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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Defeat Bridgeport 2-1
Philly Moves into First Place in East Division

Friday, March 26, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Peter White scored the game-winning power-play goal 5:14 into the third period as the Philadelphia Phantoms moved into first place in the AHL's East Division with a 2-1 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.

White's 11th goal came during a high sticking minor on Luke Curtin, who was playing his first game of the year for Bridgeport. Freddy Meyer took a shot from just inside the blue line on the play and Mike Peluso tried a deflection in front. The puck caromed to White, who took two pokes to place it past Sound Tigers goaltender Dieter Kochan.

B.J. Abel also scored and Antero Niittymaki stopped 23-of-24 shots to help the Phantoms move two points ahead of Bridgeport for first place in the East Division. Philadelphia also pulled within one point of the Eastern Conference-leading Hartford Wolf Pack, who posted a 2-2 tie at Worcester tonight.

"Your special teams mean a lot, and a power-play goal in the third period is a good sign for us," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "I think Niittymaki saved us at times, but at the end of the game, special teams end up winning you the hockey game."

The Phantoms, who killed all five Bridgeport power plays, have won six of their last nine games. They have also won 13 of their last 17 at home.

Kochan finished with 22 saves for Bridgeport, which has lost three games in a row. The season series is now even at 3-3-1, with the final match-up set for April 10 in Bridgeport.

Philadelphia held a 12-9 lead in shots during the first period and took a 1-0 lead into the intermission thanks to Abel's sixth goal with 16.5 seconds remaining. Joey Hope began the sequence with a shot from the point and Peluso collected the puck behind the net.

The right wing then found Abel alone in front for a wrister above Kochan's shoulder. Abel had collected a career-high two points in his last game on Sunday vs. Grand Rapids.

"Peluso was battling behind the net and I just sat in the middle in front and no one came to get me," recalled Abel about his goal. "Peluso made a great play, passed it out front, the goalie went down, so I went up. Coach Stevens has been getting on me about staying in front. It's something I've struggled with this year, but I guess it's finally getting to my head."

Bridgeport evened the score at 1-1 at the 7:59 mark of the second period. Derek Bekar, who missed on a breakaway during the first period, tracked down a loose puck in the far circle and drilled a turning shot past Niittymaki. Former Phantom Cail MacLean and Vincent Macri received assists on Bekar's 21st goal.

After White's go-ahead goal, Curtin missed on a breakaway with 6:20 remaining. Kochan was pulled for a sixth-attacker with 48 seconds to play, but did not come close to forcing overtime.

The Phantoms play in Binghamton on Saturday night before returning home to take on the Manchester Monarchs on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. Philadelphia then closes out the month on Wednesday with a home game against the Norfolk Admirals.

Phantoms Notes: Les Borsheim, Wade Skolney, Brett Engelhardt and Craig Berube were scratches ... Dennis Seidenberg continues to recover from a broken leg ... Peter Vandermeer played in his 200th game as a Phantom ... Kirby Law played in his 300th game as a Phantom ... Stephen Wood made his professional debut ... Philadelphia is 5-1 when White scores at home.

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