Trotz gets results, even with master plan scuttled

April 12, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

"The young guns," Barry Trotz called them, and the Skipjacks coach could hardly wait to send them into the American Hockey League.

He had Steve Konowalchuk, Keith Jones and Reggie Savage. They would lead the offense, Trotz reasoned, and Shawn Anderson and Ken Sabourin would anchor the defense.

That, at least, was the way Trotz reasoned at the outset of this season. The trouble was, all those players were taken away from him.

Despite that, the Skipjacks qualified for the AHL Southern Division's fourth and final playoff spot by beating the Hershey Bears in their next-to-last regular-season game Saturday night. Baltimore will open the playoffs Friday on the road against the Binghamton Rangers, the class team of the AHL.

"We're fortunate to be in the playoffs," Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright said before last night's 3-2 loss to the Rochester Americans before 3,451 at the Baltimore Arena. "Barry should get coach of the year."

Ebright pointed out that four of those five key opening-day players -- Konowalchuk, Savage, Jones and Anderson -- were recalled by the parent Washington Capitals and the fifth, Sabourin, was traded to the Calgary Flames.

"This is the first time in my experience that so many people have graduated away from Baltimore," said Ebright, in his sixth year with the club. "And think of all the major injuries we had to major people."

He ticked off the names: Jim Mathieson, Mike Boback, Jeff Nelson, Darren McAusland, John Byce, Randy Pearce, Jeff Greenlaw, Mark Hunter and Byron Dafoe.

"Those guys missed anywhere from five to 20 games," Ebright said. "Take those nine and the five who graduated and you've got 14 players who missed substantial time either as the result of injuries or call-ups."

Ebright appreciates the irony of the Skipjacks' successful drive to the playoffs. They are a lame duck team -- bound for Portland, Maine, after the trip to Binghamton -- playing in a city that never warmly embraced them.

"It feels funny, being a lame duck, knowing a lot of people aren't on your side anymore," Ebright said. "But sometimes in a situation like this a team pulls together and sort of takes on a life of its own. We proved that Saturday in Hershey, beating our archrival in its own building when we had to."

There were indications the Bears, who had beaten the Skipjacks five straight times in Hershey, went into the game convinced they were bound for the playoffs.

"They had planned to present team awards before the game, then suddenly changed the plan," Skipjacks assistant coach Paul Gardner said. "Guess they figured they could do it later, during the playoffs. After the game, they scrambled to present the awards as the fans were filing out."

NOTES: Boback, tied with Eric Murano for the Skipjacks points lead, missed the past two games with a shoulder and neck injury and is questionable for the playoff opener at Binghamton. Trevor Halverson, who hurt his lower back Saturday night, is also questionable. . . . Tickets for the playoff games here against Binghamton April 23 and 24 (both 8 p.m.) and, if necessary, April 26 (7 p.m.) range from $8 to $14. For information, call 481-SEAT. . . . D Jason Woolley was recalled by the Capitals after Al Iafrate injured a hamstring Saturday. . . . Mark Ouimet, a Capitals sixth-round draft choice in 1990 who played for the University of Michigan the past four seasons, played in his first pro game last night and had an assist. He was en route back to Michigan from an all-star game in Maine when the Capitals thought it would be a good idea to watch him in an AHL game.

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