The Baltimore Skipjacks, continuing to play inspired hockey, ran their unbeaten streak to four last night before 6,017 at the Baltimore Arena.
Four players scored goals and Tim Bergland handed out two assists to lead the Skipjacks to a 4-3 AHL Southern Division victory over the Utica Devils.
The victory, the third in a row at home, moved the Skipjacks into a first-place tie with Utica, whose three-game winning streak was broken.
Simon Wheeldon's power-play goal with 3 minutes, 14 seconds elapsed in the third period broke a 3-3 tie. Wheeldon, who scored his 25th goal of the season, converted a pass from Brent Hughes and scored on a severe-angle shot from the goal line.
"That was a bad goal," said Utica goalie Chad Erickson, who made 38 saves but whose five-game winning streak ended. "I went down too soon, and he [Wheeldon] put the puck over my shoulder. It's a shame because we were right in that game despite the shots [42 by Baltimore]."
Utica coach Herb Brooks said: "Erickson kept us in the game. We've been giving up over 40 shots a game lately, and it takes a super effort by our goalkeeper to keep us in the game."
Skipjacks coach Rob Laird said: "I think that was our best game of the season. It was a complete game. We gave Utica very few scoring chances, no odd-man rushes and we forechecked well. That was the third game in the row that we took over 40 shots and held the opposition to under 30 [42-26].
"I really like how we're playing now. We're working hard and getting the breaks. But hard work usually turns into good luck."
Bobby Reynolds, John Purves and Craig Duncanson also scored for Baltimore, which rallied from a 3-1 second-period deficit.
"A lot of teams would have folded after getting behind by two goals, but we picked up the intensity and got the job done," Laird said.
Last night's game was the first of three this weekend with Southern Division teams for Baltimore. Tonight, the Skipjacks play the Bears, who lost to the Capital District Islanders last night, 7-4, in Hershey, Pa., and tomorrow they play the Binghamton Rangers, who beat the Americans, 5-4, in overtime last night at Rochester.
"That was a very big win for us and a great way to start a very important weekend," said Laird.
Jeff Greenlaw, who skates on the line with Bergland and Duncanson, said: "Our line is playing really well together, especially down low. We are forechecking on the opponents' defense and creating chances. Our defense is doing such a good job that it allows me to do my job and that is to forecheck and move the puck out front."
NOTES: The Skipjacks roster has been pared to 22, but the Jacks still had to scratch 2 players last night and 2 more are injured. The Capitals yesterday recalled D Shawn Chambers, who completed his 2-week conditioning assignment. RW Steve Martell and C Tim Taylor were scratched. RW Richie Walcott has been assigned to ECHL Hampton Roads, and RW Steve Seftel (knee) and D Bobby Babcock (wrist) are injured. . . . The hottest trade rumor in the AHL has Utica sending C Neil Brady to Rochester for D Bill Houlder, a former Skipjack, and RW Bob Corkum. . . . Andrew Maynard, the professional light heavyweight boxer from Maryland who won a gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, dropped the first puck for last night's game. Utica coach Herb Brooks coached the U.S. team in the Winter Olympics that won the gold medal at Lake Placid, N.Y., in 1980.
Utica .. .2 1 0 -- 3
Baltimore 1 2 1 -- 4
First period--1. Baltimore, Reynolds 9 (Bergland, Hlushko), 7:30; 2. Utica, Skalde 5 (Brady, Malko), 14:20; 3. Utica, Huard 7 (O'Connor, Malkoc), 14:39. Penalties--Huard, Ut (tripping), 2:20; Savage, Bal (tripping), 10:12; Malkoc, Uti (tripping), 18:16.
Second period--4. Utica, Huard 8 (Hankinson, Dowd), 1:18; 5. Baltimore, Purves 23 (Wheeldon), 13:14; 6. Baltimore, Duncanson (Greenlaw, Bergland), 13:42. Penalties--Dowd, Ut (boarding), 6:47; Ruchty, Ut (roughing), 14:23.
Third period--7. Baltimore, Wheeldon 25 (Hughes, Ferner), pp, 3:14. Penalties--Malkoc, Uti (high-sticking), 2:33; Mathieson, Bal (holding), 4:05.
Shots on goal--Utica 8-8-10-26. Baltimore 21-11-10-42. Power-play opportunities--Utica 1 of 2. Baltimore 1 of 5. Goalies--Utica, Erickson 11-9-1 ( 42 shots, 38 saves). Baltimore, Hrivnak 9-5-2 (26-23). A--6,017. Referee--Richard Trottier. Linesmen--Bernie DeGrace, Gary Madsen.