Bandits chase Beaupre, Leafs, 5-4 Three-goal first period vs. ex-Cap, hat trick by Nikulin top 1st-place team

March 12, 1997|By Mark Dwyer | Mark Dwyer,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ST. JOHN'S, Newfoundland -- Igor Nikulin's third goal of the game at 7: 51 of the third period lifted the Bandits to a 5-4 victory over the St. John's Maple Leafs in AHL play last night.

The win puts the Bandits four points ahead of the Carolina Monarchs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Southern Conference.

The Bandits hadn't played in eight days, but it was the Canadian Division-leading Leafs who looked rusty in the opening period, giving up goals to Mike LeClerc, Pavel Trnka and Nikulin. Former Washington Capitals goalie Don Beaupre, who started the season with the Toronto Maple Leafs, gave up three goals on 12 shots and was replaced by Doug Bonner at the start of the second period.

"There's a proven history the Leafs come out hard in the first 10 minutes," said Bandits coach Moe Mantha. "You've got to make sure we're ready to play. We're in a dogfight with Carolina. We're playing for a playoff spot so every game and every point is important to us right now."

The Leafs stormed back to even the score with three straight goals in the second period by Mark Kolesar, David Cooper and Mark Deyell. Nikulin restored the Bandits' lead with 21 seconds left in the second period with his 17th goal of the season.

But the Leafs' Brian Wiseman, the AHL's third-leading scorer, beat Bandits goaltender Tom Askey (29 saves) on a penalty shot with seven seconds left to knot the score 4-4 heading into the final 20 minutes of play.

Wiseman was awarded the penalty shot by referee Bernie DeGrace after forward Jeremy Stevenson placed his hand over the puck while it was still in the crease.

"This is a young club and we're going to go through adversity and fight some challenges," said Mantha. "But the guys realize they have to stick together and weather the storm to be successful. And that's exactly what we did against St. John's."

The teams meet again tonight before the Bandits continue their road trip Friday at Providence and Sunday at Syracuse.

Bandits tonight

Opponent: St. John's Maple Leafs

Site: St. John's (Newfoundland) Memorial Stadium

Time: 6

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)

Outlook: This is the second of four games in five nights for the Bandits after they were idle for more than a week. Once solidly in fourth place in the Mid-Atlantic Division, the Bandits are in a struggle with Carolina for the final playoff spot in the Southern Conference, holding a four-point advantage.

Pub Date: 3/12/97

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