Bandits reaping rewards from Norris' commitment Captain gives team formula for success

April 24, 1996|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

No sooner did Dwayne Norris slip into a Bandits jersey early last November than he noticed a big "C" sewed onto the front of it. Coach Walt Kyle was looking for a team captain. He knew Norris was his man.

"Watch this guy," said the coach. "He can be spectacular." Many times this season, he was, especially when the "Plug Line" of Norris, Mike Maneluk and J. F. Jomphe was in full bloom. It was the other things Norris brought to the job of team leader that counted just as much, however: hustle, desire, dedication and the first requirement -- leadership.

"I wasn't here when things were really bad," said Norris, but that's only because Anaheim hadn't yet purchased his contract from the struggling Los Angeles IceDogs of the International Hockey League. The team was 2-10-1 when he suited up for the first time, got a tie that night and won seven of its next 10 games.

"Even before we got ahead in this [playoff] series with Hershey [2-0], and who would have guessed that, it's been an exceptional year because of all the things we had to overcome. I think we did a good job just getting to the playoffs," said Norris.

"The adversity we had to overcome says a lot about the poise and personality of the guys. Just goes to prove what you can accomplish if you get the best out of people at the right time."

The captain cited the late-season loss of Darren Van Impe, Jason Marshall and Don McSween to the Mighty Ducks and injury. "All play very good defense, and it has been tough replacing them, but [Brian] Corcoran, [Chris] Phelps and [Brian] Goudie have moved in nicely. They've done it by fitting in within the system."

The system is one preached by coaches in all sports since Amos Alonzo Stagg: Play as close to mistake-free as possible.

"All along, the coaching staff has been preaching the best style we are capable of," said Norris. "We've got some good [forwards] up front, and we've been fairly solid on defense. The whole thing works when you limit risky plays, everyone's committed to defense

and you take advantage of the mistakes made by other teams."

There's nothing revolutionary in any of these dictates but, as Norris said, "Everyone has to have the mental toughness and the composure to perform consistently and all be playing on the same level . . . then to hold it."

Poise and composure were the main ingredients getting the Bandits into the playoffs during a four-game stretch at the end of March, according to Kyle. Baltimore beat Binghamton, Albany and Rochester on successive days, then tossed in Adirondack for good measure.

"Washington, in its series with Pittsburgh, is a good example of what can be accomplished if guys play within a system," said Norris. "The Capitals don't crack. They work hard and they're committed to defense. They frustrate you and then wait for you to make mistakes. "Look what it got them, two wins in Pittsburgh against a team with all that offensive talent. Pittsburgh committed itself to defense [Monday] and got a win. That's what you have to do to win, particularly in the playoffs."

In addition to the offensive skills -- Norris has led the team in points and assists and was named a league all-star the past two seasons -- it has been his ability to lead by example that has gained the respect of everyone in the Bandits' organization. No one works harder, physically, than the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder from St. John's, Newfoundland, and few study and know the game as well either.

Pub Date: 4/24/96

Bandits tonight

AHL playoffs

Game 3 (Bandits lead series, 2-0)

Opponent: Hershey Bears

Site: Hersheypark Arena, Hershey, Pa.

Time: 7: 30

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

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