Wednesday, 9 May 2018

While You Were Sleeping

I was just getting myself ready for bed when history was made. Minutes later, that history had more written to it as there was a battle for the ages in the AHL's Calder Cup Playoffs last night. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms met the Charlotte Checkers at Bojangles' Coliseum in the North Carolina city for Game Four of their second-round series last night, but didn't actually finish playing the game until the wee hours of this morning. Yes, you read that correctly - the game spilled over into Thursday. I had already written most of this account, thankfully, but the Phantoms struck late in the night to put themselves up 3-1 in the series over Charlotte.

Now you might be saying, "Teebz, it was just another overtime game." Except it wasn't.

I take you back to April 24, 2008 where the Philadelphia Phantoms met the Albany River Rats in Game Five of their series that year. In what was seemingly a normal game, the two teams were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation hockey, so it was off to overtime. And then a second overtime period. And a third. Followed by a fourth. And then a fifth overtime period where, at 2:58 of the eighth period, Ryan Potulny beat Michael Leighton on the Phantoms' 101st shot of the night on the blocker side to give the Phantoms the 3-2 win in the longest AHL game, at that time, in the league's 72-year history.

Fast forward to tonight where the Lehigh Valley Phantoms met the Charlotte Checkers with the score tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time. It would be off to overtime for these two teams to find a winner. It was still tied after the fourth period, so it went to a fifth frame. And then a sixth. Followed by a seventh. With no one having scored a winner after 140:00, the talk turned to possibly breaking the record set a decade earlier.

As the seconds ticked toward the 17:02 mark, the hundreds who were still in attendance seemed pretty aware of their chance at being a part of history in Charlotte as the time inched towards 1:00am. Finally, the game clock hit 17:01, the crowd loud out a pretty solid ovation for themselves and the teams for hanging in there, and we were into a new chapter of AHL history! The only problem? We still didn't have a winner!

We didn't have to wait long, though, as the game stopped at 6:48 of the fifth overtime period when this happened.
Alex Krushelnyski buried the puck past Alex Nedeljkovic on the blocker side with the one-timer to give the Phantoms the 3-2 victory! If that Krushelnyski name sounds familiar, the answer is yes to the question of "is that former NHLer Mike Krushelnyski's son". Alex Lyon records the win for the Phantoms in stopping 94 of 95 shots, just short of the 98 stops on 101 shots that Michael Leighton faced ten years ago. Total time played? 146:48, 3:50 longer than the 2008 epic marathon game.

If you really want some Twilight Zone craziness, there's the fact the NHL affiliates for all four of the teams making history - Philadelphia, Lehigh Valley, Albany, and Charlotte - are the same two teams in the Philadelphia Flyers and the Carolina Hurricanes. In 18 seasons of having the Hurricanes in Carolina, they have not met the Philadelphia Flyers in the playoffs in their history. If you add in the history of the Hartford Whalers, the two franchises still have never met in the NHL playoffs. With zero meetings between these two NHL teams, the NHL might be thankful. Why, you ask? Well, the two longest games in AHL history were played in the only two meetings these two AHL affiliates have had against one another while affiliated with Philadelphia and Carolina. Cue the Twilight Zone music!

It's almost hard to believe that Lehigh Valley got the win while playing with just five defencemen for most of the game. Samuel Morin left the game in the first period with what is being described as a lower-body injury, so he missed some 130 minutes of hockey action on this night. Charlotte outshot Lehigh Valley 95-53, including 54-29 in the overtime periods, which is fairly remarkable when you consider that Phantoms netminder Alex Lyon stopped 79 consecutive shots as he stonewalled Charlotte over the final 119:56. Simply incredible!

What may be the best news for both the Phantoms and Checkers is that the teams are off until Saturday night, so the next couple of days will certainly be maintenance days after the marathon tonight. I'd say they earned a day off, right?

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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