Underdog Skipjacks aren't undone yet

April 28, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

The rumblings of discontent throughout the AHL began long before the Skipjacks' playoff series with the Binghamton Rangers.

Other people complained that Binghamton was overloaded with players from the NHL's New York Rangers. No wonder Binghamton stormed through the season with an AHL-record 57 victories. No wonder the Skipjacks are such underdogs in the Southern Division playoffs.

"They said we stocked up," coach Colin Campbell said as the Skipjacks and Rangers awaited Game 6 tonight in Binghamton, N.Y. "And they didn't like it.

"I checked the ages and salaries of the players in the league, and we were fifth in both categories. You can't say we stocked up just because we have Don Biggs, Craig Duncanson and Brian McReynolds. I mean, they're not like household names."

Indeed, the upstart Skipjacks have offered the Rangers stiff resistance in the best-of-seven series. The Rangers lead 3-2 and can win the series tonight, but the Skipjacks surprised the league by winning two games and forcing Monday night's game into overtime. The Skipjacks did not beat Binghamton in 10 tries during the regular season.

Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz says it was "common knowledge" that New York "sent down some pretty good players" to Binghamton, but he isn't complaining. The most recent additions are Russians Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov. "They were fortunate to get Zubov and Kovalev," Trotz said. "But nobody would be saying anything about loading up if those two guys weren't so good.

"We're accepting it and playing against them. If my players want to play in the NHL, they'll have to play against guys this good or better."

Binghamton got Kovalev and Zubov because New York failed to make the NHL playoffs. The Skipjacks would have gotten reinforcements, probably Steve Konowalchuk and Jason Woolley, if the parent Capitals had not reached the playoffs.

If the Skipjacks win tonight, it would force a seventh game Friday. The team isn't as awed by the assignment as it was before going to Binghamton 12 days ago and winning the series opener. "Playing in Binghamton is pretty huge, but it was huge going in, too," Trotz said. "We won once in Binghamton; there's no reason we can't win again. There's no quit in this team."

Duane Derksen has played a key part in the Skipjacks' insurrection against the Rangers. The rookie goalie has given up a total of five goals in the past two games.

"We're playing the best team in the AHL," Derksen said. "And we're taking them to the limit."

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