Skipjacks fail to clinch playoff spot Try again tonight after 6-3 defeat

April 10, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The Skipjacks' playoff celebration, if there is to be one, was put off for at least 24 hours.

The Skipjacks could have clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the AHL's Southern Division by beating the Utica Devils, if the Hershey Bears had lost to the Binghamton Rangers.

But the Skipjacks bowed to the Devils, 6-3, last night before 4,012 at the Baltimore Arena, while Hershey tied the Rangers, 5-5, in Binghamton. Jason Miller scored the winning goal for Utica, breaking a 3-3 tie early in the third period.

Hershey and Baltimore are tied with 66 points as the scene shifts to Hershey, where the teams will play tonight. It is the Bears' season finale.

If the Skipjacks win tonight, they'll clinch a playoff spot. If Hershey wins, the Skipjacks can still make the playoffs by beating the Rochester Americans in their final game tomorrow at the Arena.

Noting that the Skipjacks out-shot Utica in the first two periods, 33-9, and for the game, 41-22, coach Barry Trotz said, "You see it all the time. A team gets quality chances that don't go in -- one, two, three, even four of them -- and the other team comes right down and scores, bang. I have no complaints about our guys. They all came to play."

If the Skipjacks earn the final playoff spot, they will play Binghamton in the first round. The Rangers are the winningest team in the AHL.

The series would open April 16 and 17 at Binghamton. The teams then would play games 2, 3 and 4 at the Baltimore Arena April 23 at 8 p.m., 24 at 8 p.m. and 26 at 7 p.m. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be played at Binghamton.

The Skipjacks acted as if they had rout on their minds in the opening minutes. They took a 2-0 lead with 3:28 gone on Eric Murano's 39th goal and Jason Woolley's 14th.

Three minutes later, Utica's Brent Severyn got his 19th, unassisted. Dave Emma, a 1992 Olympian, tied it at 2 with his 21st goal with 2:20 left in the first period. The Skipjacks outshot the Devils, 17-4.

The Skipjacks continued to out-shoot Utica -- 33-9 after two periods -- but to little avail. After Jeff Nelson gave Baltimore a 3-2 lead, the Devils' Jerrod Skalde tied it with a power-play goal at 3.

Before last night's game, Trotz revealed his suspicions that the rest of the AHL was surely rooting for Hershey to beat the Skipjacks for the final playoff spot.

"The players' money from the playoffs comes from a percentage of attendance proceeds," Trotz said. "The farther a team goes, pTC the bigger the percentage gets. I think each player on teams that made it to the first round last year got between $1,200 and $1,500. The Adirondack Red Wings, who won the championship, each got about $9,900."

And why would most teams root against the Skipjacks? Hershey averages 6,172, second best in the AHL. The Skipjacks are averaging 3,054.

"I'm sure everybody's saying, 'Get Baltimore out -- our playoff share will be bigger,' " Trotz said.

NOTES: D Jim Mathieson missed the game with a groin injury. . . . John Byce will be honored before tomorrow's game as the Skipjacks' MVP, as voted by the media. Mike Boback is the Rookie of the Year and Trevor Halverson is the winner of the James Jackson Memorial Award "in recognition of perseverance and best representation of the team on and off the ice." Jackson, a Baltimore Sun sportswriter who died last fall, covered the Skipjacks for years. . . . Boback leads the team in points despite playing with wrist and knee injuries for much of the season. Last night's game was his 69th; in the previous four years at Providence College, he never played in more than 38. "I'm glad it's about over," Boback said. "So much is riding on these final games. It's a lot of pressure when you think we could blow it." . . . RW Martin Gendron, who joined the Skipjacks during their recent seven-game Canada trip from the Quebec Major Junior League, made his first Baltimore Arena appearance last night. D Steve Poapst, who played two games with Baltimore early in the season, rejoined the club in St. John's after a tour with the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League.

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