Bandits vs. Bears

April 19, 1996

AHL Southern Division playoffs

(First-round series; best of five)

Season series: Bears won, 6-5-1.

Offense: This is a matchup featuring quickness vs. control, with the Bandits possessing more jump and the Bears playing things straight. Baltimore will skate two explosive lines made up of Dave Sacco centering Dwayne Norris and Mike Maneluk and Slava Butsayev the playmaker between Steve King and Denny Lambert. The third line will have sniper Jim Campbell, Sean Pronger and whoever among Jeremy Stevenson, Pete Leboutillier, Frank Banham and Craig Reichert is on his game. The Bears rely heavily on their top line of Jim Montgomery (34-71--105), Scott Morrow (48-45--93) and Bruce Coles (23-29--52).

Defense: Hershey has an established back line of Darren Rumble, Todd Nelson, Aris Brimanis, Jeff Lank, Jason Bowen and Jeff Staples, each of whom has played at least 60 games. The Bandits are still looking to find at least three defensemen to go with Oleg Mikulchik, Bobby Marshall and Nikolai Tsulygin. Tops among the contenders are Brian Goudie, Chris Phelps, Brian Corcoran and Keith Aldridge, but all are shy of experience, having just arrived on the Triple-A scene.

Goalies: This appears to be a wash. Mike O'Neill (31-31-7) set endurance records playing 74 games for the Bandits, and Hershey didn't really get rolling until Neil Little (21-18-6) became a fixture in the Bears' goal at about midseason. Hershey has a decided advantage in the backup department, Tim Cheveldae (4-3-0) having averaged 34 wins per season for the Detroit Red Wings from 1990 to 1993.

Coaches: After a slow start, Bill Barber, named Hershey's coach just prior to mid-season, finally got the Bears rolling and playing with more intensity and desire at the end of January and the team went 16-8-6 thereafter. All things considered, Walt Kyle did a spectacular job, with his team going 32-29-8 after a 1-9-1 start and with the parent Anaheim Mighty Ducks absconding with his top center (J.F. Jomphe) and, in the last month, most of his defense (Darren Van Impe and Jason Marshall).

Injuries: The Bandits could ill afford to lose a defensemen all season, so when Don McSween suffered a fractured wrist last month, it was a killer. Lost to Hershey is solid left wing Yanick Dupre (20-36--56 in 52 games), diagnosed with leukemia just 10 days ago.

Analysis: The Bears aren't adverse to leaning on people, sometimes heavily. But the rock-em, sock-em style hasn't worked particularly well against the Bandits, who used superior speed and a sometimes potent power play to make Hershey pay. The Bears have the home-ice advantage in the series, but this probably suits the Bandits just fine, since they produced a winning record on the road (18-17-5).

Pub Date: 4/19/96

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