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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Clinch Playoff Berth With 1-0 Overtime Win in Binghamton

Saturday, March 27, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Rookie defenseman James Laux scored 23 seconds into overtime to lift the Philadelphia Phantoms to a 1-0 victory over the Binghamton Senators tonight at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. With the win, Philadelphia clinched a playoff berth in the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs and moved into the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

Kirby Law started the decisive play by coming up with a loose puck and firing a shot that went wide of the Binghamton net. John Slaney was able to kick the puck back to Laux, who blasted a slap shot through traffic and past Senators goaltender Ray Emery. It was the third goal of the year for the Cherry Hill, N.J. native.

The Phantoms, who missed the playoffs last year for the first time in club history, now sport a 41-24-6-1 record (89 points) with eight games remaining in the regular season. Philadelphia is four points ahead of the second-place Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the East Division and one point ahead of the Hartford Wolf Pack for the top seed in the conference. The idle Wolf Pack have played one less game than the Phantoms.

Antero Niittymaki stopped all 23 shots he faced to notch his club-record sixth shutout of the season. The 23-year-old is now 5-2 with a 0.96 goals-against average in his last eight appearances. Philadelphia's 11 shutouts on the season is also a new team record.

The Phantoms, who have won seven of their last 10 games, outshot the Senators, 30-23, and killed all five Binghamton power-play attempts.

Emery recorded 29 saves as Binghamton lost its third game in a row. The Senators still hold a 3-2 lead in the season series, with the final match-up set for Sunday, April 4 in Philadelphia. It will be the Senators' first trip to the Spectrum since the brawl-filled game on Dec. 28 that included 373 PIM.

Philadelphia returns home to host the Manchester Monarchs on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. The Phantoms then close out the month with a home game vs. the Norfolk Admirals on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m.

Phantoms Notes: Wade Skolney, Craig Berube, Brett Engelhardt and Les Borsheim were scratches ... Dennis Seidenberg did not travel as he continues to recover from a broken leg ... Coaches John Stevens and Kjell Samuelsson played in a charity game this afternoon at the arena ... Slaney has eight points (3G, 5A) in his last eight games ... Philadelphia is now 5-1-6 in overtime games this season ... The Phantoms ended regulation with no score in the game for the fourth time in franchise history.

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