Phantoms jump ahead of Bandits Philadelphia takes playoff opener, 4-2

April 20, 1997|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

PHILADELPHIA -- Nobody wants to lose the opening game of a series, particularly when it's a short series like this best-of-five between the Bandits and Philadelphia Phantoms.

But the Bandits and coach Moe Mantha weren't especially distraught after losing to Philadelphia, 4-2, in the cavernous Core- States Center yesterday afternoon.

"We had a dozen guys in their first playoff game, and, no doubt, the jitters contributed to us not being as sharp as we had been lately," Mantha said.

The slow start resulted in the Phantoms' getting a two-goal push in the first 15 minutes before things settled down and the clubs played evenly the rest of the way.

"We had concerns after being off for a week, and we're under some pressure due to the expectations that have been placed upon us," said Phantoms coach Bill Barber. "We have the right combination of veterans and young guys to handle it, though."

Philadelphia did on this occasion, anyway. Given the openings early, defensemen Frantisek Kucera, who has two years of NHL experience, and Patrik Juhlin, an AHL All-Star first-teamer, scored at 7: 21 and 13: 54 of the first period.

"Then we played it the way it should be played, with lots of discipline and taking no dumb penalties," Mantha said.

Every time the Bandits would close to within one goal, the Phantoms would grab some breathing room.

Late in the first period, after not even threatening the Philadelphia goal over the first 10 minutes and trailing 2-0, the Bandits showed some signs of life.

Just a few seconds remained in the period when Dave Sacco took a shot from the blue line that rebounded long. Craig Reichert grabbed it at the top of the circle and hit Bobby Wren breaking on net. Wren beat goalie Neil Little high from about eight feet at 19: 57.

Philadelphia drew off to a 3-1 lead after 1: 45 of the second period, Shawn McCosh scoring short-handed. Colin Forbes blocked a Bandit shot from the left point and sent McCosh away alone with only Tom Askey to beat.

Igor Nikulin's goal got the visitors to 3-2 at 17: 39, but it took the Phantoms just 48 seconds into the third period to double their advantage. The league's top point man, Peter White, got this one. Askey appeared to stop the shot, but the momentum carried the puck across the goal line.

Barber, mindful of how the Bandits handled his league-leading club during the second half of the season, conceded this would be a tough series, all but predicting it would probably go five games.

Mantha agreed that his team would "take charge as we have been doing lately" when the teams collide tonight, again in the CoreStates Center.

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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