Bales boosts Bandits in return, 5-0 Goalie returns from NHL, shuts down River Rats

March 22, 1997|By Pete Dougherty | Pete Dougherty,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Welcome back to the bushes.

Goaltender Mike Bales returned from a three-week gig with the Ottawa Senators in time to help the Bandits in their American Hockey League playoff run. Bales made 32 saves last night as the Bandits shut down the AHL's hottest team, the Albany River Rats, 5-0.

Then he was served a cruel reminder of what minor-league hockey is all about: a 14-hour bus ride to Greensboro, N.C., as the Bandits continue their 10-game road trip.

"That's insane, even for the AHL," Bales said. "This is my fourth year in the AHL, and I've never heard of that."

The Bandits, 4-2 on the trip, moved six points ahead of Carolina in the race for their conference's final playoff spot. Those teams meet tomorrow afternoon and again Tuesday night. The Bandits aren't home until March 30.

"A lot of people thought we'd come out of this road trip with our tails between our legs," Bandits coach Moe Mantha said. "We're finding ways to win games on the road, and against some good hockey teams, too."

Albany, playing its 11th game in 18 days, had lost just once since Feb. 21, going 10-1-2 to secure the Northern Conference's top record.

The River Rats, though, came out stale, and Bales made sure that early goals by Nikolai Tsulygin and Andy Silverman held up.

"[Goalie] Tom Askey has been doing a great job, and it's nice that Mike Bales came in and did another great job," Mantha said. "He made some saves that a young team needs to stay in the game."

Said Bales: "It makes a big difference early in the game, whether you make a couple of saves or a lucky one goes in. I got lucky on a couple of chances, and it snow- balled from there."

Bales appeared in one game, in a mop-up role, during his NHL stint. Unless he plays three more NHL games, Bales will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

"A paid vacation is all it was," he said. "It was nice because we went out west. I haven't played a game in three weeks, so it was nice to get back in there, but at the same time I would have liked to have had a chance up there. Maybe other teams will notice me."

Jeremy Stevenson, returning after serving a two-game suspension for throwing his helmet last Friday at Providence, had a goal and an assist, as did Mike LeClerc. Igor Nikulin also scored.

NOTE: Bandits right wing Frank Banham was scratched because of an abdominal strain.

(AHL standings, 9C)

Pub Date: 3/22/97

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