Jomphe's improvement mirrors Bandits' Center complements a stiffer defense

November 14, 1995|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

J. F. Jomphe says he thought playing in Baltimore in the American Hockey League was going to be "easy." At least a whole lot easier than it has proved to be as the Bandits carry a 2-10-2 record into tomorrow night's game against Carolina at the Arena.

"I could always score points," said the young center who was a force playing for the Canadian National Team last year. "Did I learn fast. In the first 10 games, I had one assist. Tough."

Maybe he wasn't the only Bandit who misread the quality of the competition in the league. Before its 3-3 tie in Providence last Friday, Baltimore had not outscored the opposition in the third period in any of its first 13 games. As coach Walt Kyle points out repeatedly, "The third period is when games are won and lost," and his club obviously hasn't had the wherewithal to finish off what it starts.

,0 The Bandits, down in Providence entering the last 20 minutes, scored three of the next four goals, a mean feat on the road. "That's the first time we've really dominated and [the Bruins] were a little lucky to tie us," said Kyle.

Jomphe goes farther than that: "We were a much better team." He has thought that on a half-dozen occasions, but, as the losses mounted, he developed doubts. "The trades we've done lately and all the practice time has made us better," he said.

The improvement starts with Jomphe, who has three goals and an assist in the past two games. The Bandits also have played better defense and cut down on mistakes dramatically.

Kyle and assistant Mike Gibbons keep track of something called "quality scoring opportunities" and, in earlier games, found opposing teams enjoying an astonishing edge. During a five-game losing streak at the end of October, the Bandits repeatedly gave up a dozen or more good scoring chances in each game. "That number is now down to minus three or minus four," said Kyle.

"Some of the guys on this team are too good for us to be getting beat like this," said Jomphe. "All the hard work we did in practice last week began to show in that game the other night. I think we've got it going now.

"After Carolina, we've got Fredericton [Friday] and Carolina again [Sunday] at home. We can beat those teams. How would that be, a three-game winning streak?"

Considering the Bandits are 2-10-2, a victory streak of such magnitude would qualify as staggering. "Maybe," said Jomphe, "but we've got to get started sometime."

NOTE: The "Hanson brothers," cult heroes from the 1977 movie "Slapshot" and goodwill ambassadors for hockey, will entertain between periods tomorrow night at the Arena. One of the brothers, Steve Carlson, played for the Baltimore Skipjacks in the 1980s.

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