The Philadelphia Phantoms, off to a 4-0-0 start, arrived in Cleveland for a Friday night tilt. It was the Phantoms’ third road game in four nights, which is often a harbinger of trouble. This game was no exception.
Philadelphia’s red hot powerplay was short-circuited in the game, going scoreless in seven opportunities. The Phantoms top line of Mark Freer (subbing for Marty Murray, who is on recall to the Flyers), Mark Greig, and Vaclav Pletka was shut down offensively and was out for three goals against. The top defensive pairing of John Slaney and Bruno St. Jacques also had a bad night and rookie goaltender Maxime Ouellet only came up with 19 of the 24 shots he faced (conversely, the Barons’ Vesa Toskala turned aside 29 of 31 Philadelphia shots).
The Phantoms took an early lead, with Peter Vandermeer converting a Petr Hubacek feed at 1:41 of the first period. The game went downhill from there for Philadelphia, although the Hubacek line would once again tally a goal (which temporarily tied the game 2-2) early in the second period; Mike Lephart doing the scoring honors.
The final minute of play took quite awhile to complete, with fights breaking out three different times, including a pair of fights at the final buzzer.
Meanwhile, the news was better at the ECHL level. In a game televised in the Philadelphia area, the Trenton Titans won their home opener by a 3-1 count over the Reading Royals, riding a three goal outburst in the third period.
The Titans played a very sluggish first period, getting outshot 13 to 4 and losing most of the battles for loose pucks.
Reading scored first as Trenton’s Matt Zultek missed the net to the short side on an open shot attempt from the left circle. Play swung the other way with the Royals on a 2-on-1. Tommi Degerman took a cross-ice feed and beat a helpless Dan Murphy.
Play remained scattershot in the second period, with lots of errant passes on both sides. However, the Titans slowly began to take over the game, and were easily the better team over the second half of the period. In particular, Trenton dominated in the faceoff circle. Reading still clung to their 1-0 lead after 40 minutes of play, but the lead looked tenuous.
The Titans’ dominance on faceoffs came to the forefront in the final period.
A Matt Libby shot from the high right slot tied the game at 3:44.
At 9:33, a cleanly won faceoff gave Trenton their first lead of the game, as Andreas Moborg fired a perfect pass from the right point to a wide open Cail MacLean in the left circle. MacLean one-timed a shot home.
At 14:14, Ben Stafford cleanly won a faceoff back to Libby, who skated two strides to his left and slapped a straight-angle shot through traffic into the net to provide the final 3-1 margin of victory.
Among the Flyers-affiliated players who dressed for Trenton, Murphy stood out the most last night, with a solid night in goal. Ian Forbes, who now carries 222 pounds on his 6-foot-6 frame, is much stronger and smoother on his feet, but still has work to do with the puck. Finally, Zultek buzzed around the net for several scoring chances, but could not convert them. He was, however, right in position to put a rebound home had the first Libby goal not gone in on its own.