Bandits' playoff fate to get clearer in hurry Four games in five nights loom as key stretch

March 27, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

The fight for third place in the Southern Division started between the Bandits and Carolina Monarchs, oh, last summer sometime when the two franchises were introduced into polite society (and the AHL) as expansion teams. Both undoubtedly thought they caught a break being placed in the same division -- hey, we can always beat out an expansion team.

The Monarchs (5-5-1) got off to a far better start than the Bandits (1-9-1) and held the advantage until the first week of January. Baltimore held onto third place for more than 10 weeks, never by more than three points, until caught and passed by Carolina five days ago.

"Carolina scares me. Did you see that score?" coach Walt Kyle said yesterday. It was Carolina 10, Albany 1, the second time the Monarchs had beaten the Calder Cup champion River Rats in three days. The Rats (49-16-5) are considered to be the best team in the AHL by a handsome margin.

It is only now, with 10 or so games left in the regular season, that a team can afford itself the luxury of thinking about the postseason. Particularly if said team or teams are involved in the struggle for the eighth (and last) spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Kyle would just as soon his gang not add any more pressure to the situation by scoreboard-watching, however. "We've got a tough week coming up," he said, noting that after Worcester visits the Baltimore Arena tonight (7) and Binghamton comes in Friday (7: 30 p.m.), the Bandits hit the road for games in Albany and Rochester Saturday and Sunday. That's four games in five nights against teams with a combined record of 13-5-2 against Baltimore.

No rest for the weary?

"I wouldn't say we're weary," said the coach, "it's more a case of being bored. The six-game road trip was ridiculous in that it was spread over 14 days. You know guys in hockey, they want to play games, not hang around."

Kyle is happy with the personnel he has right now, although he wouldn't refuse to accept another defenseman if one showed up at the door.

"We've got another dangerous line, Dave Sacco and Jim Anderson [dispatched here by Anaheim] teaming up with Dwayne Norris," he said. "Mike O'Neill had the best game I've ever seen him have in goal against Saint John the other night [a 6-2 win] and [backup] Mike Torchia did a fine job for us in a tie in Fredericton. He'll get a game this week."

Bandits tonight

Opponent: Worcester IceCats

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 7

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

Outlook: The IceCats just extricated themselves from a five-game losing streak during which they were shut out twice fTC and outscored 24-9. They bombed the Bandits, 6-2, two weeks ago in Worcester at the start of Baltimore's six-game road trip. The Bandits went 2-3-1 on the trip, which set well with coach Walt Kyle as the team came up flat in just one game. The Bandits now have another potent attack line, with assignees from Anaheim Dave Sacco and Jim Anderson joining captain Dwayne Norris.

Pub Date: 3/27/96

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