It only took 60 minutes of hockey Saturday night.
The Charlotte Checkers’ season came to an end in a 5-1 loss to Lehigh Valley, in a game lacking most of the drama of the record-setting five-overtime contest of three days ago.
The theme of Saturday night’s loss before 6,322 at Bojangles’ Coliseum was familiar in the second-round American Hockey League playoff series. The Phantoms went in front early, and Charlotte couldn’t solve Lehigh Valley goalkeeper Alex Lyon.
So the Phantoms won the series 4 games to 1, sweeping three straight in Charlotte, and advanced to the AHL Eastern Conference finals against the Toronto Marlies.
The Checkers have the summer to consider what might have happened if they had beaten Lehigh Valley in Game 4 – and how, or if, there was a way to beat Lyon.
The Checkers’ sole victory in the series, a 6-0 drubbing of the Phantoms last Saturday, was the only game in which Lyon did not play. Otherwise, he allowed the Checkers only three goals in 16-plus periods of hockey – the equivalent of more than five games.
Lyon stopped 94 of 95 shots in Game 4 and was called upon to deal with a paltry 28 Checkers shots Saturday night. The only one to get by him came in the third period, when Greg McKegg scored on a put-back of a Philip Samuelsson shot.
By that point, though, the Phantoms were ahead 4-0.
Corbin Knight’s goal midway in the first period had given Lehigh Valley a 1-0 lead, and when the Checkers began to press the action in the second period, the Phantoms took advantage. They scored twice on breakaways, with Chris Conner and Tyrell Goulbourne getting unassisted goals.
With much of the energy drained from the building, the Phantoms kept up the attack in the final 20 minutes. Phillipe Myers scored at the 4:04 mark, making it 4-0, and McKegg got Charlotte’s goal about a minute later.
The final tally came just two minutes later by Colin McDonald, on an assist from Alex Krushelnyski, who scored the winning goal in the five-overtime marathon.
3 who mattered
Lyon (Lehigh Valley): Lyon was the most valuable player of the series. He allowed Charlotte one goal in each of the four games he played – all won by Lehigh Valley. He made 25 saves Saturday night.
Oskar Lindblom (Lehigh Valley): Lindblom had two assists and three shots.
Conner (Lehigh Valley): His breakaway goal in the second period gave Lehigh Valley a 2-0 lead, and the Checkers seemed to lose steam after that.
▪ Referees Corey Syvret and Jeremy Tufts had a relatively easy night, as was the case in all but Game 2 of the series. They called only four minor penalties, two on each team. A notable exception came in the final minute of the second period, when Charlotte’s McKegg and Lehigh Valley’s Reece Wilcox got into a shoving match. Each received two-minute roughing penalties.
▪ The Checkers’ power play never really developed during the series. They scored four power-play goals in Game 2, but they went 1-for-10 in the other four games.
▪ The Checkers had won 11 of 12 games through the first two contests of the series. Then they lost three straight.
▪ The Checkers never quit. Despite being far behind in the third period, they outshot the Phantoms 11-4. Unfortunately, they were trying to get the puck past Lyon – and that wasn’t happening in this series.