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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Bears Finally Defeat Phantoms 4-3 Win is First over Philly in 17 Tries

Friday, December 10, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Ryan Steeves and Carl Corazzini each scored third-period goals tonight at the Wachovia Center as the Hershey Bears rallied for a 4-3 victory over Philadelphia, ending the Phantoms' 16-game winning streak in the series.

Philadelphia swept all 12 meetings between the teams in 2003-04 and captured the first four match-ups this year. Tonight's loss was the first vs. Hershey since April 5, 2003 and the first at home to the Bears since Feb. 23, 2003. Philadelphia's 16-game win streak over Hershey is believed to be the longest in AHL history vs. a single team.

Corazzini added a power-play goal in the first period and Mathieu Darche also scored for Hershey, which completed its five-game road trip at 3-2. Peter Budaj stopped 29-of-32 shots to earn the win after losing his last seven starts against Philadelphia.

Patrick Sharp, Ryan Ready and Ben Stafford all scored for the Phantoms, who have dropped three of their last four games following an AHL-record 17-game win streak. Philadelphia lost in regulation at home for the first time since March 21, 2004 and has suffered consecutive losses at home for the first time since Dec. 28-Jan. 2 of last season.

"I'm concerned that we played soft," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "Our transition from offense to defense just wasn't there. It was just soft playing."

Philadelphia opened the scoring just 15 seconds into the game as Mark Murphy gained control of the puck behind the Hershey net and fed Sharp for a one-timer into the top left corner. The goal was Sharp's eighth of the year and first since Nov. 21.

The Phantoms tied a team record for fastest opening goal in a game, matching Kirby Law's feat on March 2, 2001 at Quebec. The club record for fastest goal in a period is eight seconds.

Hershey answered at the 9:26 mark of the first while Todd Fedoruk served a high sticking minor. Corazzini accepted a pass from Jeff Ulmer on the play and raced down the far boards before launching a wrister that got through Antero Niittymaki for his third goal of the season.

Philadelphia re-took the lead 5:25 into the second period when Murphy and Ready executed a give-and-go on the power play. Ready slid the shot through Budaj's pads and barely over the goal line, and the referees had to confer before awarding Ready his fourth goal.

Darche made it 2-2 with a power-play goal of his own at 14:39 of the second, but Philadelphia responded 41 seconds later when Stafford redirected a Fedoruk shot into the back of the net.

The Phantoms outshot Hershey, 14-7, in the third, but it was the Bears who tallied the only two goals to rally for the win. Steeves knotted the score at 3-3 at the 3:47 mark when he slammed in a pretty cross through the crease by Chris Bala.

Corazzini tallied the game-winner just under four minutes later during a scramble in front of Niittymaki. Eric Perrin and Marek Svatos received assists on the decisive goal.

Niittymaki, who finished with 31 saves, was pulled for a sixth-attacker with 1:03 remaining. Sharp had the best shot on goal during the final minute, but Budaj made the save.

"We have to get back to the fundamentals," said Phantoms defenseman John Slaney. "We can't sit back and play soft."

The Phantoms are back in action on Saturday at 7:05 p.m., when they travel to take on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The game will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet. Philadelphia is back home at the Wachovia Spectrum on Sunday at 6:05 p.m. vs. the defending Calder Cup-champion Milwaukee Admirals.

Phantoms Notes: Wade Skolney, Riley Cote, Eric Meloche and Joey Hope were scratched ... Philadelphia had won the last nine home meetings with the Bears ... Tony Voce and R.J. Umberger each had their four-game point streaks come to an end ... The teams will next meet on New Year's Eve in Hershey ... Philadelphia's next two opponents faced each other in last year's Calder Cup Finals.

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