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Event Spotlight:
Phantoms Hold Off Barons' Rally

Friday, January 17, 2003

By Patrick Williams
SJSports Special Correspondent

PHILADELPHIA - The Phantoms last night were lucky that hockey is only 60 minutes of regulation time. Philadelphia barely eeked out a 4-3 win over the lowly Cleveland Barons at the First Union Spectrum. Antero Niittymaki stopped 28 shots. Sloppy play in the third period allowed the Barons to erase a 3-0 deficit and pressure the Phantoms until the final buzzer.

"We had a 3-0 lead but we weren't happy with the way the game went," head coach John Stevens said. "We allowed the Barons back in. It was a good thing Niittymaki was sharp tonight and we held on.

Andre Savage's three assists led the Philadelphia attack. Mark Greig and John Slaney each added a goal and an assist, while Ian MacNeil and David Harlock also scored.

The Barons countered with goals from Tavis Hansen, Jeff Nelson and Graig Mischler.

The Phantoms have won 10 of their past 15 games and are now two games above .500. Not since October 18, when they were 2-0-0, have the Phantoms been at that level.

Philadelphia got on the board early. The Barons' Jeff Jillson took a slashing penalty at 3:10 that sent the Phantoms' anemic power play to work. Philadelphia sported an 0-for-23 streak up a man.

Then again, given the Barons' 27th ranked penalty-kill, the setting was right for the Phantoms to snap the power play skid.

The 24th time was charm for the Phantoms. Generating puck movement down low and between the points, Greig found Slaney at the right point. Slaney converted Greig's feed with a blast from inside the blue line that beat Toskala at 3:57. Toskala kept his team close in the first 10 minutes. Lephart and Greig both muscled shots from the left circle that Toskala managed to turn away.

Harlock ripped his seventh goal of the season on a feed from Savage at 16:08, putting the Phantoms up, 2-0.

The hosts threatened to break open the game during a late-period power play. Savage had Philadelphia's best scoring chance, a left-circle blast that Toskala tipped aside with his glove.

Slaney's second goal of the game 3:16 into the second gave the Phantoms a three-goal bulge.

The Barons capitalized on sloppy Philadelphia offensive-zone work with under three minutes to play in the second. Eric LaPlante picked off a cross-ice pass in his own end and raced off on a partial breakaway. LaPlante's shot from the top of the slot with a Phantom defender draped over him was sticked aside by Niittymaki.

It was in the third period that the momentum swung in favor of the Barons, who outshot the Phantoms, 15-2, in the period.

A give-and-go goal off the stick of Barons captain Tavis Hansen 1:36 into the third got Cleveland back into the game.

Greig took a hooking penalty 2:22 later that helped the Barons cut the Philadelphia lead to one, when Nelson scored his third goal of the year.

Greig atoned for the penalty under two minutes later with the Barons down a man and gave back the two-goal lead to his team. The winger's 19th goal of the season came off a scramble in front, as Greig managed to stick a rebound behind Toskala for a 4-2 game at 7:20.

The Phantoms blew another lead with five minutes to play in regulation. Mischler poked a rebound past Niittymaki on the power for a 4-3 game.

Photos by Pedro Cancel

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