ALBANY -- Every team in the American Hockey League had a shot at Michael Ryan. The answers ranged somewhere between no thanks and maybe.
The desperate Adirondack Phantoms took a chance 20 games into the season. They had nothing to lose by bringing in the former all-star for a look-see.
Nearly 20 games later, Ryan is at the forefront of a revitalized Adirondack that is playing at a level no one imagined possible.
Ryan scored twice Wednesday as Adirondack beat Albany 3-2 in a shootout before a crowd of 2,086 at the Times Union Center. The Phantoms have won four straight games for the first time since moving to Glens Falls.
Ryan has four goals in his last three games. All three have been game-tying goals. He's also scored twice in shootouts during the winning streak, including in this game.
"I'm just seeing a guy that's really hungry around the net," Adirondack coach Joe Paterson said.
And perhaps one with an appetite for proving teams wrong.
The four-game streak has all come against teams
from places where Ryan used to play. It started against Springfield, where he played on a tryout contract earlier this season, went to Rochester, where he played three years, and ended in Albany, where he scored 25 goals in 40 games two years ago.
Concussion and hip problems limited him to three games with Albany last season. He went to camp with the Flyers in September, but was cut and only played six games on the tryout deal with Springfield.
In 12 games with the Phantoms - he's also missed seven because of injury and illness - Ryan has six goals and two assists.
"It hasn't been easy with the late start...so I'm still trying to get my feet under me and I'm not quite where I want to be just yet," Ryan said. "I feel better every night, so hopefully I'll get back up to speed sooner or later."
Wednesday, he looked like the go-to-player he once was in this league.
He used quick hands to tie the game at 1 in the second period, lifting a loose puck in the crease. Albany took a 2-1 lead 55 seconds into the third on Stephen Gionta's second goal, but Ryan answered back five minutes into the period.
All four wins during the Phantoms' streak have been come-from-behind. Each has been by one goal, and three have come in shootouts.
Since starting the season with four wins in 29 games, they've won seven of their last nine to improve to 11-25-2-0. They're just five points away from not being alone in last place.
"Just the last two weeks, it's been a noticeably big difference from when I first got here," Ryan said. "Just a young team and trying to learn how to win again. That first few months took a lot out of them and it looks like the confidence is coming back and the trust is coming back."
This one took all that. Not only did they come back in the game, the Phantoms trailed the shootout 3-1 before Eric Wellwood and Ben Holmstrom scored do-or-die goals.
The focus coming into the game was on goaltending, and reigning AHL Player of the Week Brian Stewart was strong again, stopping 26 of 28 shots to win his fourth straight game.
But the night belonged to Ryan in another happy homecoming.
"I had to wait a little bit longer than I would have liked, but they've given me an opportunity here and they've allowed me to come in play a lot of minutes, and at the same time help out the young kids," Ryan said. "So I'm grateful."
Loose pucks: New goaltender Michael Leighton was a healthy scratch, as expected. Paterson said no decision has been made if all three goalies will accompany the team to Abbotsford, British Columbia this weekend. The Phantoms leave Thursday morning.
Adirondack (11-25-2-0) 0 1 1 0 1 - 3
Albany (13-19-0-3) 0 1 1 0 0 - 2
First period - None. Penalties - Wiseman, Alb (hooking), 4:54; Ryan, Adk (holding), 5:03; Marshall, Adk (holding), 18:01.
Second period - 1, Albany, Gionta 5 (Wiseman, Swift), 7:43. 2, Adirondack, Ryan 6 (Wellwood, Kalinski), 14:56. Penalties - Wellwood, Adk (tripping), 16:52.
Third period - 3, Albany, Gionta 6 (Swift, Wiseman), 0:55; 4, Adirondack, Ryan 7 (Stephenson), 4:55. Penalties - Wiseman, Alb (tripping), 1:30; Urbom, Alb (tripping), 10:21; Moore, Adk (interference), 12:49.
Overtime - None. Penalties - None.
Shootout - Adirondack 4 (Ryan G, Moore NG, Pither NG, Wellwood G, Holmstrom G, Syvret NG, Kalinski G); Albany 3 (Swift NG, Wiseman G, Anderson G, Henrique G, Vasyunov NG, Davis NG, McIntyre NG).
Shots on goal - Adirondack 7-6-7-2-1-23; Albany 8-10-7-3-0-28.
Power-play opportunities - Adirondack 0-3; Albany 0-4.
Goalies - Adirondack, Stewart 4-5-0 (28 shots-26 saves); Albany, Frazee 9-10-3 (22 shots-20 saves).
Referees - Vinnerborg, Brown.
A - 2,086.