of playoffs by Marlies

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

For the first time since moving to the Lehigh Valley, the Phantoms reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Unfortunately, their stay in the finals didn’t last long as the Toronto Marlies, complete with a number of players who saw considerable time in the NHL this season, swept the Phantoms in four games to end Lehigh Valley’s quest for a Calder Cup championship, winning 3-1 in the series finale.

“You look up and down their roster, obviously, they’re very, very talented,” said goalie Alex Lyon. “They play an NHL style game, very tenacious.”

A scoreless first period may have led to some frustration on the part of the Phantoms who were called for frequent penalties and game Toronto a two-man advantage early in the second period. The Marlies took advantage of the situation as Chris Mueller fired a picture-perfect pass to Andreas Johnsson, who was camped by the side of the net and buried his fifth goal of the playoffs to put Toronto up 1-0 just 2:24 into the second period.

Lehigh Valley regrouped and was able to tie the game near the midway point of the period. This time it was the Phantoms who had a one-man advantage and it was Colin McDonald with the pinpoint pass that led to Travis Sanheim firing from the slot to tie the game 1-1.

Johnsson struck again from the bottom of the right-wing faceoff circle, sneaking a shot through Lyon’s pads for the go-ahead goal. As the Phantoms battled to knot the game, coach Scott Gordon pulled Lyon to add an extra attacker. The strategy backfired when Trevor Moore slid the puck into the empty net to give Toronto an insurance goal in the game’s final minute.

While upset with being eliminated from the playoffs, Gordon was proud of the fact that his team didn’t quit after falling behind three games to none in the best-of-seven series.

“The first period, you could tell the guys were playing,” said Gordon of the effort in Friday night’s game. “They were finishing checks and I think basically letting Toronto know that it wasn’t going to be easy for them and it wasn’t.”

Toronto will play the winner of the series between the Texas Stars and Rockford IceHogs. Texas holds a three-to-two lead in games in that best-of-seven series.

A LYON IN GOAL ... Alex Lyon started 11 of the 13 playoff games for the Phantoms and stopped 26 of 28 Toronto shots in game four and 121 of 133 shots in the four-game series. Lyon, in just his second professional season, went 6-5 in the postseason and 16-8-2 with a 91-percent save percentage. There was some speculation that Lyon would be suspended before game four after he kicked an opponent out of frustration in game three. No suspension came down and he was on the ice for game four.

POSTSEASON LEADERS ... Chris Conner led the Phantoms in both goals (5) and total points (9) in the postseason. T.J. Brennan and Colin McDonald tied for the team lead in assists with five each. Conner’s five goals on 17 shots led the team with an impressive 29.4-percent shot percentage.

WHERE DID HE GO? ... Mike Vecchione was a late scratch despite being on the ice for warm-ups. Instead, Alex Krushelnyski, who didn’t participate in line rushes pregame was inserted into Vecchione’s spot. There was no explanation given for the late change.