Bandits Succumb In Baltimore Finale, 4-2

Phantoms Finish Sweep Before 1,031 At Arena

April 24, 1997|By FROM STAFF REPORTS

Well, at least the Bandits went out with a wail, not a whimper, last night when the franchise passed into American Hockey League history in front of 1,031 mourners.

Faced with the mammoth task of trying to recover from a 2-0 deficit in their best-of-five playoff series with the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Bandits hung tough throughout before submitting, 4-2, at the Baltimore Arena.

"Again tonight, like all season, we tried our best," said coach Moe Mantha. "That's all that can be asked of the players and they came through. We started out calling them kids, which is what they were, and we end up referring to them as men."

Owner Mike Caggiano, who is in the process of finalizing the sale of the franchise to Cincinnati, said, "I'm proud to have been associated with hockey in Baltimore. For all our trials and tribulations, I wish it could have worked out here."

Here's the kind of night it was for the home team. Trailing by two goals and in dire need of a spark midway through the third period, hard-working Bobby Wren appeared ready to deliver.

He first outmaneuvered three Phantoms in close quarters around the Philadelphia net, then, with goalie Neil Little out of position, Wren slipped the puck just wide of the open goal. It was beyond cruel.

Down by a goal after two periods, the outlook dimmed considerably for the Bandits when Colin Forbes netted his own rebound after 6: 26 of the final 20 minutes.

Eight minutes further along, Aris Brimanis gave Philadelphia a three-goal bulge.

Perhaps fittingly, the final goal in the two-year history of the Bandits was scored by Igor Nikulin on a power play with 39 seconds remaining.

Philadelphia coach Bill Barber said he admired the work of Mantha and the Bandits players "under all the adversity they faced," but that he was glad the series was a sweep. "This will give us a chance to get a couple of guys back, Patrik Juhlin [hamstring] and Jason Bowen [shoulder]," he said.

The Phantoms figure to go against Hershey in the next round, although the Bears lost in Kentucky last night but still lead that series, 2-1.

The Bandits scored first when Matt Cullen set up Jamie Spencer for a goal at the 8: 35 mark of the first period.

The advantage held until Jeremy Stevenson was hit with a slashing penalty early in the middle period, and it took the Phantoms just 11 seconds of the man-advantage to square matters, Colin Forbes flicking the puck past Tom Askey from in close.

Pub Date: 4/24/97

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