Checkers Snag Phantoms in 2023 Finale

Fans Celebrated NYE Game Ahead of World’s Largest Puck Drop

December 31, 2023

Allentown, PA – The Lehigh Valley Phantoms pushed back after an early deficit to cut into Charlotte’s margin but eventually fell short in a 5-2 final at PPL Center on New Year’s Eve. Louie Belpedio (2nd) and Jacob Gaucher (2nd) scored for the Phantoms to cut a 4-0 margin down to 4-2 but Alexis Gendron’s 6-on-5 goal with under two minutes left was waived off and the Phantoms couldn’t complete the comeback.

Fans began the downtown Allentown New Year’s celebration at the game with glowsticks and party favors courtesy of Penn National Bank. After the game, fans dispersed to Chickie’s and Pete’s and other downtown establishments awaiting the World’s Largest Puck Drop outside the arena at midnight.

Zac Dalpe (8th, 9th) led the Checkers’ attack with a pair of goals while Mackie Samoskevich (9th) finished the night with an empty-netter. Spencer Knight made a number of strong saves to hold off the resurgent Lehigh Valley contingent including several scintillating denials of Wade Allison from point-blank range.

Charlotte (16-11-3) picked up its first regulation win in five tries against the Phantoms who are now 3-1-1 against their Atlantic Division foes.

The Checkers sprinted out to a 3-0 advantage in the first period with Zac Dalpe tipping a Lucas Carlsson shot at the net-front in the opening minutes to start the scoring.

Brendan Perlini (8th) zipped up the right boards past the Phantoms D on a bank pass by Samoskevich to burn the Checkers’ second goal past Sandstrom for a 2-0 lead with 3:00 remaining in the second period.

Lucas Carlsson (10th) rocked a 4-on-3 power-play one-timer from the right dot with 9.1 seconds left in the period for a 3-0 margin.

The Checkers boosted the advantage to 4-0 less than two minutes into the second period on another Dalpe strike.

Lehigh Valley (13-13-5) got back into the game with Louie Belpedio’s rocket for a short-handed goal after some hard work in the zone by Tanner Laczynski and Adam Brooks to keep the play alive. It was Lehigh Valley’s fourth shorthanded goal of the season and the team’s first since October 16 when the Phantoms scored a franchise-record three shorties in one game against the Belleville Senators.

The Phantoms made it even more interesting when Gaucher pounced on an available puck in the slot on a set-up by Ronnie Attard to crank home his second goal of the week with 7:55 left in the second period to narrow the Checkers’ advantage to 4-2.

Surrounding the two Phantoms goals came try-after-try from Wade Allison who had chances right on top of Knight in the low slot and on the breakaway. But Knight had the answer each time including one chance in the first period when Knight was looking the wrong way but Allison’s push to the far post found the goaltender’s left pad anyway.

The Phantoms thought they had cut the score down to 4-3 with 1:50 left in the third period when Gendron blasted home a 6-on-5 goal just as Knight was falling into the back of the cage. The play was initially ruled a goal for the Phantoms. But the officials reversed the decision following a conference on the determination that Allison interfered with the goaltender even though Allison had been pushed from behind and into the goaltender by Lucas Carlsson. But, alas, the decision stood and the Phantoms had not closed the deficit to a single goal after all.

Samoskevich finished the night with an empty-netter for the 5-2 final.

The Phantoms have a pair of away games to open 2024 beginning with a trip to northeast Pennsylvania on Saturday, January 6 at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Phantoms return to PPL Center for a pair of games on Friday, January 12 against the Hartford Wolf Pack and Saturday, January 13 against the Hershey Bears with a 2-for-$24 special available for both nights to celebrate the first home games of 2024.

1st 4:36 – CLT, Z. Dalpe (8) (L. Carlsson, P. Giles) (0-1)
1st 17:00 – CLT, B. Perlini (8) (M. Samoskevich, C. Fitzgerald) (0-2)
1st 19:50 – CLT, L. Carlsson (10) (M. Benning, P. Khodorenko) (PP) (0-3)

2nd 1:52 – CLT, Z. Dalpe (9) (B. Perlini, U. Balinskis) (0-4)
2nd 7:54 – LV, L. Belpedio (2) (A. Brooks, T. Laczynski) (SH) (1-4)
2nd 12:05 – LV, J. Gaucher (2) (R. Attard, A. Gendron) (2-4)

3rd 18:44 – CLT, M. Samoskevich (9) (J. Sourdif, C. Fitzgerald) (EN) (2-5)

LV 31 – CLT 34

LV 0/5, CLT 1/5

LV – F. Sandstrom (L) (29/33) (4-3-2)
CLT – S. Knight (W) (29/31) (9-5-3)

Lehigh Valley (13-13-5)
Charlotte (16-11-3)

Saturday, January 6 (6:05) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Sunday, January 7 (3:00) – Lehigh Valley Phantoms at Hershey Bears

Friday, January 12 (7:05) – Hartford Wolf Pack at Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Saturday, January 13 (7:05) – Hershey Bears at Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Valley Youth House Night presented by Air Products