On 12th try, Bandits trip T'Blades 5-3 victory highlights end of 10-game road swing

March 29, 1997|By Mark Maloney | Mark Maloney,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Commitment made a difference for the Bandits last night.

Bob Wren scored two goals to lead the Bandits to a 5-3 victory over the Kentucky Thoroughblades. The win in Rupp Arena was their first against Kentucky, which won the season series, 8-1-3.

The outcome solidified the Bandits' hold on the last playoff berth in the AHL's Southern Conference, where they lead Carolina by nine points. The Bandits have seven games remaining. Carolina has nine.

"At the beginning of the year, we were a young hockey team. We were making a lot of young, mental mistakes," Bandits coach Moe Mantha said. "Now, you look at it and the maturity is starting to settle in. The big thing right now is the commitment to each other to go out and play well."

Eric Manlow, Aaron Keller and David Sacco also scored for the Bandits.

Kentucky's Jan Caloun scored his 36th and 37th goals of the season, third-best in the league, but drew a game misconduct when he disputed a tripping penalty late in the third period. Dean Grillo added the other Kentucky goal.

The Bandits, who wrapped up a 10-game, 18-day road trip, return home tomorrow to face the St. John's Maple Leafs. They played last night without winger Frank Branham, who scored all the Bandits' goals in Thursday's 4-4 tie here. Branham aggravated a pulled groin.

"You couldn't ask for a better time to come together, coming right before the playoffs," said Wren, who scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season. "The team is really starting to jell.

"We've overcome a lot of obstacles -- guys getting called up, a lot of injuries.

"We just went out and we thought we could win this game. And we felt we deserved to, especially after such a long road trip and all the bumps we've had to overcome. We went out and played our hearts out."

Caloun and Grillo gave Kentucky an early 2-0 lead, but the period ended in a tie, thanks to goals by Manlow and Wren in the last 3: 10 of the period.

Caloun and Aaron Keller traded second-period goals for a 3-3 tie.

The Bandits took their first lead 21 seconds into the third period. Sacco and team captain Craig Reichert worked back and forth on a two-on-one, Sacco burying the puck as he rushed Jamie Ram's glove side.

Wren, who has a point or more in his last seven games, sealed the victory on the Caloun-inflicted power play at 18: 11.

Pub Date: 3/29/97

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