|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Stafford Lifts Phantoms to 10th Straight Win
Center nets game-winning overtime goal in 3-2 victory over Norfolk
Sunday, November 14, 2004
By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
Ben Stafford scored 2:41 into overtime tonight to lift the Philadelphia Phantoms to their club-record 10th straight victory, a 3-2 decision over the Norfolk Admirals at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Philadelphia controlled the puck during overtime, not allowing a shot on goal by Norfolk, and won the game during a lengthy possession in the Admirals end. Wade Skolney and Mark Murphy worked the puck to Stafford between the circles and the third-year center had time to collect himself and rip a shot over goaltender Craig Anderson's shoulder for his second of the year.
"Dennis (Seidenberg) and Wade were out there on defense doing a good job of supporting," recalled Stafford about the game-winning goal. "Murphy at the end made an unbelievable pass. It was bouncing a little bit, but I got it to settle down and it went in. Possession is everything in overtime. If you can hang onto the puck, you're going to do well because the ice opens up a lot."
Rookies Tony Voce and R.J. Umberger also scored for Philadelphia, which has the first 10-game win streak in the AHL since the Hershey Bears accomplished the feat late in the 2001-02 season. The Phantoms' previous franchise record was nine games, set in 1997-98.
"The only way as a team you're going to win 10 games in a row is if you're getting both offensive and defensive play from different lines," added Stafford. "Hopefully we continue to click like tonight."
Antero Niittymaki won his seventh straight start by stopping 22-of-24 shots. The Phantoms are also off to their best home start in club history (7-0), besting their 5-0-1 record after six games in 1998-99.
Anderson finished with 24 saves for Norfolk, which was meeting the Phantoms for the first time since being eliminated in the 2004 East Division Semifinals.
Norfolk held a 12-6 advantage in shots during the first period and had the best scoring opportunity during a four-minute power play, but came up empty. The Phantoms also came up short during a 5-on-3 situation early in the second stanza before finally moving ahead 1-0 with 1:35 left in the period.
The play began with Dennis Seidenberg launching a shot from the point and Umberger and Stafford hacking away at the rebound before Voce placed it past Anderson for his team-leading sixth goal of the year. It was just the fourth time in 12 games that Philadelphia has scored first this season.
Norfolk evened the score on Rene Bourque's sixth goal with 25.3 seconds to play in the second, but Umberger answered at 2:03 of the third period as the Phantoms re-took the lead. Seidenberg and Skolney assisted on the rookie's third goal.
"We did not know how Tony Voce and R.J. Umberger were going to respond," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens about playing their third game in three nights. "We hadn't had that up to this point. In my opinion they came through it in flying colors and I thought they were better tonight than any point over the weekend."
The Admirals did not take long to respond once again, this time knotting the score at 2-2 just 68 seconds later on Jason Morgan's third of the year.
The Phantoms are back in action on Wednesday at 11:05 a.m., when they host the Binghamton Senators in their third annual School Day Game. Next weekend, Philadelphia entertains the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday and travels to Albany and Providence on Saturday and Sunday.
Phantoms Notes: Earlier in the day, forwards Nick Deschenes and B.J. Abel were recalled from Trenton ... Boyd Kane, Eric Meloche and Todd Fedoruk sat out due to injuries ... Deschenes was a healthy scratch ... Patrick Sharp played in his 100th game as a Phantom ... The Phantoms have scored at least three goals in every game during their streak ... Philadelphia has won three straight home meetings with Norfolk ...