|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Cruise to 4-1 Win Over Hershey
Friday, April 15, 2005
By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
Four different Phantoms scored and Antero Niittymaki made 21 saves to set a club record for wins in a season as Philadelphia posted a 4-1 victory over the Hershey Bears tonight at the Wachovia Spectrum.
Jon Sim, Ben Stafford, Freddy Meyer and Mark Murphy all lit the lamp as Philadelphia won its third straight game and reached 47 wins for the first time since 1998-99. The Phantoms also remained three points behind first-place Binghamton in the East Division.
Philadelphia, which will have home-ice advantage in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, has two games remaining in the regular season, while the Senators have just one.
"We'd certainly like to win the division, it's a goal we set a long time ago," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "But we're more concerned with how we're playing now and tonight was a step in the right direction. The power play started to get going and the penalty kill started to get going. We just want our game in good shape heading into the playoffs."
Niittymaki made eight saves in the first period and seven in the third to notch his 32nd win of the season, which breaks teammate Neil Little's club record of 31 set in 1996-97 and 1997-98.
Peter Budaj stopped 36-of-40 shots for Hershey, which has dropped four games in a row. Philadelphia finished with a 9-3 record in the season series and has won 21 of the last 24 meetings with the Bears.
The Phantoms tallied the lone goal of the first period with 23.3 seconds remaining. During a lengthy possession in the Hershey zone, Joni Pitkanen came away with the puck and tapped it to Eric Meloche, who backhanded it on net.
Sim was stationed in front and got dragged down by a Bears defenseman, but managed to slide the puck past Budaj while sitting on the ice for his 36th goal of the year and team-leading 34th as a Phantom.
Philadelphia extended its lead to two goals at 9:15 of the second stanza as Bears right wing Jeff Ulmer served a slashing minor. Pitkanen took the initial shot and Randy Jones volleyed the rebound across the goal crease to Stafford, who swooped in to tally his 15th goal.
The lead grew to 3-0 with 3:31 to go in the second when R.J. Umberger and Sim set up Meyer for a slap shot from out front that sailed through traffic and over Budaj's shoulder. It was Meyer's sixth goal and first since Feb. 27.
Hershey answered 19 seconds later on Nicolas Corbeil's first AHL goal - a follow-in of a blast by Nick Naumenko - but that would be the only shot that made its way past Niittymaki.
Murphy capped the scoring eight minutes into the final period on a power play when he followed in an Umberger shot. Pitkanen also set up Murphy's 13th goal and third in as many games.
Center Jeff Carter, the Philadelphia Flyers' first-round draft pick in 2003 who signed a tryout contract with the Phantoms on Thursday, was scoreless, but tied a team season high with nine shots. He had just ended his junior season with Sault Ste. Marie of the OHL.
"It was great to get back on the ice, it's been a while since I've been in a game," said Carter, who appeared in 12 playoff games with the Phantoms last year. "I was a little rusty at first but things came around."
Philadelphia plays at Albany on Saturday afternoon before concluding the regular season at home vs. the Norfolk Admirals on Sunday at 5:05 p.m.
Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, Todd Fedoruk, Charlie Cook, David Printz and Tony Voce were scratched ... Boyd Kane played in his 400th AHL game ... Philadelphia improved to 28-2 when scoring at least four goals ... Niittymaki has won 10 of his last 14 starts ... Umberger has 17 points (4G, 13A) in his last 13 games ... The was Philadelphia's first-ever game on April 15.