Hockey teams don't often come from behind and triumph when trailing after two periods. The success percentage in the American Hockey League this season was a bit under 9 percent (51 of 569).
The team that had the most trouble coming back was the Bandits who, in 36 attempts, were able to recover for four ties, nary a win.
Don't look now, gang, but the locals trailed starting the third period in the fifth and deciding playoff game in Hershey last Sunday, and they were down a goal entering the last 20 minutes in the Southern Division final opener against the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday night.
Both times, the Bandits won in overtime, Mike Maneluk doing the tTC honors in Hershey, Dwayne Norris doing in the Crunch.
Asked if he could come up with a reason how an 0-32-4 record during the regular season could suddenly turn into dramatic back-to-back comeback victories under playoff circumstances and Baltimore coach Walt Kyle answered initially with a blank stare.
"These are the things that have to happen if you're going to be successful in the playoffs," he said. In other words, don't go digging too deeply for concrete explanations because there may not be any.
"Another thing," continued the coach, "sooner or later people have to contribute sometime."
The Norrises, Maneluks and Steve Kings of the world contribute goals. The Slava Butsayevs rack up assists, the Mike O'Neills make saves in goals, the Denny Lamberts and Jeremy Stevensons hustle and bang into people.
"Frank Banham got his first start [Wednesday] and he came through with a big goal and otherwise played very well," Kyle said. "Chris Herperger got a big [tying] goal in an overtime win against Hershey. [Defenseman] Oleg Mikulchik got us a big goal in the final up there [Hershey].
"You really don't know where it's going to come from, but it's easier when a lot of guys are chipping in, doing the little things it takes."
A total of 11 Bandits players combined for the 18 goals it took to dispose of Hershey. In the 4-3 win in Game 1 on Wednesday, four different players scored and five different players picked up assists, including goalie Mike O'Neill (on Norris' winning score in overtime, no less).
One of the keys to success as Syracuse was eliminating heavily favored Binghamton in its opening-round victory was the Crunch doing a bang-up job defensively on the Rangers' top point men, brothers Peter (48-53--101) and Chris Ferraro (32-67--99). As one of the Syracuse scribes put it, "Choking off the two-headed monster, the Ferraros, the Binghamton body wilted."
The Crunch did an excellent job containing the speedy Bandits for the first 40 minutes of the game Wednesday, too. Baltimore's first goal (by Banham) was on only the 15th shot allowed by Syracuse. Even going overtime, the Bandits ended up with just 21 shots total.
At times, it looked as if only airmail special delivery would get the puck through the neutral-zone trap set up by the Crunch. Picture it, 10 players milling around within 30 feet of the center line attempting to make some sort of progress. It was not unlike a salmon trying to make it upstream to spawn opposing a river headed in the opposite direction going about 200 mph.
Yesterday and during today's morning skate, the teams worked on adjustments. The Bandits have to escape the bottle Syracuse puts them in in their end, the Crunch has to play the last 10 minutes like it played the first 50 in Game 1.
"It's going to be an interesting [best-of-seven] series," promised Syracuse coach Jack McIlhargey.
Note he didn't say exciting, free-wheeling, high-scoring or very physical. Time to begin appreciating the finer, more subtle points of hockey . . . darn it.
Pub Date: 5/03/96