With Skipjacks, if the slipper fits . . . Cinderellas revel in 2-2 series tie

April 26, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

As he dressed in the Skipjacks' locker room, Duane Derksen's smile was as wide as the goal mouth.

"Someone has to be the Cinderella team," the rookie goalie said. "Why not us?"

That was Saturday night, after the fourth-seeded Skipjacks shackled the No. 1 Binghamton Rangers, 3-1, to even the best-of-seven AHL Southern Division playoff series at two games apiece.

In what could be their last game ever at the Baltimore Arena, the Skipjacks will face Binghamton in Game 5 tonight. Game 6 is scheduled Wednesday in Binghamton.

This will be the Skipjacks' 464th home game in their 11 years in Baltimore. They will play a 465th before they move on to Portland, Maine, only if they dispose of Binghamton and advance to the next round.

The Skipjacks' move and their soon-to-be-completed history at the Arena are of little interest to the players. All aspire to the NHL and hope that their AHL days soon will be done.

"The move hasn't been a distraction or affected us in any way," said defenseman John Slaney. "Nobody even talked about it. "

What they are talking about is becoming, as Derksen suggested, the AHL's Cinderella team.

After the Rangers, who won an AHL-record 57 games during the season, overwhelmed the Skipjacks, 8-3, Friday night, the series appeared to be all but over.

"People saw it as men against boys," said Slaney, the AHL's leading rookie defenseman scorer with 66 points. "We came back to beat them by playing smart hockey."

In an astonishing reversal, the Skipjacks hounded the Rangers the entire game and made life miserable for them while slowing the pace.

"There was no pressure on us," Derksen said. "The key against a team like Binghamton is to get the lead, which we did. Our forechecking was strong, holding them up coming down the ice, and after a while it seemed to frustrate them."

It frustrated Binghamton coach Colin Campbell to the point of disgust. He had no kind words for anyone after the Rangers, who had scored 392 goals during the season, an average of almost five a game, were restricted to one.

"I didn't think we could play worse than we did in Game 1, but we managed to outdo that," Campbell said. "We had seven or eight guys that were just plain out of it and a few others who were pretty stupid. It's a lack of discipline, and it's my fault. That's my job."

Campbell was puzzled that the Rangers' poor showing was on the road, where they had won 25 games, another AHL record.

"We're much more disciplined on the road," Campbell said before the game. "We protect leads. At home, we tend to get sloppy."

The Skipjacks pressured the Rangers into a rare display of sloppiness on the road Saturday night. The Skipjacks played as well as they did in their 4-3 opening win in Binghamton.

"We can't play any better than that," said John Byce, one of the team's leading scorers.

They may not have to. Repeating their Games 1 and 4 performances may be sufficient.

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