HERSHEY, Pa. -- When you're the least penalized team in the American Hockey League -- as the Skipjacks were with 487 minutes in 35 games -- it's only a matter of time before someone gets the notion to push you around a little.
It took the Hershey Bears seven games and four defeats to finally call the Jacks' bluff.
With the Skipjacks coming off of a three-day holiday resting period and already skating a player short on defense, the Bears couldn't have picked a better time to start playing the goon.
The Jacks were shoved into two ejections (Bobby Babcock and Tim Taylor) midway through the first period, fell behind 4-1 and mounted a late surge that just fell short as they were defeated by the Bears, 6-4, at the Hersheypark Arena last night and knocked into second place in the Southern Division.
"We were in first place and we're the least penalized team so they know they're going to have to hit us to beat us," said defenseman Mark Ferner, who played nearly 30 minutes on the back line as Babcock's ejection brought the Jacks' defensive unit down to four players. "We have the better skaters and they have to try something to slow us down and get us off of our game."
Last night the Bears worked on the Jacks' fatigue.
"They knew we had a three-day vacation and they took us by surprise with the rough stuff," said center Alfie Turcotte, who got the Jacks' third goal. "We adapted to their game plan by the second period, but we were already down three goals. We could have been dead at 4-1 but we came back and gave it right back to them."
With 9:25 remaining, Jeff Greenlaw got a nifty short-handed goal, his second score of the game, to make it 4-4. But late penalties to Steve Seftel and Jiri Vykoukal put the Jacks (19-16-1) back on the defensive and Brian Dobbin beat Olaf Kolzig for the game-winner at 11:30 of the final period. Guy Phillips got an empty-net goal with 43 seconds left.
"By the end they kind of sensed that we were tired," said Todd Hlushko, who also got a short-handed goal at 12:58 of the second to begin the Jacks' unsuccessful comeback. "We outshot them and outhit them over the last two periods, but it never seemed to be enough."
Despite getting a pair of short-handed goals, the Jacks were 0-for-7 on the power play.
The Bears (14-16-5) got early goals from Kerry Huffman, Len Barrie, Craig Fisher and Shaun Sabol before Jacks coach Robbie Laird lifted starting goalie Shawn Simpson in favor of Kolzig, who saved 17 of 18 in 33 minutes.
Many of the Jacks seemed content that they'll get another chance at the Bears tomorrow at the Arena (7:30, WLIF-AM 1300), in the ninth of 14 meetings this season. The series is now deadlocked at 4.