It’s time to Rally in the Valley once more. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms will be making their long-awaited return to the Calder Cup Playoffs after clinching with a dramatic 4-3 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday evening. The Flyers AHL affiliate returns to the postseason for the first time since 2018.
The Phantoms were down 2-0 in the second and 3-1 in the third before scoring three in the final frame for the victory. Kevin Connauton scored the tying goal with 10:55 left as Olle Lycksell scored the game-winning goal with 3:24 left. The Thunderbirds emptied the net but were unable to find the equalizer.
Jordy Bellerive and Emil Andrae also scored for the Phantoms. Adam Brooks had three assists while Tyson Foerster has a seven-game point streak after grabbing an assist.
Back in 2018, the Phantoms lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Toronto Marlies. It was the first time they had made the ECF since 2005, the year they won the Calder Cup. It was also a postseason that included the longest game in AHL history.
Game Four of the Atlantic Division Finals needed five overtime periods to find a winner. It was then-Phantoms forward Alex Krushelnyski who scored the game-winner just past the six hour mark of the game. Alex Lyon made 94 saves in the victory.
None of the players from that 2018 team remain on the Phantoms. Travis Sanheim did appear in 18 regular season games and seven postseason games for Lehigh Valley that season. So he is the only player left in the organization from that team, though the Flyers do still have the rights to Mikhail Vorobyev.
The Flyers have a lot to be pleased with when it comes to this Phantoms’ team, however. 13 players on the team’s current roster were drafted by Philadelphia at some point. Three of the organization’s youngest prospects have led the Phantoms this season.
Tyson Foerster has 20 goals and 46 points in his first full season. Olle Lycksell has 13 goals and 44 points in his first professional season. Elliot Desnoyers leads the Phantoms with 22 goals in his rookie season while also posting 42 points.
Despite only playing in 44 games, Cooper Marody has posted 14 goals and 38 points. Artem Anisimov has been a strong veteran presence and has 19 goals and 35 points in 53 games. Adam Brooks, the only player on the roster to have won a championship, has been key for the team as well, recording 32 points in 51 games. Brooks was actually a part of the Marlies’ team that beat the Phantoms in 2018.
There are plenty of other players who have played key roles for the Phantoms throughout the year. Along with Foerster, Ronnie Attard was named an AHL All-Star in his first year in the AHL. Emil Andrae has looked good in his first seven games in North America. Sam Ersson has been strong in net and Adam Ginning, who could see NHL action before the Flyers’ season ends, has impressed the organization as well.
John Tortorella has talked numerous times about the work that Ian Laperriere has done with the Phantoms since being named head coach last season. There has been a lot of focus on the development of these players and the need for them to play in important games. They will get the chance to do so and could even do it with home-ice advantage.
There is still some work to do before the regular season comes to an end. But clinching a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs was the first step. Making a deep run is next.