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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Pens Pocket Win, Brent Kelly Collects Goal and Assist in Phantoms Loss

Saturday, January 6, 2006

By Brian Smith
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

PHILADELPHIA - The league's top team visited Philadelphia last night and the Phantoms took them to the edge, but fell to the Wilkes-Barre/ Scranton Penguins, 4-2. An empty-netter sealed the Phantoms fate with only a minute remaining in the third, as Brent Kelly lead the purple with a goal and an assist.

The Pens took a 1-0 lead while operating on the game's first power play. Positioned on the end boards and over the left shoulder of netminder Martin Houle, Rico Fata popped it out in front to Arpad Mihaly, who was able to fire it past the rookie backstop for a 1-0 lead.

Noah Welch made it 2-0 just 35 ticks into the middle period. The Penguins rushed three-on-two into the Phantoms zone with Welch as the trailer. He bombed a 40-footer for the two-goal cushion.

The Phantoms cut their deficit to one while on the power play at 11:28 of the second period. Blake Bellefeuille was on the left side boards and threaded a perfect pass across the top of the crease to Kelly, who tucked the puck into a wide open net to make it a 2-1 game. Until that extra-man marker, the Pens had not allowed a power play goal against in 42 straight chances, spanning more than six games.

But Wilkes-Barre/Scranton regained the two-goal lead with another power play goal of its own, coming at the 6:21 mark of the third. Guillaume Lefebvre redirected Chris Kelleher's wrister from the slot, deflecting it off the bottom of the crossbar and in over Houle's right shoulder.

The Phantoms closed within a goal once again at the 11:45 mark of the third with another power play goal. Kelly snapped a shot from the right circle that Dany Sabourin initially stopped, but it fell behind him and trickled towards the line. Josh Gratton was there to make sure it traveled the extra 12 inches and trimmed the advantage, making the score 3-2.

With Houle on the bench and time running thin, the Penguins scored for the 4-2 final.

Talking after the match, Head Coach John Stevens poignantly remarked on the game, the promotions to the Flyers and how the Phantoms were in the midst of a team and character building chapter. "These young guys are getting a valuable experience. It's going to make them better players down the road. But it's up to the guys who are here to make this thing better. Are we one of the best teams in the league right now? No. But we're gonna kick and scratch and fight and find a way to be one."

Prior to the game the AHL and the Flyers and Phantoms organizations recognized John Slaney. The Phantoms Captain scored his 454th AHL point last weekend at the Spectrum and became the AHL's all-time leading scoring defenseman. League President and CEO Dave Andrews and Philadelphia's Director of Pro Player Personnel Ron Hextall were on hand for the ceremony.

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