Most of the Skipjacks agreed that last night's performance against the Adirondack Red Wings at the Arena couldn't have been much worse.
The final score was modest enough, 5-2, but for the 2,494 brave souls who witnessed the game, there was no disguising the truth. The Jacks, outclassed for 60 minutes, simply went through the motions.
"I think we start believing that we're better than we really are," said coach Robbie Laird, obviously disgusted. "I hope it was a learning experience. We can't think that because we win a couple of games that we're going to come out here and automatically get a win -- especially against a team of this caliber."
The Red Wings (13-8-5), playing their fourth game in five nights, were tied with the Jacks for first place in the Southern Division coming into the game.
It was hardly a must-win situation for either team, but Wings coach Barry Melrose said his team's fine play will certainly help its confidence in future meetings.
"My guys played well and forced them into some bad spots," Melrose said. "We have eight guys out with injuries and for us to come into this building and handle them the way we did can only be a plus for us the next time."
The teams meet again Saturday in Glens Falls, N.Y.
The Jacks (14-11-1) allowed two goals in each of the first two periods while being held scoreless. Truth be told, they barely even threatened Wings goalie Mark Reimer, who ended the game with 32 rather soft saves.
Finally, in the third period, Alfie Turcotte scored with 13:56 remaining and the Jacks seemed to have a little spark for the next few minutes. But that flicker of enthusiasm was cooled at 11:28 when Tom Bissett scored to make it 5-1. Tim Taylor added a goal for the Jacks with 2:09 left.
"There's really no good explanation for the way we played," said defenseman Kent Paynter. "We won Friday night [10-5 over Utica], we had a day off and we were playing for first place in our own building. Our guys should have been jumping."
Instead, virtually every player in the clubhouse admitted the Jacks were beaten at their own game of tough forechecking and getting to loose pucks.
"My No. 1 priority and concern coming into training camp this year was to make sure that we weren't going to be outworked," Laird said. "Tonight, I can honestly say that we were outhustled in every single facet of the game."