Say it Aint So - Bears Put Phantoms On The Brink

Saturday, April 22, 2017
Chris Bourque celebrates after scoring Hershey's game-winning goal with 33 seconds left in the third period. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Phantoms squander two-goal lead, Lyon injured in third period

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - Hockey is an interesting game. Sometimes, a team finds themselves doing all the right things and controlling their opponent, but just don't get the end result.

The first two games of the Atlantic Division Semifinals between the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears provides a perfect example.

After a 1-0 overtime loss in Game One, the Phantoms again came ready to play Saturday night for Game 2 - out shooting the Bears 16-4 in a dominating performance.

The middle frame? Just four more Bears shots, and a 4-2 lead for Lehigh Valley heading to the third.

The Bears stuck around despite being limited to just eight shots on net through the first 45 minutes of regulation. They made things interesting with 12:33 left when Chris Bourque beat Alex Lyon with a shot from the point, and then things began to unravel for Lehigh Valley.

Lyon was injured shortly after Bourque's goal made it a 4-3 game - receiving incidental contact from Travis Boyd and awkwardly falling into the back of his net. Lyon was helped off the ice with 11:22 left in regulation, putting no weight on his right leg.

Head coach Scott Gordon said after the game that Lyon will have an MRI tomorrow.

A really tough spot for Martin Ouellette to be thrown into was proven when the first shot he faced deflected past him - hitting the post on its way in. Tie game.

The heart breaker for Lehigh Valley came with 33 seconds left, as Bourque put the Phantoms on the brink of elimination with his second goal of the night.

"When it's all said and done, obviously, in this series, you have to win three games," Gordon said. "We just have to win three in a row."

Hershey Strikes In OT To Take 1-0 Series Lead

Friday, April 21, 2017
Alex Lyon reaches for loose puck with Sam Morin defending Zach Sill. Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Phantoms dominant early, unable to solve Copley in Game One Loss

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' first ever playoff game as the Flyers' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate in downtown Allentown needed more than 60 minutes to find not only a winner, but a goal scorer.

Unfortunately for the Phantoms, that came by way of a Nathan Walker rebound goal 7:38 into the first overtime to give the Hershey Bears a 1-0 series lead in the best-of-five Atlantic Division Semifinals.
The Phantoms used an energetic crowd of 7,072 to their advantage early - flying in the opening period and tripling up the Bears in shots (15-5) - but were unable to get one past Pheonix Copley.

As the game wore on, the Bears started to establish themselves as a team that looked like they were in the Calder Cup Finals last spring.

Certainly no time to hit the panic button for Lehigh Valley. They found with speed and pressure in the opening period that they can put this Bears team on their heals. But a 1-0 deficit in a best-of-five series isn't something to not be dialed in for come Saturday evening for Game Two. Their next loss in the series will put the Phantoms on the brink of elimination.

Just a quick recap after the jump. The joys of 4 a.m. work days outside of the hockey world.

Phantoms/Bears - Game 1 News/Notes

Photo edited by Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Phantoms host franchise's first-ever playoff game in the Lehigh Valley

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

Editor's Note - Full coverage of tonight's Phantoms game against the Hershey Bears, live from the PPL Center in downtown Allentown, Pa!
    The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. ET, but make sure you're following along on Twitter -> @TonyAndrock and Facebook (like the Facebook page!) for all the latest updates and information.
Stay tuned here online after the game for a recap of the action. Don't forget to subscribe to Highland Park Hockey's YouTube channel for post-game interviews with players.

ALLENTOWN - The wait is over.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms begin their quest for the 2017 Calder Cup tonight, hosting the Hershey Bears in Game One of the Atlantic Division Semifinals at the PPL Center in downtown Allentown, Pa.

Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET and fans attending tonight's game are encouraged to wear orange to support the Phantoms' "Orange Out" for the postseason. All fans attending Friday night's Game One will receive an orange rally towel which should help add to the playoff atmosphere in the Lehigh Valley.

After all, it's the franchise's first postseason contest since 2009 and the first for the Lehigh Valley franchise since relocating to Allentown for the start of the 2014-15 season.

After the jump, expected lineups for each team as well as the latest injury news/notes, five keys to the best-of-five series and a prediction for how the series will go.

Phantoms' Alt to Experience Calder Cup Playoffs For First Time

Thursday, April 20, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Playoff hockey a long time coming for Mark Alt

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - Coming into his fourth year of professional hockey - all with the Philadelphia Flyers organization since being acquired in a trade back in 2013 - Mark Alt hadn't been on a Phantoms team that qualified for the American Hockey League's (AHL) postseason before this season.

"It's just a great feeling. It's what you work so hard during the year for - to finally get that payoff to move on and get that really meaningful hockey," Alt told Highland Park Hockey after practice earlier this week. "It's what I've been waiting for."

"This is my fourth year with this team, and obviously we have had some struggles in the past. It's been a really fun A - a really exciting year - getting a chance to move on into the postseason and we're really looking forward to it."

Phantoms/Bears Round 1 Preview - The Matchups

Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Photo: Nina Weiss/Highland Park Hockey
Phantoms Practice Report How do the Phantoms & Bears match up?

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms were back at PPL Center Wednesday afternoon continuing their preparation to host the Hershey Bears in Game One of the Atlantic Division Semifinals on Friday night.

The big news of the day came after practice when head coach Scott Gordon told media that defenseman Phil Myers will be joining the Phantoms, though he was not sure of exactly when that will be.

Carter Hart is already with the Phantoms, and was on the ice for his second practice. He was a popular media target today by several Philadelphia outlets that traveled up the Northeast Extension to take in Wednesday's practice.

I talked to several Phantoms players today gauging their excitement levels entering what is for many their first taste of playoff hockey at the pro level. I had an especially interesting talk with Mark Alt about that, who now in his fourth year will be experiencing the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time Friday night. That story will be online tomorrow.

There was also a chat with Mark Friedman, who made his pro debut in the Phantoms' season finale last Saturday night in Binghamton. Friedman didn't look one bit out of place on the AHL blue line and registered his first pro point (an assist) to go along with a plus three in his debut.

Taylor Leier is another guy getting his first pro playoff action this weekend, and he had plenty to say in a 1-on-1 interview with Highland Park Hockey after Wednesday's practice.

After the jump, however, is continuing our Phantoms/Bears playoff preview series with a look at how the two teams stack up against one another. I'll offer my series prediction in my final preview post Friday before Game One.