Bandits present new look, but fall to Bears, 4-2 Coach juggles lineup in playoff preview

April 15, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

HERSHEY, Pa. -- It was quite a bit like a fishing expedition the Bandits conducted here last night while losing to the Hershey Bears at Hersheypark Arena, 4-2.

"A lot of guys who hadn't got much ice time got to go out there on a regular shift," said coach Walt Kyle, who added that missing were Dave Sacco, Jim Campbell, Bobby Marshall, Oleg Mikulchik and Mike O'Neill, who will be counted on when the two rivals start their best-of-five playoff series here Friday night.

"We were looking to see how they'd react to the different lines we put out there," continued Kyle, "but we didn't learn much. Half the time [Bears coach] Bill Barber was changing up his guys. This game showed our guys that it's going to be a hitting series, and we'll have to play that way."

There weren't that many penalties, 10 minors, and there was no rough play, but the Bears dogged every move by a Bandit.

The Bears got out early, Jim Montgomery and Scott Morrow scoring on Baltimore goalie Mike Torchia in the first period. Torchia, taking his first loss after two wins and a tie, was his own worst enemy on a goal that turned out to be the game-winner.

Even before they take the ice at their first hockey camp, goalies and defensemen are told not to try to clear the puck from their end by belting it up the middle of the ice.

Six minutes into the second period, Torchia took control of the puck to the left of his net with Hershey on a power play and . . . about 15 feet away was Paul Healey. Suddenly the puck was on his stick, the goal was all but empty and Healey sent it into the net.

"It actually was a 3-2 game," said Kyle. "That wasn't bad." Especially since he was looking for defensemen the team can rely on in the playoffs. Short on backliners already, two of his three most reliable defenders, Marshall and Mikulchik, sat out. "But that gave Pavl Trnka and other guys a chance to go a whole game," Kyle said. Most did all right.

"I thought Brian Goudie and Chris Phelps played well," said Kyle. "Goudie got a big hit at the right time and, on the same shift, set up our second goal [to newcomer Igor Nikuline]. Phelps has been pretty steady since he got here."

Dwayne Norris got Baltimore's other goal, closing the gap to 3-2 late in the second session. But Hershey simply closed it down.

"Our defense is what we've constantly had to work on all along," said assistant coach Mike Gibbons. "We've got a talented bunch of forwards, but we lost a lot of solid defensemen and have had to work developing others."

NOTES: Hershey won its last five in Hersheypark Arena, where the Bears and Bandits start the semifinal Friday at 7: 30 p.m. . . . The Bandits won three of six here.

Pub Date: 4/15/96

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