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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Edge Norfolk 2-1

Saturday, February 12, 2005

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

The Philadelphia Phantoms scored twice in the opening three minutes of the game and then held on for a 2-1 victory over the Norfolk Admirals tonight at the Norfolk Scope.

Goals by Eric Meloche and Patrick Sharp gave Philadelphia a 2-0 lead 2:27 into the game before goaltender Antero Niittymaki took over and held Norfolk to just one late score. Making his 10th consecutive start for Philadelphia, the Finnish netminder stopped 34-of-35 shots to earn the win.

Philadelphia, which also posted a 3-1 win in Norfolk on Wednesday, is now 3-4 vs. the Admirals this year with three more match-ups remaining.

Michael Leighton finished with 18 saves for Norfolk, which had won four games in a row prior to the back-to-back losses to the Phantoms.

Philadelphia scored on its first shot of the game, as Meloche knocked in a centering pass from Todd Fedoruk just 59 seconds into the game. Ben Stafford also received an assist on Meloche's fifth goal of the year and first since Jan. 8.

Before Norfolk was able to get off its first shot of the night, Sharp tallied his 16th goal to make it 2-0. Boyd Kane and Mark Murphy set up the goal at the 2:27 mark to help Sharp end a seven-game scoring drought.

Following a scoreless second period, Norfolk outshot the Phantoms, 15-3, in the third and finally got on the board with 6:33 remaining on Eric Nickulas' fourth goal.

Things got interesting with 2:24 left when Phantoms defenseman Freddy Meyer received an interference minor and Leighton was pulled for an extra attacker to give the Admirals a 6-on-4 advantage.

During a scramble in front of Niittymaki in the final minute, Norfolk appeared to tally the equalizer with 28 seconds to play, but the referee waived it off, saying the whistle had already blown.

Norfolk finished with a 35-20 lead in shots and went 0-for-5 on the power play. Philadelphia came up empty on four man-advantage situations.

Following this week's All-Star break, the Phantoms continue their season-high five-game road trip on Friday in Cincinnati. Philadelphia also plays in Milwaukee, Grand Rapids and Cincinnati again before its next home game on Friday, Feb. 25 vs. the Hershey Bears.

Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, Wade Skolney, Josh Gratton, Randy Jones, Rosario Ruggeri and Ryan Ready were scratched ... Jeff Smith completed his three-game AHL suspension tonight ... Sharp, Niittymaki and Joni Pitkanen will head to Manchester, N.H. in the morning to participate in the 2005 Dodge AHL All-Star Classic, which takes place on Sunday and Monday ... Fedoruk has six points (2G, 4A) in his last six games ... The Phantoms have killed 17 straight power plays ... Philadelphia improved to 18-3 when leading after two periods.

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