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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Lose 4-2 to Rochester

Sunday, January 2, 2005

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Thomas Vanek recorded a goal and an assist and Ryan Miller made 27 saves as the visiting Rochester Americans posted a 4-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.

The North Division-leading Americans built a 3-0 lead tonight before surviving a rally by the East Division-leading Phantoms. Rochester recorded its seventh consecutive victory and ended a 10-game winless streak vs. Philadelphia, defeating the Phantoms for the first time since Feb. 9, 2001.

Patrick Sharp and B.J. Abel each scored for Philadelphia, which was playing its fourth game in the last five days. Antero Niittymaki stopped 22-of-25 shots to suffer his fifth straight loss.

Vanek opened the scoring 4:16 into the game with his team-leading 15th goal of the year. Jason Pominville hit Vanek darting down the middle on the play and the rookie left wing slid the puck by Niittymaki.

The Americans lead doubled to 2-0 with 2:47 left in the first period when Paul Gaustad stole the puck from Mark Murphy in the Phantoms zone and headed in on net. Gaustad got Niittymaki out of position and registered his seventh goal into an open net.

Jiri Novotny widened the gap to 3-0 at 11:20 of the second period as his shot deflected off Dennis Seidenberg's skate and through Niittymaki's pads. Norm Milley and Jeff Jillson assisted on the power-play goal.

Philadelphia finally got on the board with 6:04 left in the middle period on Sharp's 14th goal. On the power play, Murphy and John Slaney set up Sharp's one-timer from the near circle that floated into the top left corner.

The Phantoms drew within 3-2 at 1:19 of the third when Miller's attempted clearing pass around the back boards was intercepted by Abel, who easily deposited the wraparound goal. Abel, who was recalled from the Trenton Titans earlier in the day, netted his first goal of the year in just his fourth game.

Philadelphia came up empty during three power plays later in the third period and pulled Niittymaki for a sixth attacker with a minute remaining. Michael Ryan then sealed the win for Rochester by tallying an empty-netter, his sixth, with 27.4 seconds to play.

"We had effort tonight and tried hard, but suffered from self-inflicted wounds again," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "We gave up a puck on a turnover, we get frustrated with the referee and if you look at the stat sheet, we had every opportunity to do something on the power play, but didn't. It's time we stop complaining about things we have no control over and get back to work. We have to put the team first and play within the system from start to finish for the next 66 games with the work ethic and relentlessness that is second to none."

The Phantoms are off until Friday, when they host the Syracuse Crunch at 7:05 p.m. Comcast SportsNet will televise the game live. Philadelphia then plays in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday and entertains the Albany River Rats next Sunday at 5:05 p.m.

Phantoms Notes: Freddy Meyer, Wade Skolney, Joey Hope, Todd Fedoruk and Ben Eager were scratched ... Ryan Ready was suspended by the league ... Joni Pitkanen had his five-game point streak halted ... Philadelphia leads the all-time series 17-16-4 ... The Phantoms are set to visit Rochester on Jan. 21.

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