Coming off one of his better seasons in his career, David Appleby’s domination continued into the post-season, where the St. Louis Spirits faced surprisingly tough competition in the Dallas Metros. The Spirits were even forced to come back from a 3-0 deficit in game one, with Appleby leading the charge with two goals and an assist on Grant Millen’s overtime goal. Dallas put up a valiant effort throughout the remainder of the series, even forcing another overtime in game three, but clearly the blown lead in game one took the wind out of the Metros’ sails as St. Louis completed the sweep thanks in large part to Appleby’s six goals. There were two other sweeps in the first round, as Pittsburgh dispatched Montreal in four straight, while the Winnipeg Pioneers stunned the LA Wizards in a four-game sweep that included two overtime games. Craig Bush put up some of the best numbers of his young career for Boston in their series with Nova Scotia, but it would not be enough as the Bulldogs succumbed to the Claymores in six games. Bobby Sorel found his old form again for his new team as the Concordes defeated the Washington Generals in six games, while Ottawa won a very physical series against Philadelphia also in six games.
The Seattle Grey Wolves gave the defending champion Chicago Shamrocks all they could handle early in their first round series. After Chicago won game one in a 5-0 blowout, The Wolves took a 2-1 series lead after back-to-back overtime victories. Chicago managed to turn the series around after a big 4-1 road win before hanging on for a 4-2 series victory. Denver and California played the only seven-game series of the first round as the lead in the series shifted back and forth all the way to game seven in Denver. Jani Kaaleppi’s two-goal night in game seven gave Denver a 2-1 lead through most of the game while Andy Gray turned away a barrage of California shots in the final minutes before Guy Fisset finally sealed the victory with an empty netter.
Round two saw one of the biggest upsets in league history when Long Island shocked the heavily favored Pittsburgh Stingers in a four game sweep that saw the first three games go into overtime. Stuart Burns played a huge role in the upset, scoring three goals including the winner in game one, while Sorel continued his brick-wall performance in net. St. Louis took down Winnipeg also in a sweep with the dynamic duo of Appleby and Millen continuing to lead the way, while Nova Scotia managed to win a very gritty series with Ottawa in five games.
Perhaps the most underrated rivalry in the PHL was that between the Chicago Shamrocks and the Denver Bulls. Chicago/St. Louis had gotten most of the attention but the Shamrocks and Bulls found themselves facing each other five times since 1977 with three of those series going the full seven games. The two teams would meet again in the second round in 1984 and was an instant classic. Chicago took an early 2-0 series lead before the Bulls tied the series with back-to-back 4-2 wins in Denver. The Bulls then took 3-2 series lead in game five on an overtime goal from Brad Hewson. With an opportunity for Denver to close out the series at home in game six, the teams once again played into overtime, where disaster struck for the Bulls. Denver defenseman Kerry Patton attempted to clear a rebound in front of the net but missed the puck, when he pulled his stick back, he hit the puck directly into the net behind him, giving Chicago the win. The Shamrocks went on to take the series in game seven.
Chicago would ultimately fail to defend their title as they finally ran into David Appleby and the surging-hot St. Louis Spirits. The Spirits swept the Shamrocks in a series that was much closer than the four games would indicate, becoming the first team in PHL history to go undefeated all the way to the Lewis Cup Finals.
Meanwhile, the Nova Scotia Claymores hoped to finally return to the championship round for the first time since 1969. Their chances looked good when they took a 2-0 series lead over the Concordes. Long Island then responded with a 3-1 win at home in game three, and back-to-back overtime wins in games four and five. With a chance to advance to the Finals in game six, the Concordes did not disappoint the sellout crowd of 18200. Bobby Sorel was spectacular once again while Stuart Burns, Theo Sprouse, Craig Davidson and Brian Reese each scored as the Long Island Concordes advanced to the Lewis Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history.