Phantoms fail to qualify for postseason for first time

By Al Alven

For the first time in the seven-year existence of the Philadelphia Phantoms, there will be no postseason. Despite earning a point in a 4-3 OT loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins yesterday, the team fell short of qualifying for the Calder Cup playoffs by one point. Overtaking the Phantoms in the standings were the Rochester Americans (31-30-14-5 for 81 pts.), by virtue of a 4-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Amerks now go on to play the seventh-seeded Milwaukee Admirals in a best-of-three Western Conference qualifying series. [A complete listing of AHL playoff match-ups is listed below.]

The Phantoms finished their season at 33-33-6-8 (80 pts.), the worst single-season record in team history. This also marks the first year in which the team has placed last in its division. Each of the other three teams in the South Division – the Norfolk Admirals, Hershey Bears and WBS Penguins – have advanced to the playoffs. The Phantoms actually won the season series against WBS, 6-2, but yesterday’s loss proved to be the final crushing blow in a season full of struggle.

Coming into play yesterday, the Phantoms and Americans were tied with 79 points. Because the Phantoms held a tiebreaker, a win would have given them the final playoff spot regardless of how the Amerks/Bulldogs game turned out. With this in mind, Philadelphia started strong against the Pens. The team dominated WBS at times in the first period, but Sebastien Caron was outstanding in turning aside all 12 shots he faced. Likewise, Neil Little did not yield a goal on 7 shots against.

The Phantoms continued to put on the pressure in the second period and, for a while at least, looked to be on their way to the playoffs. The team finally solved Caron when John Slaney deposited his ninth goal of the season off a pass from Andre Savage at 7:33. Then, just 11 seconds later, Kirby Law buried the rebound of a Patrick Sharp slapshot to make it 2-0. It was the Penguins, however, who picked up the tempo shortly thereafter. The visitors were denied a goal on a controversial play late in the period, but managed to get on the board on the ensuing faceoff when a Brooks Orpik shot from the point deflected off of the skate of a Phantoms defender and into the net at 14:11.

WBS carried the momentum from that goal into the third period. The Pens tied the score on the powerplay (with Brad Tiley serving an obstruction-hooking penalty) with Toby Petersen’s first of two goals on the evening at 4:19. The two teams traded momentum shifts for much of the middle portion of the period before former Phantom Guillaume Lefebvre put WBS up 3-2 with his eight goal of the season at 15:51. The game looked as if it would end that way, until Dennis Seidenberg managed to tally the equalizer amid a wild scramble in the crease with just 31.3 seconds remaining.

The Phantoms came out storming in the opening 45 seconds or so of the overtime period. Though Philadelphia managed only one official shot in OT, the team manufactured at least three prime scoring chances right off the bat. However, the opportunistic Penguins had the last laugh when Petersen finished off a 2-on-1 rush with Rob Scuderi at 0:56 to ice the game and the Phantoms’ season.

Phantoms line combos for the game:

Forwards
Jamie Wright – Andre Savage – Mark Greig
Ladislav Kohn – Patrick Sharp – Kirby Law
Ian MacNeil – Ben Stafford – Mike Lephart

Defensemen
Dan Peters – John Slaney
Brad Tiley – Kirk Furey
Dennis Seidenberg – Wade Skolney

Goaltender
Neil Little
(Antero Niittymaki)

Notes:
– Defenseman Chris Bogas suited up, but saw minimal icetime.
– Defenseman David Harlock and right wing Mike Siklenka were scratches.
– Defenseman Jim Vandermeer remained with the Flyers for the team’s season finale at Florida.

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2002-03 Team Awards

Before the game on Sunday, the Phantoms handed out their individual team awards for the season. The following is a complete listing of the winners:

Community Service Award – Mike Lephart
American Specialty/HG Insurance/AHL Man of the Year Award – Ben Stafford
Most Coachable Player Award – Jim Vandermeer (accepted by brother Peter)
Rookie of the Year – Patrick Sharp
Barry Ashbee Award (Best Defenseman) – Brad Tiley
Most Consistent Player Award – Ben Stafford
Leading Scorer Award – Mark Greig (74 pts/73 GP)
Unsung Hero Award (selected by team’s official fan club) – Ben Stafford
Fans’ Choice Award – Neil Little (now a five-time winner of this award)

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Calder Cup 2003 Playoff Schedule

Conference Qualifying Series

Western Conference

Series “Q1” (best-of-3)
7-Milwaukee Admirals vs. 10-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Thu., 4/10 at Milwaukee, 7:12 CT
Game 2 – Sat., 4/12 at Milwaukee, 7:12 CT
*Game 3 – Sun., 4/13 at Milwaukee, 8:12 CT

Series “Q2” (best-of-3)
8-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. 9-Utah Grizzlies
Game 1 – Thu., 4/10 at Wilkes-Barre, 7:05 ET
Game 2 – Sat., 4/12 at Wilkes-Barre, 7:05 ET
*Game 3 – Sun., 4/13 at Wilkes-Barre, 5:05 ET

Eastern Conference

Series “Q3” (best-of-3)
7-Hartford Wolf Pack vs. 10-Springfield Falcons
Game 1 – Wed., 4/9 at Hartford, 7:05 ET
Game 2 – Fri., 4/11 at Hartford, 7:05 ET
*Game 3 – Sat., 4/12 at Hartford, 7:05 ET

Series “Q4” (best-of-3)
8-Portland Pirates vs. 9-Manitoba Moose
Game 1 – Thu., 4/10 at Portland, 7:05 ET
Game 2 – Fri., 4/11 at Portland, 7:05 ET
*Game 3 – Sun., 4/13 at Portland, 6:05 ET

Conference Quarterfinals

Western Conference

Series “A” (best-of-5)
1-Grand Rapids Griffins vs. WIL or UTA or ROC
Game 1 – Wed., 4/16 at Grand Rapids, 7:00 ET
Game 2 – Fri., 4/18 at Grand Rapids, 7:30 ET
Game 3 – TBA
*Game 4 – TBA
*Game 5 – Wed., 4/23 at Grand Rapids

Series “B” (best-of-5)
2-Houston Aeros vs. MIL or WIL or UTA
Game 1 – Wed., 4/16 at Houston, 7:00 CT
Game 2 – Fri., 4/18 at Houston, 7:00 CT
Game 3 – TBA
*Game 4 – TBA
*Game 5 – TBA

Series “C” (best-of-5)
3-Norfolk Admirals vs. 6-San Antonio Rampage
Game 1 – Thu., 4/10 at Norfolk, 7:15 ET
Game 2 – Fri., 4/11 at Norfolk, 7:30 ET
Game 3 – Sun., 4/13 at San Antonio, 2:00 CT
*Game 4 – Tue., 4/15 at San Antonio, 7:00 CT
*Game 5 – Fri., 4/18 at Norfolk, 7:30 ET

Series “D” (best-of-5)
4-Chicago Wolves vs. 5-Hershey Bears
Game 1 – Sun., 4/13 at Chicago, 3:00 CT
Game 2 – Wed., 4/16 at Chicago, 7:00 CT
Game 3 – Sat., 4/19 at Hershey, 7:00 ET
*Game 4 – Sun., 4/20 at Hershey, 6:00 ET
*Game 5 – Tue., 4/22 at Chicago, 7:00 ET

Eastern Conference

Series “E” (best-of-5)
1-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. POR or MTB or SPR
Game 1 – Tue., 4/15 at Hamilton, 7:00 ET
Game 2 – Thu., 4/17 at Hamilton, 7:00 ET

Game 3 – TBA

*Game 4 – TBA

*Game 5 – TBA

Series “F” (best-of-5)
2-Providence Bruins vs. HFD or POR or MTB
Game 1 – Wed., 4/16 at Providence, 7:05 ET

Game 2 – Fri., 4/18 at Providence, 7:05 ET

Game 3 – TBA

*Game 4 – TBA

*Game 5 – TBA

Series “G” (best-of-5)

3-Binghamton Senators vs. 6-Worcester IceCats

Game 1 – Thu., 4/10 at Binghamton, 7:05 ET
Game 2 – Fri., 4/11 at Binghamton, 7:05 ET
Game 3 – Fri., 4/18 at Worcester, 7:05 ET
*Game 4 – Sat., 4/19 at Worcester, 7:05 ET
*Game 5 – Tue., 4/22 at Binghamton, 7:05 ET

Series “H” (best-of-5)

4-Manchester Monarchs vs. 5-Bridgeport Sound Tigers

Game 1 – Sat., 4/12 at Manchester, 7:35 ET
Game 2 – Sun., 4/13 at Manchester, 4:05 ET
Game 3 – Fri., 4/18 at Bridgeport, 7:35 ET
*Game 4 – Sat., 4/19 at Bridgeport, 7:05 ET
*Game 5 – Tue., 4/22 at Manchester, 7:05 ET

*if necessary