It was a triumph in patchwork hockey.
With six players injured, center Reggie Savage up with the Washington Capitals and Bob Joyce loose on the waiver wire, the Skipjacks somehow managed to overcome it all last night in a 4-3 overtime win against Hershey at the Arena.
If things had gone according to plan, the Jacks, skating with just nine forwards, would have won the game in regulation after outplaying and outshooting the Bears 40-23 during the first 60 minutes.
But the Bears hung tough with great goaltending from Dominic Roussel and, with an extra attacker, managed a goal from Chris Jensen with 42 seconds remaining to force OT.
But Steve Seftel scored 1:23 into the extra session, making a nice move behind the net and beating Roussel low to the glove side.
"I've got no complaints," said Skipjacks coach Rob Laird, when asked about his team allowing a lopsided game to go into a fourth period. "Any time you're depleted in manpower like we were, you've got to be happy with a win. We worked hard, and even if we had lost, it wouldn't have been because of lack of effort."
With Savage, Joyce, Jeff Greenlaw, Steve Maltais and Vic Gervais out of the lineup (along with defensemen Bobby Babcock, Kent Paynter and Chris Felix), the offensive load fell upon some unlikely players, as stay-at-home defenseman Jim Mathieson got his first two goals of the season and checking center Rob Murray got his first.
"It is the first time this season I didn't play with Ken Lovsin," Mathieson said. "We were supposed to be the most defensive of the defensemen and instead I was out there with Mark Ferner, who usually creates some offense. I thought if I was going to get one it would have to be tonight."
Mathieson, who was scoreless in his first 38 games, said some of the players have ribbed him in recent weeks, saying he'd never score.
"After I got the first one I told Mark [Ferner] that I was not going to settle for one," said Mathieson, who did a pair of bizarre scoring dances in jubilation after beating Roussel. "I told him I was going to get another one."
Murray, known for his defensive play and hard checking, had played in 21 previous games for the Jacks before getting the third goal last night at 14:11 of the second period.
Seftel, whose play has blossomed in recent weeks, said his confidence level rose after the Caps gave him a chance to play in four games late last month.
"I knew my role up there was to go into the corners and take the body and that's what I did," Seftel said. "Terry Murray had some nice things to say about my play in a newspaper and I really feel good about my game right now."
Seftel said the team was very disappointed after the Bears tied the game in the final minute. He said the bench talk during the two-minute intermission was not about settling for a tie but about winning the game as quickly as possible.
"It would have almost been like a loss if we had tied," Seftel said. "We deserved to win the game and we went out in the overtime and did it."
If Joyce clears waivers today he will skate for the Jacks in Friday's key matchup against first-place Rochester at the Arena.
The Jacks had another questionable goal scored on them with 1:10 left in the second period. Bill Armstrong was credited with a goal after Tim Tookey was in the net when the shot was taken. Referee Mick McGeough said that Tookey was pushed into the net by Mathieson and therefore the goal was counted.