All Bandits goalie O'Neill asks is a little help against the Bears

April 19, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Depending on your perspective, it's a little late or early for Christmas presents, but Bandits goalie Mike O'Neill knows exactly what he'd like to receive from his mates when they open the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs against the Hershey Bears tonight.

"Good coverage on faceoffs," tops the indefatigable netminder's list. "Then the type of checking where we force straight-on shots. No backdoor stuff."

Coach Walt Kyle goes along with that. but just wishing may not be enough to make it so. "I like our chances against Hershey," said the man who is a good bet to win Coach of the Year honors in the American Hockey League. "But we're going to have to play excellent defense all-around."

This means the forwards looking to attack the goal at the other end of the rink have to give more than passing thought to their own net and to all the youth and inexperience making up their defensive corps.

By mid-April, more than six months after the season began, it would be reasonable to assume that the word "veteran" could be hung on a few more players than just Oleg Mikulchik, Nikolai Tsulygin and Bobby Marshall.

But attrition, injuries and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim have swept away the likes of Darren Van Impe, Jason Marshall, Don McSween and Doug Crossman. Meanwhile, just about all patchwork done on the defense during the season was accomplished by begging, borrowing and dealing with teams and personnel from the lower East Coast League.

Consequently, added pressure during the best-of-five series will be placed upon Brian Corcoran, Chris Phelps and Brian Goudie who, combined, played just 30 games in the AHL this season.

After playing in 74 of his team's 80 games, setting an all-time AHL record for appearances by a goaltender in the process, O'Neill knows when things are going well for the club. "Checking and faceoff coverages are so important because they cut down on the options an opposing player has when he has the puck," he said.

Pub Date: 4/19/96

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