It took awhile, but the Baltimore Bandits finally won a third period (well, almost), a must in hockey, and thus recorded their first franchise victory at the Baltimore Arena last night, outlasting the Worcester IceCats, 4-3.
With a 2-1 lead after two periods, the Bandits appeared to go into a defensive shell early and, at one point, they had to play two men down for a spell as IceCats' pressure necessitated their taking penalties.
But with Mike O'Neill in goal, they were able to overcome everything Worcester threw at them.
"When we got up 3-1 in the third period, I knew it was over," O'Neill said. "It never is when you're talking about getting your first victory."
In the first 10 minutes of the final period, the Bandits had one shot on goal before going back on the attack and scoring a couple of goals.
Worcester never cried "uncle," following up Bandits scores with goals of their own to ensure an exciting one-goal finish.
Darren Van Impe gave the home team a two-goal lead midway through the third period, but Dave Roberts countered for the visitors. Steve King seemed to give Baltimore breathing room with his fourth goal six minutes from the end, but there were the IceCats again, pulling to within one with 51 seconds remaining. They were not able to muster a shot in the closing moments.
O'Neill, making his fourth start, captured his first victory, made 31 saves, many of them of an acrobatic nature, and drew strong praise from coach Walt Kyle.
"Mike's a veteran, a team guy. He knows we're young, particularly on the defense, and we're going to make mistakes. He stays positive at all times."
"I've been playing for seven years now," said the goalie, "and I'm sure back when I started I made a lot of mistakes, too. I don't remember anyone getting down on me. That's why we're here, to learn and gain experience."
As happened in their opener at the Arena, the Bandits got on the board with dispatch, Sean Pronger converting a classy feed from Jeremy Stevenson from in close after little more than two minutes. The teams then huffed and puffed until midway through the middle period when John Lilley rifled a 30-footer over the glove of IceCats goalie Eric Fichaud only to have Craig Darby draw the visitors back to within a goal with his fifth goal in as many games less than a minute later.
NOTES: Catcall from the end zone $14 seats in the first minute: "Play like you want to be here." Tough crowd. . . . What's in a name? Terry Virtue, veteran defenseman of the IceCats, wasn't even involved in the original raising of the mitts in the first mild scuff of the evening, but joined in quickly and was excused via a game misconduct after just 4:30 of action.