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Syracuse Squeaks By Phantoms
Chouinard Registers Hat Trick As Philly Gains Shootout Point

Saturday, December 17, 2005

By Brian Smith
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

SYRACUSE, NY -- A hat trick from veteran winger Eric Chouinard powered the Phantoms into a shootout Saturday night, but the Syracuse Crunch prevailed in a seven-round session and took a 4-3 shootout victory at the War Memorial at Oncenter. Phantoms captain John Slaney was held without a point for the second consecutive game and remains two points away from becoming the American Hockey League's all-time leading scoring defenseman.

The Phantoms jumped out to a 2-0 lead in first period on Chouinard's first two tallies. He hooked up with rookie Mathieu Brunelle at 4:47 of the first period when he beat Crunch netminder Martin Prusek with a blast from the right-wing circle. Then Chouinard made it a 2-0 lead at the 10:18 while the Phantoms were operating on a 5-on-3 power play, with Stefan Ruzicka and Tony Voce registering the helpers.

Syracuse got on the board late in the first frame when it capitalized on its own 5-on-3 opportunity. A series of crisp passes ended on the stick of Joe Motzko, who knocked one inside the left post past Martin Houle to send the game to the first intermission with a 2-1 score.

The Crunch equalized maters just 2:54 into the second period when Ole-Kirstian Tollefson found paydirt on a blast from the right point. Chouinard then re-established the one-goal advantage at the 11:15 mark when Brunelle forced a turnover in the neutral zone and fed Chouinard in the slot. Chouinard beat Andrew Penner, who replaced Prusek after the first period, giving Philadelphia a 3-2 lead that would stand at the second break.

But Syracuse was able to tie the game up again halfway through the third period, again capitalizing on a power play situation. The goal came from Mark Hartigan, who found the upper right hand corner of the net after being set up by Andy Delmore.

The shootout stood tied at 1-1 following the second round of shooters, with Mark Hartigan tallying in the first round for Syracuse and Ruzicka finding success in the second round for the Phantoms. Both teams went scoreless for the next three rounds before Ruzicka and Hartigan each were again successful for their respective teams in the sixth stanza. After Penner denied Voce in the seventh round, Motzko scored to end the evening.

Houle, who entered the game ranked fourth in the AHL with a 2.09 goals-against average, took the loss with 32 saves on 35 Syracuse shots. Penner earned the win in relief with 20 saves on 21 Philadelphia chances. The Phantoms had a total of 31 shots on the evening.

Philadelphia is off until Friday, when it visits the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The next home affair for the Phantoms is Friday, Dec. 30 when they host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at the Wachovia Center.

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