|Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Open Eastern Conference Finals with 4-2 Win over Providence
Friday, May 20, 2005
By Al Cohen
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent
Defenseman Freddy Meyer scored three times tonight at the Wachovia Center to lead the Philadelphia Phantoms to a 4-2 victory over the Providence Bruins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Meyer scored twice in the first period and added another in the second as Philadelphia improved to 7-0 at home during the 2005 Calder Cup Playoffs. The Phantoms will also host Game Two of the best-of-seven series on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Mike Richards added an empty-net goal and chipped in a pair of assists, while Jon Sim also finished with two assists. Antero Niittymaki stopped 22-of-24 shots to move into a tie for the league lead in postseason wins (8).
Hannu Toivonen made 33 saves on 36 shots faced for Providence, which also lost both regular-season meetings with the Phantoms.
Meyer opened the scoring for Philadelphia during the final seconds of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Providence's Jay Henderson. Richards took a feed from Sim on the play and passed the puck back to Meyer, who one-timed a knuckler past Toivonen at the 4:53 mark.
Meyer's first career postseason score gave the Phantoms a power-play goal in their sixth straight game.
The lead grew to 2-0 with 1:18 to go in the first period during a boarding minor on Phantoms defenseman Wade Skolney. Richards gained control in the neutral zone and offered a cross-ice pass to Meyer, who streaked into the Bruins end. Meyer eluded a pair of Providence players before wristing a shot through Toivonen's pads.
"Freddy has been a good player for us all year, but tonight he took it to another level," said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. "Not only did he put pucks in the net, he may have been our most physical player. And for a guy his size (5-10), that's saying a lot. He's a great kid, a relentless worker and just a solid team guy."
Ben Stafford also received an assist on the goal, which was Philadelphia's third shorthanded marker in the last three games.
Providence had four power plays during the middle stanza and capitalized on the last one to narrow the deficit to 2-1. Brad Boyes fed Kevin Dallman from behind the net for a quick one-timer that sailed over Niittymaki's left shoulder at the 15:46 mark for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
But Meyer struck again just 45 seconds later as Philadelphia re-assumed its two-goal advantage. Ryan Ready and Joni Pitkanen assisted on the score, as Meyer gained possession in the near circle and placed a shot past Toivonen from a sharp angle.
Meyer's hat trick was the sixth in Phantoms playoff history and first since Mark Greig accomplished the feat on April 27, 2001 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Meyer is the first defenseman to do so, however.
"It was just one of those games when I got a few bounces early and a few pucks went in," said Meyer, who also had a hat trick last year as a rookie in Hershey on Feb. 21, 2004. "It helps out with your confidence in your overall game. Hopefully we can come out with the same kind of intensity (Saturday) night and take two at home."
A trio of penalties on Philadelphia led to over 90 seconds of 5-on-3 time for Providence and a power-play goal by Andy Hilbert at the 14:05 mark. Aucoin and Patrice Bergeron assisted on Hilbert's fifth goal of the playoffs that made it 3-2.
The Bruins pulled Toivonen for a sixth attacker with 80 seconds remaining and Richards sealed the win with an empty-netter at 19:11. Sim and Randy Jones set up Richards' fourth playoff goal.
Providence finished 2-for-11 on the power play, while Philadelphia was 1-for-5.
Phantoms Notes: Joey Hope, David Printz, Charlie Cook, Mark Murphy, Todd Fedoruk and Tony Voce were scratched ... Philadelphia's seven-game home playoff win streak is a club record ... The Phantoms are 3-0 all-time on May 20 ... Philadelphia has a combined 11-2 record when playing at the Wachovia Center this year ... The Phantoms have won the last six match-ups overall against Providence ... Jeff Carter had a five-game point streak come to an end ... Richards has 10 points (4G, 6A) in his first six professional games ... Sim has 10 points (5G, 5A) in his last six games ... Philadelphia improved to 12-7 all-time in Game One of a playoff series ... A different Phantom has tallied the game-winning goal in each of Philadelphia's nine victories this postseason ... Philadelphia is 7-0 in the playoffs when scoring at least four goals in a game.