Bandits keep Arena a low-goal zone in 1-1 tie O'Neill makes 36 saves to earn draw vs. Hershey

February 12, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

If a tight-checking, low-scoring game is your preference when it comes to hockey, the Bandits await your pleasure at the Baltimore Arena.

Goals have become things to be treasured and goal-scorers exalted lately as AHL teams tighten up their acts, striving for something a little better in the final standings.

The Bandits and Hershey Bears played to a 1-1 tie before 5,102 fans last evening, following a pattern established around the time 1996 dawned.

Here are the scores of the past nine games at the Arena: 1-1, 2-2, 5-4, 1-0, 2-2, 3-3, 2-1 (overtime), 2-1 and 2-1. The Bandits have won three, lost two and tied four.

It couldn't have been more to goalie Mike O'Neill's liking, either, as he stepped forward as the game's No. 1 star again with 36 saves.

"We're so much better defensively now that it's a pleasure being out there, even if one little mistake can end up getting you beat," he said.

Matching O'Neill save for save was Neil Little in the Hershey net.

Baltimore leads the season series 4-3-1.

You want close? The teams have the same number of goals in the eight games (31); the Bears have scored one more on the power play (13-12), but the Bandits are 1-0 in overtime goals.

"The season breaks down into four segments," said Bandits coach Walt Kyle. "The exhibitions and camp, the first half of the regular season, after the new year and the playoffs. And things get tighter all the time."

Hershey coach Bill Barber took note of the change in play almost from the moment he took over the Bears in December.

"This is a .500 league, and, if you get above that, it's tough to stay there. A team has to be exceptional to leave the pack behind," said the former Philadelphia Flyers Hall of Fame wing.

The third period was nearly at its midpoint before the Bandits got even, Bobby Marshall sending a drive from 50 feet that got by Little as a couple of Bandits flashed by, providing a screen.

The rivals played an even first period, both getting eight shots on goal, none testing the goalies severely. Then the Bears took over.

In the first 5:35 of the middle period, the visitors unloaded 10 shots on O'Neill, with the last one by Jim Montgomery going in. It came seven seconds after the Bears were put on a power play.

Baltimore had rarely been in Hershey's end of the rink, much less been credited with a shot, during this stretch. It recovered and probably had the better chances to score down the stretch, but Little held firm.

NOTE: In a Hockey News ranking of minor-league team logos, the Bandits raccoon finished 20th among 50. No. 1 was that of the Carolina Monarchs.

Hershey 0 1 0 0 -- 1

Bandits 0 0 1 0 -- 1

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