The Skipjacks' three-game unbeaten streak ended last night before 5,838 at the Baltimore Arena at the hands of the team it was started against, the Hershey Bears.
The Bears, battling the Rochester Americans for second place and the home-ice advantage in the AHL Southern Division playoffs, defeated the Skipjacks, 7-6, rallying from 1-0 and 3-2 deficits.
Rochester defeated the Capital District Islanders, 2-1, relegating Hershey to third place in the division.
The Skipjacks played eight rookies last night and all performed well, but Hershey was bolstered by players from the Philadelphia Flyers to help in the Bears' stretch drive.
Of the rookies, Jason Woolley had three assists, Martin Jiranek had a goal and an assist, Keith Jones had two assists, Pat Peake scored a goal and John Slaney had an assist.
John Byce scored twice for Baltimore. Simon Wheeldon and Tim Bergland also scored.
"At times we played well," said Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz. "We were a little slow getting out of the gate. We had four shots in
the first four minutes and then didn't get another shot until the second period. We have a lot of young guys in the lineup, and the strength factor had a lot to do with our losing.
"Hershey is a very good team. If you asked me who would win it all [the Calder Cup], I'd have to say Hershey, barring injuries. They really came after us and we couldn't pin them in their own end. But we could have folded like a house of cards and we didn't, we kept battling back. Ollie [Kolzig] gave up seven goals, but he made some very big saves or the score would have been a lot worse. We seem to lack cohesiveness and that is because we have so many new guys on our team."
Hershey built a 5-4 lead after two periods. Bergland's unassisted goal 40 seconds after the opening faceoff of the third period tied the score at 5 for the Skipjacks, but Tim Tookey put the Bears back into the lead, 6-5, with a wraparound goal at 6:46. Tookey has 100 points for the season and is the first Hershey player to score 100 in two seasons.
"I'm way ahead of what I had planned for the season, so it's really a nice feeling," said Tookey. "Getting three guys back [Al Conroy, Mark Freer and Dale Kushner from the Flyers] who hadn't played with us for a while was a plus."
The Bears got an insurance goal when Bill Armstrong scored on a pass from Len Barrie.
"We scored a lot but we gave up one too many," said Bergland, who has six goals in 10 games since being reassigned by the Washington Capitals. "We ran up against a very good Hershey team. They have three lines who can all play. We have a lot of young guys up the juniors and college and they are still learning. This is good because playing against older, wiser players will help them in the long run."