The crowds at the Baltimore Arena returned to normal last night, but the Skipjacks continued their new winning ways.
In their two previous games, the Jacks drew a total of 18,343, but last night the crowd was 2,087. The team, however, raised its unbeaten streak to three (2-0-1) with a 3-1 triumph over the Southern Division-leading Binghamton Rangers.
The Skipjacks opened a 2-0 lead in the first 21 minutes on goals by Tim Bergland and Ken Lovsin. Binghamton cut the margin to 2-1 on Jody Hull's goal, and the Skipjacks got the insurance goal with 28 seconds remaining from John Byce into an empty net.
"We worked extremely hard again tonight," said Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz. "We bent at some spots, but we did not break. Ollie [Kolzig] made some big saves, and our defense played well again."
Kolzig, who had been 0-for-1992, won his second game in a row and had 33 saves. Time and again he thwarted Binghamton with solid saves.
"Better late than never," Kolzig said of his wins. "Everybody played well again. Everyone is digging down deep and working hard. I'm playing with a lot more confidence now. I'm getting into a groove. I'm playing better because the entire team is playing better."
The game was not decided until the final seconds, as Binghamton was a goal behind and coach Ron Smith pulled his goalie, Boris Rousson, with 56 seconds remaining in favor of an extra attacker.
The Rangers attacked Kolzig, but the Skipjacks took the puck away and Keith Jones just missed a long shot at the empty net. Simon Wheeldon picked up the puck behind the Rangers' goal and fed Byce in front, who shot the puck home.
"Outside of the bad stretch of 10 games or so just before and during our trip to the Maritimes, we really haven't played that badly," said Wheeldon. "We lost so many games by one or two goals that it became frustrating.
"That was the stretch in which we lost our chance for the playoffs. Now we have a lot of good, young talent on the club, and they are eager to show what they can do. Some are playing for contracts on this team next year and some for jobs on the Capitals. It's a good situation, and we are profiting from it."
The victory was No. 27 for the Jacks, but they are stuck solidly in last place in the AHL's Southern Division.
For the third consecutive game, the Skipjacks scored the first goal. Bergland, converting the rebound of a shot by Todd Hlushko, gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead at 9:18.
Lovsin raised the lead to 2-0 when he scored on a shot from the right point 37 seconds after the opening faceoff of the second period.
Hull, sprinting out the penalty box, took a pass from Mario Thyer and beat Kolzig from close range to chop the Skipjacks' lead to 2-1 at 9:21 of the second period.