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Phantoms Fairy-Tale Finish in Philadelphia

January 6, 2011

The best writers could not have scripted this night to be more magical than it was. In front of an incredible AHL record-setting crowd of 45,653 at the Outdoor Classic in Philadelphia, the Phantoms put together a fairy-tale comeback for an amazing 4-3 overtime win against the Hershey Bears.

Ben Holmstrom tied the score with 20.2 seconds remaining with his extra-attacker goal from the slot. And Shane Harper raced in behind the Bears defense to accept a perfect flip forward from Eric Wellwood for the backhanded game-winner 58 seconds into overtime.

It was a butterflies-in-your-stomach evening throughout due to the massive attendance that more doubled the previous AHL record of 21,673 set last year in Hartford at their outdoor game. But the heart-stopping victory was more than anyone could ask for and the crowd responded with huge celebration as the Phantoms took to center-ice to salute the Citizens Bank Park contingent.

45,653 fans. It's almost impossible to comprehend a crowd of that size for a minor-league hockey game. A few years ago nobody in their right mind would have realistically envisioned that as even a remote possibility. The terrific feat of putting on a show of this magnitude in the culminating event of the Winter Classic series of games in Philadelphia left the fans and both teams with a magical feeling in the air. The whole evening was a celebration of the Phantoms, Bears, the American Hockey League and the sport of hockey in general at all levels.

Many of the 45,653 in attendance were kids, all of whom delighted in cheering the Phantoms on to a victory that seemed somewhat improbably in the game's closing moments. The weather was unseasonably mild with a starting game-time temperature of 47 degrees greeting the fans and participants on both ends. The ice appeared to be in terrific shape despite its frequent use through the week, with minimal delays or issues. In fact, the play and movement of the puck seemed to be quite crisp.

But Eric Wellwood, who assisted on both dramatic goals, rifled one towards the slot from the right-wing half-wall and a deflected puck in the middle was found by the Phantoms captain, Ben Holmstrom, who stopped and shot past the right skate of Bears goalie Braden Holtby for the equalizer.

Holmstrom is the 24-year-old captain of the Phantoms who was also the Most Valuable Player on the team a season ago.

After the Phantoms regained the momentum with that timely goal, it seemed in some ways inevitable that the home team would be able to finish the unforgettable night.

The Phantoms won the puck in their zone and chipped one forward to Eric Wellwood who quickly got racing down the more open-ice in the 4-on-4 overtime with fellow speedster Shane Harper. The Southern Califronia native would flip the puck over to his backhand and then jam it through Holtby for the game-winner. Harper went to his knees in celebration raising his arms and racing back the other way as his team unpiled off the bench to celebrate their fourth overtime win of the season. The goal was set-up by a perfect feed from Wellwood who flipped the puck into open-ice in the slot with the knowledge that Harper could out-race the defense and meet the puck there with still enough space to put on his best move for the goal.

Harper is a second year pro out of the Everett Silvertips in the WHL where he was that team's all-time leading scorer. He grew up in the Los Angeles area in the 1990's when hockey was becoming the cool sport there due to the arrival of Wayne Gretzky with the Kings. But even "The Great One" never had the experience of scoring an overtime winner in front of 45,000 crazed fans. 22-year-old Shane Harper has. It was his sixth goal as a Phantom and fifth of the season.

Michael Leighton secured the victory with a number of fine saves in his second effort in an outdoor venue. He had also started in the Winter Classic for the Flyers in their 2010 appearance at Fenway Park in Boston against the Bruins but lost that overtime contest.

Chris Bourque opened the scoring in the opening 28 seconds of the game depositing a rebound from a Keith Aucoin shot for a 1-0 Bears lead.

Mike Testwuide equalized for the Phantoms on a sharp-angle attempt from the right-wing corner that appeared to deflect off Bears defenseman Zach Mishovic and through Holtby to tie the score at 1-1 at 12:03 into the first.

The Phantoms clearly had the better of the play in the second period. They outshot the Bears 17-5 and were denied on a number of remarkable saves by Holtby including a point-blank kick-save with his left leg on Testwuide's bid for his second goal of the night.

It would end up being Kyle Greentree, a former Philadelphia Phantom with the Hershey Bears, who would score the middle frame's only tally. With 1:23 remaining in the second he rifled home a rebound on one fo the few scrambles in the Phantoms' end.

Adirondack would tie the score seven minutes into the third. Cullen Eddy raced to the high-slot to a loose puck and blasted it intentionally wide of the cage to the left-wing side where Luke Pither was able to deflect in his second of the season and his first since opening night. The second year Phantoms, Pither, chose the ideal time and setting for his second goal of the year at 7:03 into the third.

The fairy-tale finish for the Phantoms looked to be in jeopardy however when Graham Mink would score his 13th of the season with 7:07 left in regulation to give Hershey the 3-2 lead. The Phantoms fans ha started the wave at Citizens Bank Park in their efforts to boost the home team in their penalty-kill efforts but the Bears responded with the fastest wave-killer of them all, the go-ahead goal.

But that turned out to simply be the stage-setter for the late, heart-stopping dramatics of the Phantoms who were boosted by the humongous attendance.

The Phantoms outshot the Bears 44-27 and improve to 2-0 versus Hershey in 2011-12 with two more meetings left in the season series.

Interestingly, the all-time series between these two long-time rivals is now even at 82 wins apiece (with 8 ties). Somebody will re-take the lead in the all-time series less than 24 hours later though. The Phantoms and Bears meet again on Saturday night in Hershey at Giant Center in what should prove to be an engaging and fiercely-contested rematch.

The Phantoms improved to 18-14-2 with the win and are 4-1 in overtime games this year. Overtime heroes for the Phantoms this season include tonight's star, Shane Harper, New Year's Eve hero Mike Testwuide, and Ben Holmstrom and Jon Kalinski early in December and late November. All four Phantoms overtime wins have been on "home" ice.

The game began with a wonderful pregame ceremony honoring Phantoms greats of years' past including the Calder Cup Championship teams of 1998 and 2005. A roaring ovation greeted Frank "The Animal" Bialowas as well as Neil Little and several other popular Phantoms names. The conclusion of the evening was a spectacular fireworks display beyond the Liberty Bell display in centerfield of the stadium in a scene reminiscent more of a mid-July evening during Phillies baseball season than a hockey night in January.

Two full busloads of Phantoms fans cranked it up inside the stadium as well and many others from the North Country drove down to witness the historic and almost unbelievable event.

It was truly a perfect occasion for all. And it was a night that all of the Phantoms players will easily rate as one of their favorite moments of their lives. And that's very much in thanks to all of you Phantoms fans who came out in massive numbers and made this evening as magical and incredible it was.

Upcoming Phantoms Events

Saturday, January 7, 7:00 - Adirondack Phantom at Hershey Bears

Monday, January 9, 7:00 - Phantoms Power Hour LIVE at McGinny's Tavern. Player guests Ben Holmstrom and Eric Wellwood. Also with Tim McManus of the Post-Star.

Friday, January 13, 7:00 - Hamilton Bulldogs at Adirondack Phantoms. Fun in the Sun Weekend! $2 draft-beer specials

Saturday, January 14, 7:00 - Manchester Monarchs at Adirondack Phantoms. Fun in the Sun Weekend! Post-game Pics with Players on the Ice.

Get great savings with the Phantoms when you bring your group of 15 friends or co-workers to a game. Group-rates available as low as $13 per person. Call the Phantoms to find out more at 518-480-3355.

Catch all the action of Phantoms hockey all season long on the team's flagship station, Classic Hits Q101.7 and on phantomshockey.com. Bob Rotruck has the broadcast coverage 30 minutes prior to game-time with Countdown to Faceoff.. Be sure to follow the Phantoms on twitter @phantomshockey and on facebook.com/adkhockey

Hershey Bears 3 at Adirondack Phantoms 4 (OT) - Status: Final OT
Friday, January 6, 2012 - Citizens Bank Park

Hershey 1 1 1 0 - 3
Adirondack 1 0 2 1 - 4

1st Period-1, Hershey, Bourque 19 (Aucoin, Greentree), 0:28. 2, Adirondack, Testwuide 6 (Holmstrom), 12:03. Penalties-Eddy Adk (interference), 8:18; Marshall Adk (interference), 12:38.

2nd Period-3, Hershey, Greentree 3 (Eakin, Bourque), 18:37. Penalties-Ford Her (tripping), 5:59; Hanson Her (tripping), 15:17; Holmstrom Adk (high-sticking), 16:02.

3rd Period-4, Adirondack, Pither 2 (Eddy), 7:03. 5, Hershey, Mink 13 (Bourque, Aucoin), 12:53 (PP). 6, Adirondack, Holmstrom 10 (Akeson, Wellwood), 19:39. Penalties-Kundratek Her (delay of game), 1:32; Testwuide Adk (holding), 12:26; Micflikier Her (tripping), 13:12; Testwuide Adk (high-sticking), 14:18.

OT Period-7, Adirondack, Harper 5 (Wellwood), 0:58. Penalties-No Penalties

Shots on Goal-Hershey 9-5-13-0-27. Adirondack 7-17-19-1-44.
Power Play Opportunities-Hershey 1 / 5; Adirondack 0 / 4.
Goalies-Hershey, Holtby 11-8-1 (44 shots-40 saves). Adirondack, Leighton 12-11-0 (27 shots-24 saves).
Referees-David Banfield (44), Jamie Koharski (84).
Linesmen-Bob Goodman (90), Leo Boylan (97).






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