The Skipjacks' first road victory in their current 10-game swing through Canada's Maritime Provinces took a week, but the team has been seeing signs of life for three games.
Last night in Moncton, New Brunswick, the Jacks defeated the Hawks, 5-1, behind a pair of goals from Steve Seftel and strong goaltending from rookie Olaf Kolzig.
"We've been working hard in every game and we finally got rewarded," said Jacks coach Robbie Laird, whose club is 1-3-1 on the trip. "Three of the games could have gone either way but last night we had the hot goalie and that was the difference."
Kolzig, the Washington Capitals' No. 1 choice last year who began the season in Hampton Roads in the ECHL, finally earned his first professional victory after two NHL games, three ECHL games and three AHL games.
"He's played well in all the games this week but [last night] he showed his best stuff," Laird said.
Of course, in Saturday's 4-3 loss in Fredericton, the defense in front of him didn't allow Kolzig an opportunity to excel early in the game. During the first period, the Jacks' gimpy-but-effective defense surrendered just one shot to the Canadiens.
"Sometimes that can hurt more than it helps," Laird said. "They [the Canadiens] got some breaks quickly in the second period and before you knew it they had two goals.
"But a few more games like this one will help build his confidence and I'm sure he'll be fine."
Kolzig won't have to wait long for the chance; he will start tomorrow's game in Cape Breton (6:30 p.m., WLIF-AM 1300).
Last night more injuries struck the already banged-up Jacks as defenseman Kent Paynter pulled a hamstring in the first period and defenseman Rob Mendel broke a rib in the second.
"I think the fact that we only allowed one goal and 29 shots is a credit to the guys we had in there," Laird said. "We played most of the game with four defensemen again. We did the same thing Thursday in Fredericton. The amazing stat is that we've allowed less than 30 shots in each of our last five games."
Laird also shook up the offensive lines last night, scratching Vic Gervais and putting Seftel with Jeff Greenlaw and Tyler Larter, Tim Taylor with Steve Maltais and Reggie Savage and maintaining the line of Bob Joyce with Alfie Turcotte and Thomas Sjogren.
The result was a more balanced attack as Seftel had two goals and Taylor, Savage and Sjogren each got one.
"We got good production from each line and I like that," Laird said. "You don't want to have one line the other team can key on. I want them to beware of everyone on every shift."