The Skipjacks completed a down season on an up note last night by defeating the AHL Southern Division-leading Binghamton Rangers, 6-3, before 3,449 at the Baltimore Arena.
Baltimore failed to make the Calder Cup playoffs but defeated the Rangers in the final two games of the season series and lost twice in the final six games overall to finish with a 28-42-10 record.
"We worked very hard, but we still made some mistakes," said Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz. "That's to be expected with all the youngsters we've been playing. Dennis Smith [veteran defenseman] did a great job for us tonight. He gave us some cohesiveness. He made a very big difference. He kept us playing responsibly.
"We have a lot of good, young talent on this club, like Jason Woolley, Keith Jones and John Slaney. I've been very impressed with the young guys, and they give us hope for next year with the Skipjacks and in the future with the Capitals."
Rookie Jones scored his first two professional goals and also had an assist. Simon Wheeldon, Todd Hlushko, John Byce and John Purves also scored for Baltimore. Hlushko and Woolley had two assists each. Purves' goal was his 43rd of the season and gave him the goal-scoring title, one more than injured Reggie Savage.
"We played well," said Wheeldon, who finished as the Skipjacks' leading scorer with 91 points. "Binghamton, like us, didn't have their full team on the ice. Both teams rested a lot of veterans and went with the young guys. We have a lot of juniors, guys who can play here next year and in the future for the Washington Capitals. It was nice to see them do well. For the last six games, we've been playing with next year in mind and I think we did very well."
The Skipjacks outscored the Rangers 2-1 in the first period. Wheeldon, scoring from the right circle during a power play, gave Baltimore a 1-0 lead at 7:59, but Binghamton tied the score at 12:19 on a freak goal by Joe Paterson. Goalie Byron Dafoe stopped Paterson's shot with his arm. However, the puck rolled over his shoulder and down his back before he could control it.
The Skipjacks regained the lead at 16:55 on Jones' first goal. Jones, steaming down the slot, took a pass from Woolley and beat goalie Boris Rousson from close range with a wrist shot.
Darrin Colburne's first professional goal tied the game at 2 for Binghamton. Colburne, charging across the slot, slipped the puck under Dafoe's pads at 1:48 of the second period.
Hlushko's unassisted goal on a backhand shot from the slot at 5:07 gave the Skipjacks a 3-2 lead. Byce's goal on the rebound of a shot by Hlushko three minutes later made it 4-2.
Goals by Jones and Purves in a 40-second span at the start of the third period gave the Skipjacks a 6-2 bulge.
NOTES: This is the second year in the four that the Capitals have been Baltimore's NHL affiliate that the Skipjacks did not make the Calder Cup playoffs. . . . The Hershey Bears, who finished third in the Southern Division, will begin the playoffs Wednesday against the second-place Rochester Americans in the War Memorial Auditorium. . . . D Bobby Babcock has had surgery on his thrice-injured right hand. D Jim Mathieson served the second game of his six-game suspension for leaving the bench during an altercation Friday.