Skipjacks move into playoffs 7-4 win over Bears clinches final spot

April 11, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

HERSHEY, PA. BTC — HERSHEY, Pa. -- The Skipjacks may be going to Maine, but first they're going to Binghamton, N.Y.

The Skipjacks clinched the fourth and final playoff spot in the American Hockey League's Southern Division with a 7-4 victory over the Hershey Bears last night before a sellout crowd of 7,872 at Hersheypark Arena.

The win gave Baltimore 68 points, two more than fifth-place Hershey, which ended its season with this game. The Skipjacks will play the Rochester Americans tonight in their finale, at the Baltimore Arena.

Baltimore's AHL franchise is moving to Portland, Maine, although not until the Skipjacks open the playoffs April 16 and 17 on the road against the Binghamton Rangers. The Rangers are the winningest team in the AHL and long ago clinched the top spot in the division playoffs. They have an 8-0-2 grip on the Skipjacks this season.

The series will switch to Baltimore April 23 and 24, both games at 8 p.m., and, if necessary, April 26 at 7 p.m. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, will be in Binghamton.

"For us, this is like winning the Stanley Cup," Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz said. "Our No. 1 goal was to make the playoffs, and to do it in this building, against this team in the last game the Skipjacks will ever play against them, is really great."

The Skipjacks had lost five straight to the Bears here. The game was the 150th and last in their 11-year AHL rivalry; the team going from Baltimore to Portland will be called the Pirates.

Trevor Halverson's goal in the second period, which gave the Skipjacks a 5-3 lead, proved to be the game-winner. The Bears cut the lead to 5-4 later in that period, but Jeff Nelson's 15th goal a minute into the third period increased the Skipjacks' edge to 6-4. Eric Murano led Baltimore with two goals.

"We got on the board first and kept pressing them," Nelson said. "The whole game, we took the play to them."

The Skipjacks, who had dropped three in a row going into the game, won the season's series, 8-6-0. Hershey had an 75-62-13 overall edge, but it was the 150th and last game the Skipjacks will remember and cherish.

It was, as Trotz said, their equivalent of the Stanley Cup. For the first time since 1990, the Skipjacks are in the playoffs.

The Skipjacks took the lead for good on Murano's power-play goal at 9:24 of the second period. Murano's 40th goal of the season broke a 3-3 tie.

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