Simon Wheeldon scored two goals and assisted on a third to lead the Baltimore Skipjacks to a 5-2 AHL victory over the Halifax Citadels last night before 1,672 at the Baltimore Arena.
Wheeldon scored his sixth and seventh goals of the season on power plays in the first period and assisted on John Purves' extra-man goal, also in the first period, as Baltimore raced to a 3-1 lead.
Trevor Halverson scored his first goal of the season at 12 minutes, 59 seconds of the third period on a shot from 15 feet out in the slot that beat goalie Stephane Fiset, high and to the stick side. Ken Lovsin iced the contest with 50 seconds remaining by scoring into an empty net.
Jim Hrivnak, sent to Baltimore by the Washington Capitals yesterday, played his first game of the season for the Skipjacks and allowed first-period goals to Dave Marcinyshyn and Daniel Dore, both through his pads.
"Our specialty teams were the key," said Wheeldon. "Our power play clicked and if we get that going it will win us a lot of games in the AHL this year. Also give a lot of credit to Halverson and Richie Walcott. Halifax is a tough team and Halverson and Walcott had a lot to do with keeping them in check. They won a couple of fights for us and calmed Halifax down."
The victory was the second in a row for Baltimore and its third in the past four games. It moved the Skipjacks into a first-place tie in the Southern Division with the idle Binghamton Rangers.
"I was concerned going into the game," said Skipjacks coach Rob Laird. "We had had two tough games with Utica over the weekend and Halifax is a tough team. But this team showed the intensity it has by scoring three power-play goals in the first period and then shutting down Halifax down in the second and third period. Halifax didn't get many quality scoring chances in the last 40 minutes, and whenever they did, Jimmy Hrivnak was there to stop them."
Citadels coach Clement Jodoin pulled his goalie with 1:39 remaining, but Hrivnak and the Skipjacks defense kept Halifax off the board.
Hrivnak said: "I felt good. It was good to play again. Sure, it's tough being sent down by the Capitals. But what can you do when they [Washington] don't give you a chance?" Hrivnak was 3-1-0 with a 4.05 goals-against average with Washington.
Purves said the Skipjacks did a lot of little things well last night. "We are playing better each game, doing the small things right, and they pay off for you. We still have a ways to go, but we are coming along. Our power play is starting to get better for us and that's a very important part of our game."
The Skipjacks have six power-play goals in the past two games.
Wheeldon's power-play goal at 11:11 of the first period gave the Skipjacks a 1-0 lead. Wheeldon knocked in the rebound of a shot from the point by Lovsin.
Fiset, who rejoined the Citadels from the Quebec Nordiques before the game, made the stop on Lovsin's shot but couldn't control the puck. Wheeldon, just off the crease, lifted the puck into the cage.
Halifax tied the score at 13:26 on Marcinyshyn's goal from the right circle that went through Hrivnak's pads.
Wheeldon gave Baltimore a 2-1 lead at 16:04, scoring from the top of the left circle after a pass from Lovsin. The Skipjacks had a two-man advantage at the time.
Purves, scoring on a blazing shot from the top of the slot, gave the Skipjacks a 3-1 lead at 18:50. It was Baltimore's third power-play goal of the period and Wheeldon had an assist.
A freak goal just before the first-period buzzer cut the lead to 3-2. Baltimore, unable to clear the puck from its zone, gave it up to Halifax and Dore drove the puck through Hrivnak's pads from the bottom of the right circle.
The scoreless second period was filled with fights, near-fights and confrontations.
NOTES: Dan Bouchard, a scout for the Quebec Nordiques, was in attendance last night, as was former Baltimore Clipper Noel Price. Danny Belisle, a scout for the New York Rangers, was also on hand. . . . Halifax, on a 6-game southern trip, plays the Bears in Hershey, Pa., tonight. . . . The Skipjacks' next game will be Friday night in Springfield, Mass., against the Indians. . . . Last night was Hrivnak's 100th game as a Skipjack.