The Baltimore Skipjacks' Calder Cup comeback bid and season ended last night at the Baltimore Arena.
The Binghamton Rangers administered the coup de grace, 2-1, to advance to the American Hockey League's Southern Division championship series against the Rochester Americans. The Rangers dispatched the Skipjacks, four games to two.
Steven Rice, who rejoined Binghamton when the parent New York Rangers were knocked out of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Washington Capitals, scored the game-winner on a slap shot from the right circle at 9 minutes, 15 seconds of the third period.
"We didn't get beat on a cheap shot," said Baltimore goalie Jim Hrivnak, who made 27 saves. "Rice's shot was perfect, just out of my reach. It was a great game. A shame someone had to lose. We showed a lot character in coming back from a 3-0 deficit in games."
Binghamton coach John Paddock said: "It was playoff hockey the way it should be played. There was tight checking, great defense, excellent goaltending, a lot of clutching and grabbing, but it was great hockey. Maybe it wasn't a great game for the fans to watch. But I'll take it."
Binghamton goalie Sam St. Laurent, who was a surprise starter in place of Mark Laforest, who started the five previous games, was superb. He made 32 saves and time and again frustrated the Skipjacks with big stops.
"I started Sam because I felt that Trees [Laforest] was not real sharp," said Paddock. "I wanted to see what Sam could do. He got the job done for me. Hrivnak was great at the other end. He made a couple of big saves in the first period to keep us off the board."
The crowd of 2,394 gave the Skipjacks a standing ovation at the beginning of the third period, and Bobby Joyce responded with a goal on a shot from the right circle that tied the score at 1-1. The slap shot went over St. Laurent's shoulder.
Rice got the Rangers the lead back with a shot from the right circle that beat Hrivnak, low and to the stick side.
"Both teams played well," said Skipjacks defenseman Chris Felix. "Everyone played hard. Both goalies played well. Someone has to lose, and it's tough in a 2-1 game, but this team has nothing to be ashamed of."
Hrivnak left the goal with 1:22 remaining in favor of an extra attacker.
"All you can do is play as hard as you can and hope that you'll come out on top," said defenseman Kent Paynter. "Both teams (( played well. Binghamton just got one more goal than we did."
Skipjacks coach Rob Laird said: "We had trouble with our power play [0-for-5], but we picked it up in the second period. The loss was disappointing, but we played well. The work ethic was there. Both goalies played well. This team showed a lot of courage the way it came back for being down 0-3 in games."
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead on Tie Domi's goal at 9:18 of the first period. Corey Millen carried the puck up the left side of the rink and fed Domi, who was cutting across the slot, and Domi put a shot through Hrivnak's pads.
The scoreless, penalty-filled second period featured goaltending. Hrivnak made nine saves for Baltimore, and St. Laurent made 10 for Binghamton.
NOTES: Binghamton RW Rod Zamuner sat out last night's game with a one-game AHL suspension because of his late hit on Bobby Reynolds in Wednesday's game in Binghamton, N.Y. . . . Washington Capitals director of player personnel Jack Button and head of professional scouting Paul Gardner were on hand last night. . . . New York Rangers coach Roger Neilson and general manager Neil Smith and Detroit Red Wings scout Danny Belisle were also in attendance. . . . The Skipjacks scratched D Jim Mathieson, Wade Bartley, Bobby Babcock and Jiri Vykoukal and RW Todd Hlushko and Thomas Sjogren. . . . Binghamton scratched C Len Hachborn, LW Louie DeBrusk and Greg Spenrath and D Kord Cernich and Mike Hurlbut.
Binghamton 1 0 1 -- 2
Baltimore 0 0 1 -- 1
First period--1. Binghamton, Domi 3 (Millen, Paterson), 9:18. Penalties-- Lovsin, Bal (cross-checking), 0:46; Laviolette, Bin (high-sticking), 4:39; LaCroix, Bin (charging), 12:19; Paddock, Bin holding), 15:13; McReynolds, Bin (cross-checking), 15:49; Savage, Bal (slashing), 15:49; Bloemberg, Bin (cross-checking), 16:25; Seftel, Bal (slashing), 16:25; Reynolds, Bal (roughing), 18:22.
Second period--none. Penalties--Ferner, Bal (slashing), 0:44; McReynolds, Bin (cross-checking), 6:00; Seftel, Bal (high-sticking), 6:00; Savage, Bal (elbowing), 8:35; Millen, Bin (cross-checking), 11:32; Felix, Bal (slashing), 11:32; LaCroix, Bin, double-minor (roughing), 12:14; Ferner, Bal (roughing), 12:14; Murray, Bal (charging), 16:31; Millen, Bin (cross-checking), 18:11.
Third period--2. Baltimore, Joyce 1 (Paynter, Felix), 7:23; 3. Binghamton, Rice 2 (Djoos), 9:15. Penalties--Larose, Bin (roughing), 4:55; Reynolds, Bal (roughing), 4:55.
Shots on goal--Binghamton 13-9-7-29. Baltimore 12-10-11-33. Power-play opportunities--Binghamton 0 of 5. Baltimore 0 of 5. Goalies--Binghamton, St. Laurent 1-1 (33 shots, 32 saves). Baltimore, Hrivnak 2-3 (29-27). Att--2,394. Referee--Lance Roberts. Linesmen--Dave Butova, Brewster Earle.
Skipjacks vs. Rangers
((Rangers win series, 4-2) Game 1 -- Rangers 5, Skipjacks 4
Game 2 -- Rangers 2, Skipjacks 0
Game 3 -- Rangers 6, Skipjacks 3
Game 4 -- Skipjacks 6, Rangers 5
Game 5 -- Skipjacks 5, Rangers 3
Game 6 -- Rangers 2, Skipjacks 1