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Little, Phantoms Edge Crunch

Monday, January 6, 2003

By Patrick Williams
SJSports Special Correspondent

PHILADELPHIA – This weekend, the Phantoms proved they can win with offense or they can win with reliable goaltending and strong work on special teams. Neil Little blanked the visiting Syracuse Crunch, 2-0, last night at the First Union Spectrum. Peter White and Kirby Law provided the Phantoms’ two third-period goals. The win was the Phantoms’ fourth in a row on home ice. The shutout was Little’s second of the season, his previous shutout coming on October 12 at home against Rochester. Little has not allowed a goal in 118:56.

“It was tough to play because there were few shots tonight,” Little said. “As long as you are on the winning side, it is OK. The two-goal cushion made it easier to play down the stretch.”

Syracuse is now winless in l3 straight games. The last Crunch win was in Cincinnati on December 11.

Philadelphia halted the Crunch power play after Peter Vandermeer took a double-minor for attempting to spear Syracuse tough guy Trevor Ettinger. Syracuse’s 26th-ranked power play managed to put just one shot on Little in the four minutes.

For the night, the Phantoms killed all eight Syracuse man-advantages.

Minus Greig, the tandem of White and Sacco struggled to break through the Syracuse defense in the first period. The pair’s best chance came with five minutes to play, when Sacco one-timed White’s centering pass but hit Leclaire in the chest with the shot.

Penalties to Syracuse’s David Ling and Matt Davidson led to a Phantoms’ five-on-three advantage early in the second. Philadelphia managed to put three shots on Leclaire from in close but were held off the board.

Sacco did nearly open the scoring with six minutes remaining in the second period. Taking a pass while breaking through the slot, Sacco’s shot was gloved by Leclaire.

The Crunch did not fare any better when handed a two-man advantage. Ian MacNeil and Wade Skolney drew minors in the closing minutes of the middle stanza. Syracuse pressured the Phantoms down low but were unable to put the puck past Little.

A Phantoms second five-on-three fared better for the hosts. Syracuse managed to close off the Phantoms’ passing lanes through the opening minute of the period, forcing point men Brad Tiley and John Slaney to throw the puck down low. Finally, Slaney managed to get the puck toward Leclaire from the right corner that White tipped into the net at 1:03.

White has 13 points (5 g, 9 a) in his last nine games.

“We knew starting the third period 5-on-3 would be key,” said head coach John Stevens. “Peter White made a big goal for us tonight. It got things rolling.

The lead grew to 2-0 under four minutes later. Down a man, Ben Stafford fired a shot from the right boards. Leclaire kicked out a rebound into the slot that Law rammed into an empty net at 4:53. The shorthanded goal was the Phantoms’ fifth of the year and second in as many games.

Bridgeport visits the First Union Spectrum on Wednesday night at 7:05 p.m.

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