Cleveland Outskates Phantoms, 6-3
Sunday, October 27, 2002
By Mike Williams
PHILADELPHIA This weekend, the Phantoms proved there are many ways to lose a hockey game. A hockey team can surrender leads of 3-0 and 5-3, like the Phantoms did Saturday night in Hartford. A club can also fall behind early on home ice, climb back, and then lose the game in the third period, much like the Phantoms did twice this weekend at the First Union Spectrum. The Phantom chose a slow death on Sunday night, dropping a 6-3 decision to the visiting Cleveland Barons.
Ryan Kraft’s hat trick (goals three, four and five) led the Barons. Vesa Toskala stopped 32 shots, earning his first win of the season. The win snapped a five-game winless streak for the Barons (2-4-1-0, 5 points).
Kirby Law countered with his second and third goals of the season for Philadelphia (2-3-1-0, 5 points).
Antero Niittymaki yielded five goals on 31 shots.
The Phantoms yielded 10 power play opportunities to the Barons, and the Barons capitalized on two chances. Coupled with the club playing three games in three nights and several key players logging heavy special teams time, the Phantoms were sluggish from the start.
Veterans Mark Greig and David Harlock led the way with two minor penalties apiece, as the Phantoms have struggled to adjust to the league-wide crackdown on clutch-and-grab hockey.
“You can’t continue to play three games in three nights and spend half the night on special teams,” Phantoms head coach John Stevens said.
Stevens met with several veteran players in his office following the game and labeled his team “frustrated.”
Both clubs were on their third contest in three nights, but Cleveland showed no signs of fatigue. Cleveland pinned the Phantoms in the Philadelphia zone throughout the night, consistently winning battles along the boards and pressing the forecheck unimpeded.
The Barons stormed the Philadelphia net throughout the first period. The pressure paid off late in the opening period when Tavis Hansen notched his third goal of the season. Hansen took Niko Dimitrakos’ behind-the-net feed. Left unattended, the former Hershey Bear popped the puck over Niittymaki for a 1-0 Barons lead at 16:42.
The visitors received a dose of help in building a 2-0 lead. Stationed along the right boards, Philadelphia’s Patrick Sharp attempted to backhand a pass behind his own net. The pass instead found its way past a startled Niittymaki.
Kraft, the last Baron to touch the puck, was credited with the goal.
With that goal, the collective mood within the First Union Spectrum turned ugly, jeers greeting a subsequent Philadelphia power play.
But that power play soon boosted the collective spirit inside the building, with Law’s power play marker cutting the Cleveland lead to one goal. The fourth-year Phantom’s shot from the left circle trickled through Toskala’s pads and just over the goal line just 1:27 after the Kraft goal.
Twenty-nine seconds later, the Cleveland lead vanished.
Breaking down the left side, Law took Ben Stafford’s pass and stuffed it past Toskala for his second goal of the night.
The Barons regrouped, however, and regained the lead on Kraft’s second goal of the game. His one-timer beat Niittymaki from the right point.
Cleveland made it a two-goal lead again at 3:52. Pat Rissmiller’s pass found Dimitrakos cutting to the Philadelphia net. Dimitrakos lured Niittymaki out of the net and slipped the puck into the vacated net.
Sharp redeemed himself in the third period and brought the Phantoms within one goal in the process. On the man-advantage, Sharp redirected Peter Vandermeer’s centering pass past Toskala for a 4-3 game.
Kraft completed his hat trick at 11:49, making it a 5-3. Miroslav Zalesak’s empty netter with a second to play capped the scoring.
The win salvaged the weekend for the Barons, who had not won since taking a 6-4 decision on October 12 in Grand Rapids.
“We’ve been playing well, except for five minutes here, six minutes there,” said Kraft, one of San Jose’s final cuts in training camp.
Playing a full 60 minutes, however, was not a problem for the Barons on Sunday night in Philadelphia.
***SOUTH JERSEY SPORTS ONLINE INSIDE THE GAME***
Savage, Lefebvre Returned
Center Andre Savage and LW Guillaume Lefebvre were returned from the Flyers on Sunday morning. The pair sparingly in Saturday night’s 6-2 Flyers win over the New York Islanders. Blueliner Ian Forbes rejoined the club from Trenton.
CLEVELAND: C Graig Mischler
PHANTOMS: D Bruno St. Jacques (knee), D Ian Forbes, C Eric Betournay, RW Craig Brunel
1. CLEVELAND Ryan Kraft (hat trick, +2)
2. PHANTOMS Kirby Law (two goals)
3. CLEVELAND Nikos Dimitrakos (one goal, two assists)
The Phantoms erased a 2-0 deficit by 12:08 of the second period, but Kraft’s second goal four minutes later put the Barons ahead to stay.
HIT OF THE GAME
Cleveland’s Jesse Fibiger set the tone for the contest early. He stood up Ben Stafford at the Barons’ blue line four minutes into the game.
Three Barons are Northeastern University products (Jim Fahey, Willie Levesque and Graig Mischler)…Fahey is an alternate captain in his first pro season.
The Phantoms head to Syracuse for a Wednesday night contest. Norfolk visits the First Union Spectrum on Friday at 7:05 p.m.
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