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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Lose 3-2 to Norfolk in Shootout

Sunday, January 16, 2005

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Jason Morgan and Mikhail Yakubov scored in Norfolk's last two shootout attempts as the Admirals pulled out a 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.

Each team converted just one of its first three shootout tries before Morgan launched a slap shot past Phantoms goaltender Antero Niittymaki leading off the fourth round. Philadelphia's Mark Murphy was then denied by Michael Leighton and Yakubov sealed the win with his successful penalty shot opportunity.

Leighton stopped 29-of-31 shots in 65 minutes of action for Norfolk, which has won four of five meetings with the Phantoms this season. The Admirals have captured four of their last six games overall and four of their last five on the road.

Boyd Kane and Ryan Ready scored in regulation and Niittymaki made 22 saves as Philadelphia lost its third game in a row. The Phantoms reached the midway point of the season tonight and own a three-point lead over second-place Binghamton in the AHL's East Division, with two games in hand.

Norfolk scored twice in the first 10 minutes of tonight's game. Rene Bourque put the Admirals on top at the 7:38 mark when he emerged from a scrum behind the net and placed a shot from the near circle over the left shoulder of a screened Niittymaki.

Matt Keith and Anton Babchuk assisted on the rookie's team-leading 15th goal of the year.

Norfolk made it 2-0 with 10:01 left in the period when Eric Nickulas deflected a Marty Wilford shot past Niittymaki. Babchuk also received an assist on the power-play goal.

Philadelphia finally got on the board with 3:28 to go in the second stanza as Kane deflected a shot by Randy Jones off a Norfolk defenseman's skate and through Leighton. It was the third goal of the year for Kane, who had missed the last four games due to injury.

Ready tallied the equalizer with 9:26 left in the third period. Eric Meloche took a feed from Jon Sim on the play and found Ready alone between the circles. Ready settled the puck and beat Leighton top shelf for his fifth goal.

The Phantoms are back in action on Friday when they travel to take on the Rochester Americans. Philadelphia then plays at Hershey on Saturday and hosts the Albany River Rats on Monday, Jan. 24 at 7:05 p.m. The game was originally scheduled for Jan. 23, but was postponed a day due to the Eagles' home playoff game that day.

Phantoms Notes: Wade Skolney, Freddy Meyer, Josh Gratton, Joey Hope, Todd Fedoruk and David Printz were injured scratches ... B.J. Abel, Brent Robinson, Nick Deschenes and Chris Houle were healthy scratches ... The Phantoms are now 5-4 in shootouts this year ... Philadelphia's 15 games going past regulation are tops in the league ... Niittymaki, who had also missed the last four games with an injury, has lost seven straight starts.

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