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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms End Skid with 5-1 Rout of Admirals

Sunday, December 12, 2004

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Josh Gratton scored twice and Neil Little made 26 saves as the Philadelphia Phantoms coasted to a 5-1 victory over the defending Calder Cup-champion Milwaukee Admirals tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.

Patrick Sharp, Dennis Seidenberg and Eric Meloche also scored to help the Phantoms snap a season-high three-game losing streak. Philadelphia has won the last three home match-ups with Milwaukee and now owns a 4-3 lead in the all-time series.

Playing in his 400th AHL game, Little stopped all 13 shots he faced over the first two periods as Philadelphia built a 4-0 lead by scoring even strength, on the power play, shorthanded and with a penalty shot.

Little then turned aside 13-of-14 shots in the third to improve to 6-1 on the season. The veteran netminder was appearing in back-to-back games for the first time this year.

Brian Finley started in goal for Milwaukee and stopped 10-of-14 shots before being pulled 9:14 into the second period. Seamus Kotyk came on and made six saves for the Admirals, who had a three-game win streak come to an end.

Philadelphia struck first for the fifth game in a row as Gratton's shot from the side of the net deflected off the skate of an Admirals defenseman and past Finley at 4:44 of the first period. Riley Cote and Joey Hope received assists on the play.

The Phantoms then blew the game open with a trio of goals in the second period, all in different ways. First, Sharp converted a penalty shot at the 4:05 mark after being pulled down during a breakaway attempt. The goal was his ninth of the year and Philadelphia's first penalty shot at home since the 2002-03 campaign.

Less than a minute later, Seidenberg registered his fourth goal off a pretty centering pass by Mark Murphy to make it 3-0. Randy Jones also picked up an assist on the power-play goal.

Philadelphia widened the margin to 4-0 with its first shorthanded goal of the season at the 9:14 mark. Boyd Kane began the sequence by clearing the puck out of the Phantoms zone and then outskated an Admiral for possession in the other end. The team captain immediately centered it to Meloche, who beat Finley five-hole for his third goal of the season.

Wyatt Smith's power-play goal 8:39 into the third period ruined Little's shutout bid. Gratton then capped the scoring with 1:56 left, beating Kotyk from between the circles. Jeff Smith and Cote set up the goal.

"It's certainly pleasing to see our team come out with a lot of energy," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "We played a strong team game against a quality hockey club. I'm very happy with the effort. It's nice to see them (Gratton, Cote & Smith) get rewarded for their effort. That line is always out there creating problems for the opposition. Tonight, they capitalized on their chances."

"I was just out there battling hard and was lucky to get a couple go in," said Gratton. "I have to chip in in other way other than fighting."

The Phantoms are back in action on Wednesday at 7:35 p.m., when they take on the Springfield Falcons at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Fla. Philadelphia's next home game is slated for Friday at 7:05 p.m. vs. the Manchester Monarchs.

Phantoms Notes: Freddy Meyer, Wade Skolney, Tony Voce, Todd Fedoruk and Antero Niittymaki were scratched ... Goaltender Matthew Yeats, who appeared in two games with the Phantoms in 2002-03, was signed earlier in the day to back up Little ... The Phantoms are 5-for-14 all-time in penalty shots ... Murphy recorded his 300th point as a pro ... Joni Pitkanen played in his 200th game as a pro ... Gratton and Cote each recorded their first multi-point games of the season.

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