Game 3 between the Charlotte Checkers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms was crucial for an edge in the series, with the Checkers returning home after a split on the road looking to keep their perfect home playoff record this season intact.
Advantage: Lehigh Valley.
A subpar team performance has the Checkers down 2-1 in the series after a 5-1 loss on Tuesday night in the Queen City and gives the Phantoms home-ice advantage right back after the Checkers’ Game 2 win took it away.
The Checkers weren’t able to get their footing early as they were forced to climb uphill from the start. Just three minutes into the first period, Lehigh’s Mike Vecchione scored on the backhand on a put back attempt after an odd-man rush. The Phantoms increased their first period lead just shifts later as Danick Martel snuck the puck under Alex Nedeljkovic’s pads. Martel then almost scored his second of the period on a breakaway but Nedeljkovic turned it aside. The Checkers escaped down a pair of goals, lucky that it was not much worse after giving up countless odd-man rushes.
Charlotte showed signs of life early in the second period as Valentin Zykov struck on the power play on a rebound chance to make it a 2-1 game. Zykov’s tally was his second power play goal of the series. Shortly after, though, the Phantoms regained their two goal lead after Chris Conner beat Nedeljkovic on the glove side on the rush. With the score at 3-1, Andrew Miller almost made it a one-goal game:
Andrew Miller was that close to scoring. Score still 3-1 Lehigh. pic.twitter.com/8YvmRTmlYo— Brett Finger (@brettfinger) May 9, 2018
The onslaught wouldn’t stop there as Oskar Lindblom continued the scoring for the Phantoms after the Charlotte defense failed to identify and cover him. Nedeljkovic was pulled for Jeremy Smith after Lindblom’s tally, having surrendered four goals on 15 shots.
Charlotte was unable to get any momentum going in the third period, and looked lost offensively despite outshooting the Phantoms 19-2 in the period. Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon stood on his head, making more than half of his 34 saves in the final 20 minutes of action. Lindblom finally put the game out of reach his second of the game on an empty-net tally with 3:30 remaining in the third period.
The Checkers will be right back at it against the Phantoms in a Game 4 match-up tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Bojangles Coliseum, trying to knot the series yet again.