U.S. stars hold on for AHL victory Defense at minimum until end of 6-5 game

January 17, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

HERSHEY, Pa. -- One of the mysteries of a hockey all-star game, any time, any level, is how they get those beleaguered, long-suffering goaltenders to show up.

As if open season on the well-padded men standing between the pipes isn't long enough October to May, these so-called showcase events may be the ultimate indignity for the masked marvels.

Take the first period of the U.S. squad's 6-5 victory over their Canadian counterparts in lively Hersheypark Arena last night.

Marcel Cousineau, netminder of St. John's and Canada, had to be feeling pretty good when Team USA's defense parted like the Red Sea and teammate Marty Murray of Saint John (no relation) cruised in for an easy goal against Mike Dunham of Albany. Just 29 seconds had elapsed.

It was the fastest goal in AHL All-Star history, breaking the 45-second barrier established by Fred Glover of Cleveland back in 1954. Ask your grandfather about ol' Fred, he was around forever.

The smile soon disappeared from Cousineau's face, though, when, on one shift, U.S. defenseman Ricard Persson of Albany and center Wes Walz of Adirondack scored 32 seconds apart.

Later in the period, this time 50 seconds apart, Scott Metcalfe of Rochester and John Stevens of Springfield beat Cousineau.

In between and from a distance of about 35 feet, Barry Richter of Binghamton, standing alone and with not a soul within 20 feet of him, had scored. Cousineau only heard this one as he was screened.

Suddenly the U.S. stars led 5-1.

"The first period was like the [all-star] game in the IHL, end-to-end offense," said the Bandits' Dwayne Norris, who had won the accuracy shooting segment of the AHL skills competition the night before. "The score's usually 14-13 or 12-11. So this one was 6-5, but there are a lot of games in this league with scores like that."

Back to the game, one of the problems in these affairs is too many guys are left unattended.

Quickie fact: Fans from the league cities voted their favorites onto the squads and not one of the dozen defensemen competing won in the popular vote.

So OK, there should be no slashing, high-sticking, boarding, charging and fighting. After all, these are exhibitions. But some holding, hooking and interference never hurt anyone.

"It got that way after a while," continued Norris. "In fact, the last period was just like we play during the regular season, close checking, some bumping and hard play."

That's when Canada, after closing the gap to 5-3 after two periods, fell behind by another goal, then scored twice to make it a one-goal game with nearly three minutes remaining.

Over the last minute, the losers pressured young Worcester goalie Eric Fichaud impressively with the extra skater, but the kid (19) and a suddenly stout defense came through.

Through the first 20 minutes of offensive action, one each Canadian and U.S. type was detected holding and sent off to repent for his sin. A hold in this case was not only a takedown but a full pin.

"It's what the fans want to see," said Norris. "It's a team sport and often the individual skills get lost. In a game like this, guys get to play outside a system and can show at their best."

Classified as the best for the game was Walz, who had a goal, two assists and, late in the game, dumped a Canadian on his backside in the corner and swiped the puck from him. That probably cinched it among the voters.

"It's nice to win this," he said. "There were a lot of general managers in the stands and we all wanted to impress them. Although this whole thing was fun, this [AHL] isn't the league I want to play in."

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