UTICA, N.Y. -- The fast and furious, first-period pace of last night's AHL showdown seemed to favor the Utica Devils.
The second-period playing conditions at the Utica Memorial Auditorium did not.
Although trailing Baltimore, 2-1, Utica was outshooting the Skipjacks, 16-9, after one period.
Then the auditorium's ice-making machine broke down, Baltimore's Trevor Halverson scored the only goal of a ragged second period on a low shot that skipped off the uneven playing surface, and the Skipjacks wound up cruising to a 5-1 victory before 2,941.
"In the first period, we had much better [scoring] chances," said Utica coach Herb Brooks. "We had the rhythm, we had the opportunities. . . . We were off to the races. . . .
"Then all of a sudden, the Zamboni breaks, the ice is terrible and pucks start bouncing and rolling everywhere. Obviously, it [the ice surface] favored the team -- any team -- that was leading."
The scraped, choppy surface obviously frustrated both teams and it certainly didn't help Utica's comeback chances against the Skipjacks, who took over sole possession of first place in the Southern Division with the victory.
Center Todd Hlushko had two goals and rookie goaltender Byron Dafoe made 40 saves, as Baltimore knocked the Devils out of a first-place tie.
Jeff Christian scored the only goal for Utica.
Halverson's goal gave Baltimore a 3-1 advantage and with the ice-making machine repaired and the conditions somewhat improved, Hlushko and right wing Reggie Savage scored on early third-period breakaways, as the Skipjacks won going away despite getting outshot 41-23.
"They certainly were the sharper team at the start of the game, but Dafoe held the fort for us," said Baltimore coach Rob Laird. "We were just fortunate enough to get a couple of great individual efforts.
"This is a tough stretch for us. Tomorrow's game [Baltimore plays host to Hershey tonight] will be our seventh in 10 nights, and we've got seven points out of it right now. We really had to keep pace with Utica because they've been on a roll, too."