By David W. Unkle
SJSports Staff Writer
The Philadelphia Phantoms still have the monkey on their back but the load got a little easier as the Phantoms skated to a 3-3 tie in front of 12,081 at the First Union Center. Still mired in the longest winless streak of the season (0-5-1-0), the Phantoms ventured into unfamiliar territory against the Calder Cup Champion, Chicago Wolves. The Phantoms’ record when trailing after two periods of play is 1-13-0-1 coming into this afternoon’s game but demonstrated a willingness to play sixty minutes of hockey.
We were down two goals and we came back against a pretty good hockey team. We suffered a lot of disappointment as of late and for our guys to stay with it was great, said Phantoms Head Coach, John Stevens.
Newcomer Jamie Wright pitched in two assists this afternoon and added spark to the frequently lethargic Phantoms lineup.
(Wright) is a complete player…he plays both ends of the rink and he’s certainly more of a scorer at this level than at the National Hockey League level, said Stevens.
The Wolves quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Steve Maltais’ 20th goal of the season at 3:45 of the opening period. Sloppy play in front of Phantoms’ goaltender Antero Niittymaki left the rookie helpless and the Philly fans quickly expressed their dissatisfaction.
It was almost 2-0 as Niittymaki was caught out of position with the puck in the slot but Chicago failed to take advantage of a gift goal.
Mark Greig got the Phantoms on the board at 13:11 of the first period following a penalty to the Wolves’ Francis Lessard. The Phantoms’ leading scorer notched his twentieth goal of the season and his 10th power play goal with assists from Peter White and Jamie Wright.
Goals by J.P. Vigier and Jeff Farkas put Chicago up 3-1 early in the second period.
Streaking across center ice, Maltais banked a pass of the boards to himself finding Farkas between the circles. Farkas walked in on Niittymaki beating the goalie between the pads for his first goal of the season.
Ben Stafford temporarily awoke Philadelphia with his ninth of the season with a little over one minute to go in the second period bringing Philadelphia back to within one goal.
Not only did we score a goal but we scored a goal just by outright great work ethic by Ben Stafford, said Stevens. When you score a goal like that it tends to swing the momentum in your favor.
John Slaney knotted the score 3-3 early in the third period with the Phantoms on the five-on-three power play. Brad Tiley’s slap shot from the left point rebounded out to Jamie Wright who found Slaney at the high circle.
Slaney, the Phantoms’ lone representative to the American Hockey League All-Star game, notched his fifth goal on the year and his third power play goal.
He’s a big factor on any team that he plays on, said Stevens. (Slaney) plays in every key situation for us…it’s nice to see him get rewarded with an All-Star birth.
The team has many questions to address over the All-Star break, more than what existed at the beginning of the year. Of recent concern, is the team’s inability to score playing five-on five hockey. Ben Stafford’s tally Wednesday night is the lone tally since mid-January.
I know that we have to be a little more intense once we cross the offensive blue line…we need to create more second and third opportunities, said Steven’s of his team’s offensive struggles.
I thought in the first period we did too much circling and we didn’t play with a sense of urgency in our own end…you have to protect that end of the ice with your life.
With the season more than half over, maybe this team will realize that sense of urgency over the All-Star break.
First Period: CHI Maltais, 20 (Farkas, Brown) 3:45; PHL Greig, 20 (White, Wright) 13:11; CHI Vigier, 14 (Gamache, Hartigan) 15:00.
Second Period: CHI Farkas 1, (Maltais) 5:59; PHL Stafford (Slaney, Lephart) 18:50
Third Period: PHL Slaney (Wright, Tiley) 4:38.
SHOTS ON GOAL
SCORE BY PERIOD
First Period: Hartigan (roughing) 0:44; Lessard (holding) 12:56.
Second Period: Eakins (interference) 5:43; Eakins (unsportsmanlike conduct) 10:31; Tobler (tripping) 16:09; Medak (hooking) 18:22.
Third Period: Blatny (slashing) 4:04, Gamache (bench minor) 4:04; Sellars (slashing) 5:27; Vigier (unsportsmanlike, diving) 7:31; MacKenzie (unsportsmanlike conduct) 12:50; Eakins (roughing) 19:47.
Overtime: Lessard (hooking) 3:07
First Period: Savage (holding) 4:22.
Second Period: Greig (high-sticking) 5:14; Lefebvre (unsportsmanlike conduct) 10:31; McNeil (unsportsmanlike conduct, diving) 18:22.
Third Period: Wright (obstruction-hooking); J. Vandermeer (cross-checking) 7:31; McAllister (slashing) 9:25; St. Jacques (roughing) 19:47.
1. John Slaney (PHL)
2. Steve Maltais (CHI)
3. Jamie Wright (PHL)
Selected by: Laura Borden of the Delaware County (PA) Times.
1. The Phantoms are 0-2 all time against the Chicago Wolves. The teams met twice last year in Chicago’s inaugural season in the AHL. The Phantoms lost 5-1 in Philadelphia on February 15 and 2-1 in Chicago on March 14.
2. Chris Corrinet was signed to a PTO (player tryout contract) yesterday.
3. Chris McAllister was loaned from the Flyers for conditioning purposes on January 29.
4. The Phantoms finished the month of January with a 7-6-0-1 record (15 points) reaching season-high totals for wins and points.
5. Hershey ended an eight-game winless streak (0-5-3) in Wednesday night’s game against the Phantoms.
For more information, check out the Phantoms website at: www.phantomshockey.com.