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Ice Hockey Spotlight:
Phantoms Come Back on Hershey
Gratton Posts Two Goals In 5-4 Shootout Win

Friday, January 20, 2006

By Brian Smith
Philadelphia Phantoms Correspondent

PHILADELPHIA - On Friday night at the Wachovia Spectrum 10,878 delighted in the Philadelphia Phantoms finest comeback of the season, as the home team beat the Hershey Bears 5-4 in a shootout. Josh Gratton paced the purple with two goals.

Hershey's two representatives at the upcoming AHL All-Star Game vaulted the Bears to a 4-1 lead in the first period, as Eric Fehr and Lawrence Nycholat each scored twice. Nycholat added two assists for the four-point period.

Philadelphia's only goal in the first came on the power play after the Bears had staked themselves to a 3-0 lead with three power play goals of their own. Rookie Stefan Ruzicka was in the left-wing corner when he spied Tony Voce crashing the right-side post. Ruzicka saucered a perfect delivery through the slot onto the Philadelphia native's stick, and Voce slammed it home to make it a 3-1 game.

But Nycholat proved deadly from the left point with just 29.1 seconds left in the frame. His blue line cannon went off starter Martin Houle's glove and in, making it a 4-1 game at intermission.

Jamie Storr relieved Houle at the start of second, his first appearance in a game since a December 10 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack. He had spent the majority of that idle time as Antero Niittymaki's backup with the Flyers. He showed no signs of oxidation, as the second period belonged to Philadelphia.

"I haven't lost in six weeks," quipped Storr after the game.

The Phantoms outshot Hershey 13-3 and cut the lead to a single tally on two goals from Gratton. The first came at the 3:07 mark when Frederic Cassivi stopped an initial opportunity from the right side, but Gratton was able to clean up the garbage with a backhand swipe and pull his team within two.

Gratton's second put bookends on the period at the 18:41, when he again tidied up a mess in front with a rebound shot that beat Cassivi. For Gratton, it was his sixth of the season and fourth against Hershey. "We just got together as a team after the first period. We know we're in the basement right now and we've got to get out any way possible. We just battled as a team and came through."

Philadelphia came at the Bears with more of their lunchpail effort in the third and it paid dividends. With just 3:36 remaining in regulation, Ryan Ready snapped home the tying goal. Blake Bellefeuille's left circle bid was initially stopped by Cassivi, but the rebound was pumped in from the opposite circle for the 4-4 tie and the crowd was lifted into a full lather.

Overtime did not settle the affair, but the shootout did. Storr was perfect, stopping 20 in regulation and all four Hershey attempts in the shootout. Ruzicka and the newly acquired Jim Campbell made good in the extra-extra for the 5-4 final.

Philadelphia finished the evening 2-for-13 on the man-advantage, while Hershey was 3 of 6. It was a night of close finishes at the Wachovia Complex - across the street at the Wachovia Center, the Sixers battled to an 89-86 overtime win over Memphis. A combined total of 28,888 fans - 10,878 at the Phantoms game and 18,010 at the Sixers contest - attended the two events in South Philadelphia tonight.

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