Skipjacks take on only the best Trotz not counting on underdog history

April 16, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

BINGHAMPTON, N.Y. — BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- If he were a betting man, Barry Trotz said, he probably wouldn't put a nickel on his Skipjacks. Instead, he'd bet the farm on the Binghamton Rangers.

"We're such an underdog," the Skipjacks coach said, "that even with my loyalties I doubt I'd bet on us."

Precious few people anywhere would have the audacity to bet on the Skipjacks as they begin their first-round, best-of-seven AHL playoff series against the Southern Division champion Binghamton Rangers here tonight.

There is little about the Skipjacks to entice a bettor.

They slipped into the playoffs in their next-to-last game. They are hurting. Two key players are out for at least tonight's and tomorrow night's games with injuries -- Mike Boback (pinched nerve in his back) and Trevor Halverson (hip). Boback is tied with John Byce for the team points lead.

Whereas Binghamton will be buoyed tonight by Joby Messier and Alexei Kovalev from the NHL's New York Rangers because the parent club won't be in the NHL playoffs, the Skipjacks got no reinforcements from the parent Washington Capitals, who will be in the NHL playoffs. In fact, Washington yanked Jason Woolley from the Skipjacks.

"The strong get stronger," Trotz said with a wry smile, "and the weak get weaker."

Yet the Skipjacks are a compelling story, in part because they are a lame-duck team bound after the playoffs for Portland, Maine. And in part because they are the No. 4 seed facing one of the greatest teams in AHL history.

The Rangers set dozens of AHL or Binghamton franchise records this season, including league marks for most wins (57), points (124) and goals (395). Don Biggs set an AHL record for most points with 138.

In 10 meetings with the Skipjacks, the Rangers didn't lose a game, going 8-0-2.

"The wins, the records, the team finishing first -- that's all good," said Rangers wing Chris Cichocki. "But it would be disappointing if we didn't win the championship."

Recent AHL history abounds with runaway regular-season champions being bumped from the playoffs.

* In 1984, Baltimore was the class of the league during the regular season, but lost in the second round to Rochester.

* In 1985, Binghamton went into the playoffs with a league-high 112 points and was eliminated in the second round -- by Baltimore. That year Sherbrooke won the Cup, despite its sub-.500 record during the regular season.

* In 1989, Sherbrooke stood astride the Northern Division during the regular season, yet was bounced in the first round by No. 4 New Haven, which went to the final before losing to Adirondack.

* In 1990, Springfield, after finishing third in the Northern Division with a 38-38-4 record, won the Cup, knocking off runaway division winner Sherbrooke en route.

Trotz knows the Skipjacks will need a superlative effort even to win one game.

"We need great goaltending and some breaks," Trotz said. "To stay with Binghamton, we can't let them into their big-time transition game. We have to tighten our defense and play it close to the vest."

SKIPJACKS PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

$

Best of seven) Date.. .. .. .. Time .. .. . .. ... ..Site

Friday.. .. .. 7:35 .. .. .. .. .. ..Binghamton

Saturday .. .. .7:35 .. .. .. .. .. ..Binghamton

April 23 .. .. 8:05 .. .. ... ..... Baltimore

April 24 .. .. 8:05 .. .. .. .. .. .Baltimore

April 26 .. .. .7:05 .. .. .. .. .. Baltimore*

April 28 .. .. 7:35 .. .. .. .. .. Binghamton*

April 30 .. .. 7:35 .. .. .. .. .. Binghamton*

* - if necessary

SKIPJACKS TONIGHT

Opponent: Binghamton Rangers

Site: Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena, Binghamton, N.Y.

Time: 7:35

Radio: WTMD (89.7 FM)

Outlook: The No. 4 seeded Skipjacks are the underdog against AHL Southern Division champion Binghamton. The Rangers got two players from the parent New York Rangers for the series; the Skipjacks got Billy Jo MacPherson, 19, from Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League. Per Djoos' 67 points are the most by a Binghamton defenseman.

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