After starting the postseason at home against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, the Charlotte Checkers will head to Pennsylvania again, this time to Lehigh Valley to take on the Phantoms (Philadelphia Flyers affiliate). The Checkers are in the second round for the first time since 2010-11, when a Jeff Daniels-coached team reached the conference finals. Charlotte exited the playoffs quickly in 2012-13 as well as last season. The second round expands to a best of seven series, despite the first round only being a best of five series.
The Checkers will receive additional reinforcements as they have signed Jake Bean and Morgan Geekie to amateur tryout contracts. Bean, the 13th overall pick in 2016, will report immediately to the team, while Geekie will join the team when they head back to Charlotte.
In round one, Charlotte played well in all three zones and enjoyed a balanced attack in the offensive zone. Midseason acquisition Greg McKegg leads the Checkers offensively with five points (one goal, four assists). The key to the Checkers moving on, however, was the stellar play of Alex Nedeljkovic who started all three games in the first-round sweep. He registered a .929 save percentage and stopped 78 of 84 shots (28 shots per game) for a 1.97 goals against average.
Charlotte is presented with a different challenge in the Lehigh Valley Phantoms than the one they faced against the Penguins. The Phantoms have one of the best tandems in the AHL with Alex Lyon and Dustin Tokarski manning the net. Both goaltenders played well in their series against the Providence Bruins, which was over in four games. The duo split the net in the regular season and each had save percentages about .910. Tokarski’s five shutouts this season tied him for third best in the league alongside Charlotte netminder Nedeljkovic.
This will be a true test for the Checkers to see if they are “the real deal.” Lehigh Valley has AHL MVP Phil Varone who tore up the league this year, posting 70 points (23 goals, 47 assists) in 74 games. Puck moving defenseman TJ Brennan remains a threat at the AHL level and is great at making stretch passes. He had 31 helpers and added 14 goals as well.
The Checkers and the Phantoms are not strangers to one another. The teams faced off eight times this season and split the season series at four wins apiece. So what separates an otherwise tight match-up? The home team in these match-ups had a 3-1 record. Winning at “The Biscuit” will be crucial for the Checkers upon returning home. The Checkers outscored the Phantoms 28-22 in the season series and held them to one goal in each of their final two match-ups.
Here is the schedule for this series:
- Game 1 - CHA @ LV - Friday, May 4th - 7:05 p.m.
- Game 2 - CHA @ LV - Saturday, May 5th - 7:05 p.m.
- Game 3 - LV @ CHA - Tuesday, May 8th - 7:00 p.m.
- Game 4 - LV @ CHA - Wednesday, May 9th - 7:00 p.m.
- Game 5 - LV @ CHA - Saturday, May 12th - 6:00 p.m.
- Game 6 - CHA @ LV - Monday, May 14th - 7:05 p.m.
- Game 7 - CHA @ LV - Tuesday, May 15th - 7:05 p.m.