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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Advance to Division Finals with 3-2 Win Over Norfolk

Saturday, May 1, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Peter White recorded a goal and an assist as the Philadelphia Phantoms captured their East Division Semifinal series vs. the Norfolk Admirals with a 3-2 victory in Game Six tonight at the Wachovia Center.

John Slaney and rookie Jeff Carter also scored for Philadelphia, which won the series four games to two. The Phantoms will now take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the East Division Finals, beginning Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Antero Niittymaki stopped 27-of-29 shots, including all 11 he faced in the third period, to notch the win. The 23-year-old goaltender surrendered just nine goals in the six match-ups to help Philadelphia set a club record for fewest goals allowed in a seven-game series.

Craig Anderson made 23 saves for the Admirals, who were meeting the Phantoms in postseason play for the first time.

After being limited to one goal in Friday's Game Five loss in Norfolk, Philadelphia scored twice in the first period to take control early on. Slaney opened the scoring at the 10:57 mark during a 5-on-3 power play following trips to the penalty box for Marty Wilford (closing the hand on the puck) and Brandin Cote (goaltender interference).

Dennis Seidenberg and Slaney worked the puck back and forth from the top before Slaney deposited a one-timer into the top right corner for his second goal of the postseason. It was the fifth time in the series that the Phantoms struck first.

White also assisted on Slaney's goal and then tallied his first playoff goal at the 17:12 mark to make it 2-0. B.J. Abel began the sequence by winning the puck from an Admiral in the corner and leaving it for Kirby Law, who darted behind the net and hit White in front for a tap-in past Anderson.

Philadelphia widened the gap at 8:38 of the second on Jeff Carter's first goal as a pro. After taking a feed from Ian MacNeil, Mark Murphy took the initial shot on the play. Carter collected the rebound and had three tries from close range to give Philadelphia a 3-0 lead.

"I was just standing there," said Carter, who was the Flyers' first-round selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. "Nobody took me and Murph kept throwing me the puck. He gave me about three shots and I fanned on the first two and finally the goalie was out of the net, so I was pretty sure I could put that one in."

Norfolk rallied late in the second to cut the deficit to 3-2. Matt Keith put the Admirals on the board with 5:35 left following a turnover in the Philadelphia end. The right wing skated in alone and put a move on Niittymaki to register his first goal of the postseason.

Less than two minutes later, Carsen Germyn followed in the rebound of an Anton Babchuk blast from the high slot to make it a one-goal game.

Norfolk outshot the Phantoms, 11-4, in the third and pulled Anderson for a sixth attacker with two minutes remaining, but could not force overtime.

"If we could have wrote a script for a first period, I think that was it," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "I think we played tremendous in the first period, but Norfolk is a team that doesn't go away. Our message (heading into the third period) was we had a one-goal lead with a chance to win the series, and that had to be our focus. We've never really gone through the experience of eliminating a team yet and hopefully this will make us stronger as we move ahead in the playoffs."

"That's something we've been good at all year, holding leads in the third," said Murphy. "We work on getting the lead early in the game so we can protect it. We made a couple of mistakes, but we settled down. We're a confident team and just battled and held them off."

Philadelphia, which led the AHL in penalty minutes during the regular season, established a franchise playoff record by finishing with zero penalty minutes tonight. The Phantoms accomplished the feat once before during regular-season action - on Nov. 11, 2000 at St. John's.

Phantoms Notes: Stephen Wood, Ben Eager, James Laux, Les Borsheim, Kirk Furey and Craig Berube were scratched ... Philadelphia was outshot for the first time in the series ... Philadelphia improved to 9-0 this season when wearing its purple third jerseys ... The Phantoms are now 4-3 all-time in Game Six of a playoff series.

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