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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Fall to Syracuse
Crunch Grab 4-2 Win In Philadelphia

Sunday, December 4, 2005

By Brian Smith
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

PHILADELPHIA - The Philadelphia Phantoms fired 44 shots at goaltender Pascal Leclaire on Sunday, but just didn't have the kind of favorable bounces that Syracuse procured in a 4-2 Crunch win at the Wachovia Spectrum on Sunday. The 44 shots were a season high.

Things started out well for the Phantoms, as they drew first blood with a power play goal at the 14:24 mark of the first period. Philly native Tony Voce, who returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with an injury, slid the puck from the left circle into the low slot. It arrived on the stick of Charlie Cook, who redirected it past a prone Leclaire for a 1-0 lead.

But from that point, Leclaire locked the barn doors until the last minute of the game. Meanwhile, Syracuse began to find success at the other end. The Crunch tied things up less than two minutes later when Peter Sarno finished a long scrum on the end boards by pulling the puck free and tucking a wraparound shot past the lunging left skate of Jamie Storr at the 16:14 mark.

The eventual game-winner came at 12:51 of the second period. While working on the power play, Jamie Pushor saucered a pass from inside his own blue line and hit Andrew Murray in stride at the opposite blue line. Murray went in alone on Storr and cashed in on the stick side for the 2-1 lead.

Syracuse added the first of two insurance goals 8:09 into the third. The Crunch capitalized on a 2-on-1 development when Nikolai Zherdev carried the puck into the zone and ended up taking the shot himself, beating Storr high to the glove side from in tight to make it 3-1. The fourth came at 12:59 when Syracuse cleared the puck to center, right at the end of a Phantoms power play. Newly-freed Geoff Platt went straight to the biscuit and went in on net. He overpowered a Phantoms defenseman who arrived at the last moment and tucked the puck around the outstretched left leg of Storr to make it 4-1.

Philadelphia added a late tally with 13.9 seconds remaining while operating on the power play and with an empty net, giving the home team a 6-on-4 situation. Rookie Stefan Ruzicka took a blue line last off the back glass and put bookends on the scoring.

Coming into the game, the Phantoms had gone to the power play well 21 straight times without success and were just one of their last 41. Two power play goals in the same night gave Head Coach John Stevens reason for optimism, saying "I thought our power play did a lot of good things. We didn't have any trouble getting up ice tonight. Our entries and recoveries were great. We got set up and got a lot of looks at the net. We talked about finishing, little things like making sure you hit the net and fighting for those loose pucks in front of the net... if we just get a little more urgency, I think you'll see more pucks go in. But I thought our power play and our overall game: the effort was there."

The loss snapped a five-game home winning streak for Philadelphia and continued a dry spell for the Phantoms against the Crunch. It was Philly's seventh consecutive match without a win against Syracuse, a stretch of 0-4-1-2. The Phantoms last win against Syracuse came on February 9, 2003 in Philadelphia.

The Phantoms next take the ice in a daytime special this Wednesday, Dec. 7 against Manitoba. The puck will drop at 11:05 AM for the team's annual School Day Game.

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