Phantoms oust Checkers, head to East Finals

Photo: Gregg Forwerck

No overtime needed this time.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night with a resounding 5-1 win over the Charlotte Checkers, finishing off their best-of-seven series in five games with three consecutive road victories.

The Phantoms franchise is heading to the conference finals for the first time since winning the Calder Cup in 2005. They will face Toronto in a battle of the AHL’s top two teams from the 2017-18 regular season.

After his 94-save effort in the quintuple-overtime Game 4 marathon, Alex Lyon made 27 more saves in Game 5 to improve to 6-1 on the postseason. Lyon was 4-0 in the series against the Checkers, allowing only four goals on 188 shots in his four second-round starts (0.73, .979).

Corban Knight got Lehigh Valley on the board 9:22 into Game 5, intercepting a clearing attempt and sending a wrist shot from the left point that eluded Alex Nedeljkovic.

The Phantoms doubled their lead at 13:56 of the second period when Chris Conner forced a turnover at his own blue line and took off on a breakaway, beating Nedeljkovic for his fourth goal of the playoffs.

Just over three minutes later, Tyrell Goulbourne made it 3-0 when he won a puck battle in front and fired home his first postseason goal.

Philippe Myers then scored on a long shot from the right point at 4:04 of the third period to give Lehigh Valley a 4-0 lead.

Charlotte finally got back on the scoreboard when Roland McKeown scored 5:58 into the third, ending Lyon’s shutout streak at 165 minutes, 54 seconds. Lyon made 97 consecutive saves during that span.

But the Phantoms capitalized on another turnover as Alex Krushelnyski found Colin McDonald at 7:18 to restore the four-goal lead and finish the scoring.

After making 51 stops in Game 4, Nedeljkovic (4-4) turned aside 19 of 24 shots in Game 5.

Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A1-Lehigh Valley Phantoms vs. A3-Charlotte Checkers
Game 1 – Fri., May 4 – LEHIGH VALLEY 2, Charlotte 1 | Recap
Game 2 – Sat., May 5 – Charlotte 6, LEHIGH VALLEY 0 | Recap
Game 3 – Tue., May 8 – Lehigh Valley 5, CHARLOTTE 1 | Recap
Game 4 – Wed., May 9 – Lehigh Valley 2, CHARLOTTE 1 (5OT) | Recap
Game 5 – Sat., May 12 – Lehigh Valley 5, CHARLOTTE 1