|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Lose 2-1 to Hartford in Season Opener
Saturday, October 16, 2004
By Al Cohen
In a battle of the Eastern Conference's two division winners from a year ago, the Hartford Wolf Pack pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms tonight at the Hartford Civic Center in the 2004-05 AHL season opener for both clubs.
Dominic Moore and Alexandre Giroux each scored for the Atlantic Division-champion Wolf Pack, while Jason LaBarbera stopped 21-of-22 shots to notch the win. LaBarbera earned AHL Most Valuable Player honors last season after leading the league in wins (34) and shutouts (13).
Freddy Meyer tallied the lone goal for Philadelphia, which captured the East Division regular-season crown in 2003-04. Antero Niittymaki finished with 26 saves on 28 shots in suffering the loss.
Hartford outshot the Phantoms by a 13-1 margin in the first period and went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead. During the Wolf Pack's second power play of the game, Lawrence Nycholat took a feed from Layne Ulmer and blasted a shot from the point. Moore was stationed in front and was able to knock in the rebound at the 6:14 mark.
The one shot taken by Philadelphia during the opening stanza tied a franchise record, as the team had previously been limited to one shot in a period on three previous occasions.
Following a scoreless second period, Hartford took a 2-0 lead 2:09 into the third when Philadelphia failed to clear the puck out of its zone. On the play, Jozef Balej and Ulmer found Giroux between the circles and the left wing put a move on Niittymaki before depositing his first goal of the year.
The Phantoms got on the board at 6:05 of the third period - midway through a hooking minor on Balej. Patrick Sharp set up the score from behind the Hartford net by feeding Meyer, who connected on a slap shot from the high slot. Ryan Ready also assisted on the power-play goal.
Philadelphia took its timeout with 55.9 seconds remaining, but was unable to pull Niittymaki until the 59:52 mark.
Philadelphia will continue its season-opening road trip on Sunday with a 4:05 p.m. match-up against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Phantoms' first home game of the season is set for this Friday, Oct. 22 at 7:05 p.m. vs. the Hamilton Bulldogs at the Wachovia Center.
Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, Wade Skolney, B.J. Abel and Riley Cote were scratched ... Cote had signed a tryout contract earlier in the day ... Jeff Smith and Neil Little were suspended tonight due to match penalties received during preseason action. Smith must sit out Sunday's game in Bridgeport as well ...The last time Philadelphia had one shot in a period was on Nov. 27, 2001 at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ... The Phantoms outshot the Wolf Pack, 21-15, over the final two periods ... Philadelphia fell to 6-3 all-time in season openers and 5-4 in road openers ... The Phantoms are 0-2-1 in their last three games in Hartford ... The Wolf Pack make their only visit of the season to Philadelphia on Jan. 28.