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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Cruise To 5-0 Win Over Portland

Sunday, March 20, 2005

By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

Neil Little made 32 saves and Jon Sim scored two more goals to lead the Philadelphia Phantoms to a 5-0 victory over the Portland Pirates tonight in front of a crowd of 9,575 at the Wachovia Spectrum.

Rookie R.J. Umberger added a goal and two assists, while defensemen Joni Pitkanen and John Slaney each chipped in a pair of assists as Philadelphia won for the fifth time in its last seven games.

With the win, Philadelphia (85 points) moved into a first-place tie with Binghamton in the AHL's East Division. However, the Phantoms have played one less game than the Senators.

Portland goaltender Maxime Daigneault, who earned his first career AHL win last Saturday vs. the Phantoms, made just 25 saves on 30 shots tonight.

The Phantoms put on the pressure from the onset of the game and assumed a 1-0 lead at the 36-second mark. Umberger took a feed from Slaney on the play and fired a low wrister that Daigneault stopped but could not control. Sim swooped in and knocked in the puck, which was sitting in the crease.

Sim struck again at 7:44 of the second stanza when he deflected a long drive by Pitkanen past Daigneault to make it 2-0. Umberger also set up Sim's 32nd goal of the year and 30th as a Phantom.

"He's got a hot hand right now," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens about Sim. "The puck is following him around and he's got a great knack for scoring goals. He's a very competitive guy right now. He's hard to contain."

Sim now has 21 points (16G, 5A) in his last 13 games, including an amazing 12 goals in his last nine contests. It was his ninth multi-goal performance of the season and 13th multi-point effort.

Philadelphia blew the game open with goals by Umberger and Riley Cote 24 seconds apart in the second. Umberger's 17th goal came unassisted at the 14:09 mark when he blasted in a poor clearing pass by a Pirate defenseman.

Slaney and David Printz then set up Cote's third goal before the crowd had returned to their seats.

Ben Stafford capped the scoring with his 13th goal at 10:39 of the final period. Pitkanen and Freddy Meyer fed Stafford for a high slap shot from a sharp angle.

After facing just six shots in the first period, Little was forced to earn his third shutout of the season by making 12 saves in the second and 14 in the third stanza. His biggest test came late in the game when Portland had a 5-on-3 advantage for a full two minutes, but Little and the Phantoms stood their ground.

"Whatever happens, you have to deal with it," said Little about the Portland power play. "You can't put negative thoughts in your head. I just tried to stay focused and get it done. It was a challenge and it happened to work out in our favor."

The Phantoms are back in action on Friday at 7:05 p.m., when they host the Springfield Falcons. Philadelphia then closes out the month with road games in Hershey on Saturday and at Binghamton on Wednesday, March 30.

Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, B.J. Abel, Wade Skolney and Boyd Kane were scratched ... Slaney played in his 800th game as a pro and recorded his 200th point as a Phantom ... Little now has 21 career shutouts, including 18 with Philadelphia ... Umberger tied the club record for most points by a rookie (50). Ruslan Fedotenko established the mark in 1999-2000 ... Philadelphia leads the all-time series 8-5-1 vs. Portland ... The Phantoms are 22-1 when scoring at least four goals ... Philadelphia matched its largest margin of victory this season.

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