HERSHEY, Pa. -- The Baltimore Skipjacks' winless streak reached four last night, as the Hershey Bears handed them a 3-2 American Hockey League defeat before 4,713 at the Hersheypark Arena.
The Bears, who are battling the Utica Devils and Adirondack Red Wings for fourth place in the Southern Division, broke a three-game losing streak against Baltimore by jumping to a 3-1 ++ lead and holding on in a fast, physical third period.
Baltimore, which has lost three and tied one in its past four games, cut the lead to one on Alfie Turcotte's goal in the second period.
The Skipjacks put heavy pressure on the Hershey goal in the third period, but could not get a shot past Marc D'Amour, who made 30 saves for the game.
"We had a lot of pressure on us in the third period, but the guys came up large," said D'Amour, who is 3-1-0 against the Skipjacks. "Baltimore is such a fine offensive team that you have to play tough defense. My defense played so well that I got a
chance to see the first shot clearly, and they cleared away the rebounds so Baltimore didn't get a second chance."
In the final minute, the Skipjacks got a power play and coach Rob Laird pulled goalie Jim Hrivnak with 36 seconds remaining and put extreme pressure on D'Amour.
Hrivnak, who lost his first game to the Bears after four victories, made 32 saves for the Skipjacks, who play in Rochester tomorrow and in Binghamton on Saturday.
"Nobody talked about sitting on the lead in the third period, but that's what we ended up doing," said Mike Eaves, Hershey's coach. "The win was a tribute to our defense. We started the game with five defensemen and ended up with only four when Lance Pitlick got hurt in the first period."
"I wasn't happy with the first period," said Laird, "but we played well in the last 40 minutes. D'Amour was the difference. He came up with the big saves when he had to. We need to win this weekend if we hope to have any chance of catching Rochester [10 points behind the Americans, who won last night, 6-2, over Moncton]. We've had a lot of changes on the club and it has cost us continuity. We aren't playing well as a team, but if everyone plays up to their potential, we can turn it around."
"Hershey outplayed us in the first period," Turcotte said. "We weren't ready to play and Hershey took it to us. After that, we played well but came up short. We're out of sync right now and struggling."
"We needed two points in the Southern Division race, but we couldn't get them," Kent Paynter said. "The race has gotten very tight. Early, we were battling to stay in first place, and now it seems we are battling just to make the playoffs."
Mark Freer, scoring on the rebound of a shot by Darren Rumble at 3 minutes, 18 seconds, gave Hershey a 1-0 lead. Rumble fired the puck from the left point and Hrivnak made the save, but Freer was just off the crease and knocked the puck and Hrivnak into the cage.
Tyler Larter tied the score six minutes later, converting the rebound of a shot by Steve Maltais during a power play. Maltais shot the puck from the right circle and it caromed off the rear boards to Larter at the right of the goal. Larter lifted the puck over D'Amour's shoulder.
Tim Tookey, a former Skipjack, gave the Bears a 2-1 lead at 9:36, scoring with a great effort. Tookey twisted and turned his way through the Baltimore defense and wristed a shot past Hrivnak.
Tookey, scoring his second goal of the game and 10th of the season, increased Hershey's lead to 3-1 at 10:26 of the second period. He scored on the rebound of a shot by Rumble during a power play.
Turcotte got the deficit back to one goal at 14:17 when he scored from the bottom of the left circle on a shot that found its way under D'Amour's pads. It was Turcotte's 26th goal of the season.
NOTES: The Skipjacks have 21 players on this three-game trip, the most since the first of the year. Turcotte and Ferner rejoined the team yesterday from the Washington Capitals, and RW Jeff Greenlaw (ankle) and D Bobby Babcock (ankle) returned from injuries. . . . RW Bill Armstrong was returned to Hershey by the Philadelphia Flyers, but D Kerry Huffman (shoulder) mised the game. . . . The Bears are expected sign D Don Nachbaur, who has returned from playing in Austria. . . . RW Chris Jensen and D Scott Sandelin are on recall with the Flyers.