Pipeline to Bandits fuels Ducks' run Anaheim suddenly in playoff position

March 21, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER - Alex Hicks, who started the season as captain of the expansion Baltimore Bandits of the American Hockey League, looked down from a plateau never achieved by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in their three-year history. "You know, we're doing this with seven guys who played in Baltimore," he said proudly.

"This" was reference to a team-record five-game winning streak that has transformed the Ducks from a hum-drum also-ran into an even bet to make the playoffs in the NHL's Western Conference.

Before the 2-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on Tuesday night and wins at home against the Blues, Avalanche, Kings and Sabres, Anaheim had won just two of 11 games and was running 12th in the 13-team conference.

Hicks, who centers the high-scoring first line of Paul Kariya (40-4787) and Teemu Selanne (36-6096), remembers the not-so-pleasant days of the Bandits trying to get off the ground last fall. He was called up by the Ducks after 13 games. "We had won two games and I was a minus-8. I'm still trying to have the record wiped out," he said.

But four dozen times since his elevation last November, Hicks has been made to remember as a Bandit got a call or was sent down to play for coach Walt Kyle in Baltimore. "Obviously, Walt's done a terrific job. All the guys called up have done well," he said.

All told, 15 players with Bandits service have performed with the Ducks. To hear coach Ron Wilson tell it, they've more than done the job, too. Against the Caps, what turned out to be the winning goal was scored by Steve Rucchin just before mid-game. Which meant the relatively low-scoring Ducks and goaltender Guy Hebert were under siege for what seemed like hours.

First words out of Wilson's mouth after the Caps had outshot his team, 26-6, over the last two periods were, "We got real quality ice time out of our young defensemen, particularly Jason Marshall who was playing with a touchy hamstring. But Jason and Darren Van Impe have played great since they came up."

Immediately after the game, Anaheim reassigned forwards Dave Sacco, Jim Campbell and Jeremy Stevenson to Baltimore. Since Tuesday, the Ducks made three acquisitions before yesterday's trading deadline, but still aboard are J. F. Jomphe, the young defenseman, and, of course, Hicks. All are on the plus side in the plus-minus department, no easy trick on a team eight games under .500 (28-36-6).

"I'm not a goal-scorer here," said the irrepressible Jomphe, "but if [current Bandit captain] Dwayne Norris were here, it would change. You get different roles on different teams."

"JJ," who has 10 points (1-9) in 19 games, centers the second line of Garry Valk and Roman Oksiuta, acquired from the Vancouver Canucks last Friday.

Any time the Ducks were guilty of a turnover against Washington, there was the kid hustling to get it back immediately. The style served he and the Bandits well; Jomphe tied for the team lead in scoring (21-34-55) when he was called up Feb. 3.

Ironically, it was Anaheim's checking line of Dave Sacco's brother Joe, Rucchin and Valeri Karpov who scored the Ducks' goals while blanking Washington's scoring line of Peter Bondra, Michal Pivonka and Steve Konolwalchuk.

"It's a great way to play the game: Get a lead, play safe and wait for the other team to make a mistake," said Kariya. Which is exactly what Kyle had been preaching to his gang all season.

Pub Date: 3/21/96

Bandits tonight

Opponent: Saint John Flames

Site: Harbour Station, Saint John, New Brunswick

Time: 7: 35

Radio: WITH (1230 AM), WAMD (970 AM)

Outlook: A road trip that started with a 4-2 victory in Portland closes for the Bandits tonight with the prospect of just one victory in six games. The Flames whipped the Bandits, 4-2, in their only other meeting in Baltimore. Jarrod Skalde, who started the season with Baltimore but then was swapped for D Bobby Marshall, leads the Flames in points with 22-40-62. G Dwayne Roloson has a 28-18-5 record and a 2.90 goals against average.

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