Skipjacks are hounding Rangers for one final run Surprising series arrives at Game 7

April 30, 1993|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Staff Writer

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- When the subject of the Skipjacks enters Colin Campbell's head, the Binghamton Rangers coach thinks of the movie, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Bad guys Robert Redford and Paul Newman are fleeing from the law, but agents are on their trail. The agents are relentless, and the chase goes on for miles.

"Redford turns to Newman and says, 'Who are these guys?' " Campbell said, smiling wryly.

Who are these guys? Who are these Skipjacks who are making life so miserable for the Rangers?

Form suggested the Rangers would polish off the Skipjacks in four straight. Binghamton was the AHL's Southern Division runaway winner with a league-record 57 victories. The Skipjacks slipped into the playoffs by beating the Hershey Bears in their next-to-last regular-season game.

Who are these guys? The upstart Skipjacks have taken Binghamton to the limit. The teams are tied at 3-3 going into tonight's final game.

The winner will play the Rochester Americans in the next round. If the Skipjacks win, they'll open the best-of-seven set against Rochester Monday at the Baltimore Arena.

The Skipjacks will have reinforcements tonight. Once the parent Capitals were eliminated from the NHL playoffs on Wednesday night, they sent center Steve Konowalchuk and defenseman Jason Woolley, both of whom had stints with Baltimore this season.

"Sometimes too much importance is placed on getting a couple of guys like this," Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz said. "They'll help by giving us more depth at some positions. They're coming with great attitudes. I understand they wanted to come."

Binghamton's two talented Russians, Alexei Kovalev and Sergei Zubov, at first balked when the parent New York Rangers assigned them here, but grudgingly reported. Their play has been uninspired.

The Skipjacks are in high spirits. They're reveling at the prospect of engineering one of the biggest playoff upsets in the AHL's 57-year history.

"The pesky Jacks," said Mike Boback, chortling. "We didn't expect to win this thing, but we're getting all the right bounces. We're making it as tough on them as possible. If we get beat, we'll go down hard. But now we have a chance to win."

The Skipjacks have gotten this far with a tight, nagging defense. They grab, they claw, they hold -- and get away with it.

"The other night they grabbed one of us by the back of the jersey and had it stretched out two feet behind him while he was trying to skate," Binghamton co-captain Brian McReynolds said. "That's holding."

"No one played us this way during the season, sitting back and waiting for us to make a mistake. Most teams tried to do it gun for gun, and that's tough to do against us."

The Skipjacks have forced Binghamton to fight every foot of the way up the ice, frustrating the Rangers with a harassing defense.

"A team has to be dedicated and unselfish to use this approach," Skipjacks' Mark Hunter said. "It's hard work and doesn't generate a lot of offense or individual numbers."

Campbell says he knows what the Skipjacks are doing to his team, but hasn't been able to make successful adjustments. "We have to hope the refs make more calls, and we have to match Baltimore in the work department," Campbell said. "All that clawing and scratching -- I've got to admire their effort."

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