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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Re-Sign Stafford, Abel & Houle

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

The Philadelphia Phantoms today re-signed centers Ben Stafford and B.J. Abel and goaltender Chris Houle to one-year American Hockey League contracts. Per team policy, terms of the deals are not disclosed.

Stafford, 25, will be returning for his third full season with the Phantoms. Over 73 games last year, he recorded 32 points (12G, 20A) with a plus-five rating and three game-winning goals. The former Yale University standout was the only Phantom to appear in all 80 games in 2002-03 and had his streak of 177 consecutive games played end on March 31, 2004 due to an elbow injury. In 2002-03, Stafford received the Phantoms' Most Consistent Player Award, the Phan Club's first-annual Unsung Hero Award, as well as the American Specialty/HG Insurance/AHL Man of the Year Award, which recognizes achievement in community service.

A rookie out of Minnesota State University Mankato last season, Abel totaled six goals and four assists in 53 games with the Phantoms. The 24-year-old tallied the Phantoms' first goal of the 2003-04 season on Oct. 10 and netted the game-winner at 13:02 of the third overtime in Game Four of the East Division Semifinals at Norfolk on April 28, which is the longest game in team history. Abel also appeared in 13 games with the Trenton Titans of the ECHL last year, collecting one goal and three assists.

Houle also split his rookie season between Trenton and Philadelphia last year. In four games (one start) as a Phantom, he went 0-2 with a 1.63 goals-against average. The 21-year-old posted a 7-8 record and 2.36 GAA in 19 games with the Titans. Houle was also named to the Eastern Conference team for the 2004 ECHL All-Star Game and earned the win by holding the West scoreless during the third period.

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