|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Defeat League-Leading Monarchs 1-0
Friday, December 17, 2004
By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
In a battle between the top two teams in the AHL, Antero Niittymaki stopped all 24 shots he faced as the Philadelphia Phantoms posted a 1-0 victory over the Manchester Monarchs tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Manchester entered the game with the best record (21-3-1-1, 44 points), offense (4.19 goals per game) and power-play unit (21.5 percent) in the league, but was shut out for the first time this season.
Philadelphia, which came in three points behind the Monarchs at 20-5-1, had a first-period goal by Jon Sim hold up before Niittymaki made several key stops in the final period to complete his second shutout of the year.
"It was a pretty good hockey game throughout," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "It was a good team effort by us. I thought at times we went after them and created a lot offensively and some good scoring chances. We were a good checking team tonight and didn't turn the puck over much."
Niittymaki faced just 14 shots over the first two periods, but was tested one minute into the third on a breakaway by Petr Kanko. Matt Ryan failed to tally the equalizer into an empty net with nine minutes left and Dustin Brown was stopped at point-blank range by Niittymaki at 15:03.
Manchester goaltender Mathieu Garon was pulled for a sixth attacker with a minute remaining, but the Monarchs could not get a shot on net in losing their fourth straight road game.
Niittymaki, whose other shutout came on Oct. 27 vs. Bridgeport, tied Garon and Grand Rapids' Joey MacDonald for the most wins in the league (14). The Phantoms also won their third game in a row and improved to 3-0 all-time vs. Manchester on home ice.
Philadelphia struck first for the sixth time in the last seven games tonight as Sim tallied his ninth goal at 1:56 of the opening period. The play began with Tony Voce outhustling a pair of Monarchs to a dump-in into the Manchester zone.
Voce moved the puck to fellow rookie R.J. Umberger, who worked it to Sim behind the net. The veteran winger attempted a wraparound and followed in the miss for his ninth goal of the season and seventh as a Phantom.
Garon finished with 21 saves for Manchester, which will host the Phantoms on March 11. The Monarchs went 0-for-4 on the power play.
The Phantoms are back in action on Sunday at 6:35 p.m., when they host the Binghamton Senators. Philadelphia then plays at Bridgeport on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. and in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday, Dec. 26 at 7:05 p.m.
Phantoms Notes: Freddy Meyer, Wade Skolney, Joey Hope, Riley Cote and Boyd Kane were scratched ... Niittymaki has nine career shutouts as a Phantom ... Philadelphia was 0-for-3 on the power play ... Defenseman Stephen Wood made his season debut.