Struggling IceCats turn to hooky for a change Coach hopes pond play helps team turn around

February 05, 1997|By Phil Jackman | Phil Jackman,SUN STAFF

Worcester IceCats coach Greg Gilbert is a creative sort. After his club had lost six of seven recently, the young mentor ordered a session of "pond hockey" at nearby Lake Chaubanugungamaug to break up the monotony of practice. "It was like watching a bunch of kids [cavort]," said assistant coach Paul Pickard.

In case you were wondering, the Indian translation of the name of the lake separating Massachusetts and Connecticut is, "You fish on your side, I fish on my side and nobody fish in the middle."

With the last quarter of the regular season bearing down, the American Hockey League couldn't ask for a better situation as far as the division races go. Through last weekend, Philadelphia and Hershey were tied atop the Mid-Atlantic Division, while just a point or two separates the front runners in two other divisions.

In the New England Division, Worcester (58), Portland (57) and Springfield (55) figure to battle until the last day of the season, April 15. A similar three-team showdown looms in the Empire State, with Syracuse (55), Rochester (54) and Albany (49) likely to hold up. St. John's has pulled out to a double-digit bulge in the Canadian Division, but there's a three-way struggle for the runner-up spot.

It turns out that no banner citing the NBA championship won by the Syracuse Nationals in 1955 was hanging from the Onondaga County War Memorial rafters, so the Syracuse Crunch corrected the situation Friday by honoring the Nats of Dolph Schayes, Johnny Kerr, Paul Seymour and Red Rocha.

The home winning streak of the Philadelphia Phantoms was halted at 19 when the Phantoms and Hershey tied, 5-5, on Friday as 17,380 watched. The Bears' Blair Atcheynum scored with 44 seconds remaining to force OT. So now the Phantoms can shoot for the AHL record for longest unbeaten streak at home, 22, established by the Boston Braves in 1971 (18-0-4).

After the tie in Philadelphia, the teams played the following night in Hershey and tied again, 3-3. The Bears then bused up to Worcester for a Sunday game and tied in regulation before winning in OT on Christian Matte's goal.

Bobby Wren, who couldn't find a spot on one of the Bandits' skating lines a few weeks ago, is the team's hottest wing right now with four goals and six assists during a six-game scoring streak.

No sooner did Josef Marha take his hat and coat off in Hershey upon his return from the Colorado Avalanche when he scooped up AHL Player of the Week honors by scoring four goals and seven assists as the Bears were going 2-0-2 over a five-day stretch.

We've heard a million stories about pro athletes receiving word they had been traded from a radio report or from some reporter calling them at 6 o'clock in the morning, but NHL goalie Chris Terreri has come up with a new one. He was informed he was no longer a member of the San Jose Sharks when a former teammate, Bill Guerin of the New Jersey Devils, skated past during a game and shouted at him that he had just been sent to Chicago. "It's different, right?" said Terreri.

Pete LeBoutillier, who holds the distinction of scoring the first goal in Bandits history (both in exhibition and regular-season games), bagged his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot. Meanwhile, Sean Pronger has accumulated points (4-1-5) in four of his last five games as a Mighty Duck.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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