GLENS FALLS -- One of the two starting goalies Sunday at the Civic Center was a former Calder Cup champion with more than 200 games of NHL experience. Brad Phillips was the other.
So what were the odds that the Phantoms’ rookie, making his AHL debut in an emergency start, would be the one to shine, while Antero Nittymaki never made it out of the first period?
Phillips made 35 saves, the Phantoms got two early goals from their fourth line and Adirondack continued its strong play at home with a 4-3 victory over Syracuse before a crowd of 3,713 at the Civic Center.
“I didn’t even find out I was playing until right when I got to the rink,” Phillips said. “I had a big smile on my face when the coach told me I was going tonight. I did my best to prepare for the game in the two hours I had, and the guys played great in front of me, blocked shots, did everything. I had to make one big save and that was about it.”
Phillips, the usual starter for the Trenton Titans of the ECHL, was pressed into action when Michael Leighton became the latest Phantom to be struck with the flu on Sunday morning.
“He got called last minute and he showed up and played his heart out,” said forward Andrew Rowe, who scored twice. “Played like he has nothing to lose.”
The win capped a wild weekend for the 22-year-old goaltender out of Notre Dame.
The Phantoms tried to recall Phillips on Friday after Jason Bacashiua took a shot off his shoulder in morning skate. But Phillips’ flight from Philadelphia to Rochester was canceled at 5 p.m.
He hopped into a taxi for an hour ride through rush hour traffic, getting to Trenton just as the Titans game was beginning. After their emergency starter gave up two goals in seven minutes, Phillips entered the game.
“No warmups, I kind of stretched while I was getting dressed, that’s about it,” Phillips said.
Sunday, it was Phillips who was staked to an early lead.
Rowe scored twice in the first period with Luke Pither assisting on both. Tye McGinn added another to chase Nittymaki, who won a Calder Cup with the Phantoms in 2005.
Matt Ford added a power-play tally in the second period.
“All the lines were really firing. We rolled four lines pretty much the entire game and it really helped with three games in three days,” Rowe said.
Rowe, Pither and Garrett Klotz got more ice time than usual and created several of the game’s best chances.
“They had some good energy and they scored. We don’t win the game if they don’t play that way,” coach Joe Paterson said.
Phillips’ shutout bid ended late in the second when AHL leading goal scorer Kyle Palmieri, a former college teammate, beat him on a penalty shot.
“We used to do shootouts all the time after practice,” Phillips said. “He had my number today.”
The Phantoms won two out of three games for the second straight weekend despite playing with a flu-ridden lineup.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon, expected to play his first games with the Phantoms since November, missed all three games with illness. Forward Garrett Roe sat out the last two games with the same.
Syracuse’s J.F. Jacques scored twice in the third period, including one with the goalie pulled to make it a one-goal with 1:05 remaining.
Despite some hairy moments in the final seconds, the Phantoms were able to hold on for their fourth win in six games.
“It’s close. Every game.” Paterson said. “When you win it’s good for the feel of the team but these games are all very close. We have to keep coming out with big performances.”
Syracuse (22-25-4-4) 0 1 2 — 3
Adirondack (26-26-2-1) 3 1 0 — 4
First period — 1, Adirondack, Rowe 4 (Pither, Klotz), 5:28; 2, Adirondack, Rowe 5 (Pither), 12:41; 3, Adirondack, McGinn 9 (Gustafsson, Akeson), 15:34. Penalties — served by Harper, Adk (bench minor-too many men), 8:53; Caputi Syr (fighting), 16:52; Eddy, Adk (fighting), 16:52; Walker, Adk (cross-checking), 17:17.
Second period — 4, Adirondack, Ford 16 (Holmstrom, Hamel), 10:23 (pp); 5, Syracuse, Palmieri 31 18:20 (penalty shot). Penalties — Eddy, Adk (hooking), 5:58; Palmieri, Syr (holding), 10:06; Holzapfel, Syr (hooking), 11:02; Walker Adk (double minor — high-sticking), 13:37.
Third period — 6, Syracuse, Jacques 16 6:26 (sh); 7, Syracuse, Jacques 17 (Guenin, Holland), 18:55. Penalties — Tarkki, Syr (tripping), 5:27.
Shots on goal — Syracuse 12-16-10—38; Adirondack 15-8-11—34.
Power-play opportunities — Syracuse 0-5; Adirondack 1-3.
Goalies — Syracuse, Niittymaki 4-6-0 (13 shots-10 saves); Tarkki 11-15-4 (21 shots-20 saves). Adirondack, Phillips 1-0-0 (38 shots-35 saves).
A — 3,713.