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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms & Mighty Ducks Tie 2-2

Friday, February 27, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Ian MacNeil and Mike Peluso each scored as the Philadelphia Phantoms remained unbeaten on their seven-game road trip with a 2-2 tie against the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks tonight at the Cincinnati Gardens.

Antero Niittymaki turned aside 19-of-21 shots for Philadelphia, which was coming off Wednesday's 4-1 victory over the Mighty Ducks. The Phantoms improved to 3-0-1 in their last four games overall and 2-0-1 on their longest road trip of the season.

Ilya Bryzgalov finished with 27 saves for Cincinnati, which has just one win in its last six games. Each team concluded the season series with a 1-1-2 record and Philadelphia improved to 4-0-1 in its last five games in Cincinnati.

The Phantoms opened the scoring 3:19 into the game on MacNeil's 10th goal. As Cincinnati's Joel Stepp served a holding the stick minor, Mark Murphy and Ben Stafford worked the puck to MacNeil for his first power-play tally of the season.

But Cincinnati retaliated with a pair of goals 22 seconds apart to assume a 2-1 lead. On the power play, Keith Aucoin evened the score at the 4:56 mark with his team-leading 16th goal of the year. Shane O'Brien and Mark Popovic received assists on the play.

The Mighty Ducks went right back on the attack and took their first lead at 5:18 on Stepp's sixth goal, with assists going to Alexei Smirnov and Josh Gratton.

Philadelphia outshot Cincinnati, 15-4, in the second and netted the lone goal of the period to knot the score at 2-2. Peluso took a feed from John Slaney and Boyd Kane on the play and recorded his 12th goal on a drive from the top of the left wing circle at 7:33. It was Peluso's first goal since Jan. 7 and Slaney's 100th assist in his career as a Phantom.

The teams played scoreless hockey in the third, but Phantoms rookies B.J. Abel and Freddy Meyer put a scare into the team when they were sent off with 43.8 seconds to go for tripping and unsportsmanlike conduct, respectively. Cincinnati had a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes, but Niittymaki and his defense hung tough.

Philadelphia had a 4-on-3 advantage for the final 1:35 of overtime thanks to a cross checking minor on Sheldon Brookbank, but could not tally the game-winner.

Philadelphia continues its season-high seven-game road trip on Saturday in Milwaukee and on Sunday in Grand Rapids. The Phantoms will also play in Norfolk on Wednesday and in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next Saturday before their next home game on Sunday, March 7 vs. the Albany River Rats.

Phantoms Notes: Wade Skolney did not travel due to a shoulder injury, while Joey Hope was a healthy scratch ... Craig Berube served a one-game suspension due to a boarding major/game misconduct he received last Saturday in Hershey ... James Laux returned to action after missing the last 23 games due to a sports hernia ... Philadelphia has not lost in Cincinnati since March 28, 2001 ... Niittymaki has just one loss in his last 11 starts as a Phantom (7-1-2 with a no-decision) ... Stafford has a four-game assist streak.

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