Two third-period goals by the Utica Devils handed the Baltimore Skipjacks their first loss of the season, 4-3, at the Baltimore Arena last night.
The victory boosted the Devils (4-3) into first place in the Southern Division of the American Hockey League. Baltimore (3-1) dropped to third behind the Binghamton Rangers, who defeated the Cape Breton Oilers, 5-4.
The Skipjacks held a 3-2 lead entering the third period, but Jeff Madill tied the score at 11 minutes, 47 seconds, and Kevin Todd's fifth goal of the season at 16:07 gave Utica its fourth straight victory.
Todd's goal came as Jeff Sharples won a face-off to the right of the Baltimore goal. Perry Anderson put a shot on goal that Jim Hrivnak saved, but Todd was there to knock the rebound home.
"You have to give Utica credit," Skipjacks coach Rob Laird said. "They really worked hard at the end of the game. We had so many great chances in the first 10 minutes of the third period, but we couldn't put the puck in the net. When that happens, you usually end up paying the price for your inability to score.
"Also, we made a couple of bad mistakes on the final two goals that contributed to our loss. But we're a young club and we are prone to those kinds of mistakes. We'll learn from this and won't make the same mistakes again."
Laird was asked how much Utica goalie Mark Romaine, who made 34 saves, had to do with the loss.
"He's very acrobatic and he seems to be jumping around a lot, but he gets the job done," Laird said. "He made some big saves."
Devils coach Tom McVie said: "We played a solid first period and then sat back and admired what we had accomplished in the second period. We let Baltimore bring it to us, and they went ahead. When you play a period like that, it is hard to get jump-started again, but we managed to do it.
"Sure, Madill's goals were garbage goals, but when the season ZTC is over, they don't ask how, they just ask how many. A good scorer like Jeff gets those kinds of goals."
Utica lost right wing Claude Vilgrain with a bruised right shoulder in the first period.
"We had to make some adjustments to take up the slack for Vilgrain's loss, but we got the job done," McVie said. "We're strong at goalie and defense, but we're a little thin up front, so we had to do some shuffling."
On Madill's tying goal, the Skipjacks were unsuccessful at clearing the puck. Madill took a pass from Chris Palmer and wristed a shot from the slot past Hrivnak.
"We both had our opportunities, but they [the Devils] got the breaks at the end," Skipjacks center Alfie Turcotte said. "We skated well and worked hard, but the puck just wouldn't seem to drop for us. Utica got the bounces at the end of the game and we didn't."
Todd Hlushko gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead in the first period, but Utica retaliated with goals by Mike Bodnarchuk and Madill to grab a 2-1 advantage.
The Skipjacks dominated the second period, and goals by John Purves and Tyler Larter, both off assists from Kent Paynter, boosted Baltimore into a 3-2 lead.
NOTES: Left wing Steve Maltais has been named AHL Player of the Week. Maltais, who has been recalled by the Washington Capitals but is expected to be back with the Skipjacks for this weekend's games, had four goals and an assist in two games. . . . AHL president Jack Butterfield was at the game, as were Capitals general manager David Poile and his director of player personnel, Jack Button, and Ron LaPointe, a scout for the Vancouver Canucks. . . . Utica goalie Stan Reddick is the younger brother of Edmonton Oilers goalie Pokey Reddick.