Push has come to shove in the Skipjacks' Calder Cup playoff series against Binghamton.
By the time the first period ended at the Arena last night, the teams had amassed some 116 penalty minutes. By the time the second period ended, the Jacks were hit with the rare call of charging into the goaltender twice in the space of two minutes.
And by the time the third period ended, the Jacks were staring up at a 3-0 deficit in their AHL Southern Division semifinal series. In the wake of a ragged 6-3 loss to the Rangers last night, the Jacks will try to avert elimination in Game 4 tomorrow night (7:30, WITH-AM 1210).
If the difference in this series has been Mark Laforest, the Rangers goaltender helped his cause with a first-period plea to referee Richard Trottier "to protect me."
The plea came moments after the Jacks' Steve Seftel ran into -- and cartwheeled over -- the Binghamton goalie. Ironically, that spectacular collision did not draw a charging penalty. But late in the second period, Jacks wingers Steve Maltais and Bobby Reynolds were sent off ice on consecutive penalties for running into Laforest.
The Rangers capitalized on the Maltais penalty with a power-play goal by Guy Larose for a 5-2 lead. Laforest then made 15 of his 28 saves in the third period to hold off the, ahem, charging Skipjacks.
Binghamton coach John Paddock said he expected the Jacks to "come out storming," but he didn't appreciate the heavy traffic they ran through the goal crease.
"They were going through the crease trying to unnerve [Laforest]," Paddock said. "I don't think they were trying to take him out. But if they unnerved him, or he got bumped, it was no big deal."
Laforest, who has made 104 stops this series, said he would have done the same thing. "If I coached a hockey team, I'd make the players go to the net," he said. "That's what creates chances."
The extracurricular stuff was hardly one-sided, however. On the worst play of the night, Binghamton's Rick Bennett drew a five-minute major and a game misconduct in the first period for high-sticking Kent Paynter. The Jacks' defenseman suffered a nasty gash above and below his left eye, but returned to the ice in the second period.
The Jacks were unable to take advantage of the five-minute major, and got off only three shots during the power play. For the night, their power play was a feeble 0-for-7. For the series, they're 2-for-19.
The game ended on an ugly note, too, when fans poured at least two beers on Paddock's head in the middle of the third period. That prompted a near-riot on the Binghamton bench until security personnel removed several fans.
"That's the worse I've seen here," said Rangers backup goalie Sam St. Laurent, "but it's not like it's the end of the world."
The Rangers will try to finish off the series tomorrow night. Laforest wasn't making any predictions last night, though.
"Only three teams have ever lost a 3-0 lead [in the Calder Cup playoffs]," he said. "I was on one of those teams [Hershey, in 1988, which blew a 3-0 advantage against Adirondack]. So I take nothing for granted."