Watching the Skipjacks play lately has been like watching a Grade-B movie you've seen several times. You know the ending, but you can't stop watching.
Last night, however, the ending took a surprising twist.
Before a turnout of 1,699 at the Baltimore Arena, the Skipjacks broke a seven-game winless streak by defeating the Springfield Indians, 4-3.
It was Baltimore's first victory at home since Jan. 24 and only its third in the past 22 games. The loss was only the second in the past eight games for Springfield, which leads the Northern Division of the AHL.
The Skipjacks, last in the Southern Division, cut the Utica Devils' lead for the final Calder Cup playoff berth to six points. Barry Trotz is now 1-2-1 as Skipjacks coach.
"I'm on cloud nine," said a smiling Trotz. "We had a little more jump tonight. We also had good matchups and that helped shut down Springfield for much of the game. I'm extremely happy with the effort. Byron Dafoe played well in the goal and weathered several storms for us.
"We established our physical presence early, and Springfield seemed a little intimidated. We made a couple of mistakes, on their power-play goal and on the short-handed one, but we are coming around."
Simon Wheeldon scored two goals and had two assists, and Reggie Savage scored twice and had an assist for Baltimore. John Byce had two assists.
Brian Chapman, Joe Day and Michel Picard scored for the Indians.
Dafoe made 37 saves, as he won his 13th game of the season.
"Byron played well and that was one of the keys," said Wheeldon, who now has 35 goals. "It's great to be back. We got outshot, but we were converting our chances. We dominated the game most of the way. But Springfield is the Calder Cup champion and has probably the best set of forwards in the league, and you can't stop them the entire game.
"It was nice to have a good game. You take what you can get, and it's nice to have the luck going your way for a change. I hope the wins will continue now. We have to keep things positive."
The Skipjacks took a 2-0 lead into the third period and made the score 3-0 on Savage's 37th goal of the season, 13 seconds into the period. Savage deflected a shot from the right circle by Wheeldon past Indians goalie Paul Cohen.
Springfield rallied with three late goals. The final one, by Day, came with 31 seconds remaining after the Indians had pulled their goalie.
"We played hard but Baltimore really needed the win and they put it to us," said Indians coach Jay Leach. "Baltimore has characters that work hard and strive to win. We outshot them [40-25] and that was positive. Dafoe is a tough goalie and he frustrated us. [Jason] Woolley [who made his AHL debut] is an excellent player with very good mobility. He likes to jump up on offense, and you don't lose any defense because of him.
"Some of our players didn't give 100 percent. We lack stability on this team. We have six players sitting in the stands, and the reason is that they aren't carrying their weight for us. They aren't carrying their bags for that matter."
Wheeldon gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead at 14:46 mark of the first period. He stole the puck from a Springfield defenseman and took a wraparound shot that Cohen saved. Wheeldon rammed in the rebound.
Springfield... 0... 0... 3... --... 3
Baltimore..... 1... 1... 2... --... 4