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Phantoms' jersey auction a success

January 15, 2009

Following their Saturday night game against the Motor City Machine, the Mahoning Valley Phantoms auctioned off the special-edition jerseys they wore during the divisional tilt, raising thousands of dollars for cancer research.

The live auction was part of the Phantoms’ Mario Lemieux Foundation night, a charity event in which proceeds went to the Foundation and its continued fight against cancer.

During the post-game auction, fans bid on all 24 game-worn jerseys in addition to two Mario Lemieux-autographed uniforms and two other non-worn special edition Foundation jerseys.

Foundation spokesman Andrew Parish considers the auction to have been a big win for everybody involved.

“The Lemieux Foundation sincerely thanks the entire Mahoning Valley Phantoms organization for its support,” said Parish. “The jersey auction was a huge success for our cancer and neonatal research initiatives, and the winners of the jersey auctions each have a very unique item to remember the special night.”

The high bid of the night was on Phantoms forward Brandon Saad’s jersey, which went for $500 to one lucky fan. Saad’s jersey even beat out the two Lemieux-autographed jerseys, which went for $450 and $420, respectively.

All fans who won the bidding on the jerseys worn by Mahoning Valley players also received an autographed stick from their favorite Phantom.

Phantoms head coach Bob Mainhardt says that despite the foot of snow that fell in the Valley on Saturday, the event still came off without a hitch.

“It was an outstanding evening,” said Mainhardt. “We were thrilled to be working with one of the biggest names in hockey history, so it was obviously pretty nice to be able to put something together for Mario and his Foundation.

“And even though the weather didn’t exactly cooperate with us, we were still able to have a very nice evening and raise some good money for a great cause.”

The Mario Lemieux Foundation was formed in 1993 by Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had his 1993-’94 NHL season cut short when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease.

After a successful battle with Hodgkin’s, the eventual NHL Hall of Famer was cancer free but his experience led him to focus on ways to assist those who were not so fortunate.

The main objective of the Mario Lemieux Foundation is to fund promising medical research projects being conducted by talented scientists.

Among the donations made by the Foundation was a $5 million gift to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to establish the Mario Lemieux Centers for Patient Care and Research in 2001 and a $2 million gift to the Children's Home of Pittsburgh in 2005.

RANGERS READY FOR ALPENA, AGAIN: Most coaches talk about taking advantage of opportunity.  Marquette Rangers head coach Kenny Miller is no different, especially when it comes to his team playing the Alpena IceDiggers.

“We’re neck and neck with them for the final playoff spot in our division,” Miller said.  “We get them at home Friday and then have to go to their place Saturday and Sunday, so obviously these are six very important points for our club this weekend.

“Our schedule is heavily loaded with home games the second half of the season, so we need to make sure we start playing to our capabilities and use that to our advantage,” he added.  “Our guys know what’s at stake, and I’m confident we’ll be okay if we can put together a solid effort every night.”

Marquette trails Alpena by a single point in the race for third place in the North Division, while the Rangers are six points ahead of the U.S. National Team Development Program.  The NTDP has played 10 fewer games than Marquette, a potential 20-point swing by the end of the season.

“We need to take care of our business,” Miller said.  “If we can do that, good things will happen for us as we hit the homestretch of the season.”

Marquette continues to be led in scoring by Chad Peitila (37 points) with James Gallagher (32 points) and Aaron Pietila (30 points) close behind.

Alpena’s Erik Peterson continues to lead the offensive attack for the IceDiggers with 33 points.  Ryan Timar is a distant second in scoring with 21 points.

The Rangers and the IceDiggers have played nine games already this season with the IceDiggers holding a 6-3 advantage heading into this weekend’s three-game series.

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