Jacks tie Rochester, 2-2, fail to make up ground


ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- The Baltimore Skipjacks believe first place is within their reach, and they know that sixth place isn't far beneath them.

The third-place SkipJacks (31-26-5) are between the extremes of winning the American Hockey League's Southern Division or being out of the playoffs. They are stuck in a five-game winless streak after last night's 2-2 tie against the first-place Rochester Americans before 7,354, including two bus loads of Skipjacks fans, at the War Memorial Auditorium.

"The streak is bad," said Alfie Turcotte, who scored his 27th goal, and eighth in nine games, in the second period. "Other teams are fighting for their lives as well. You can't say we didn't try."

Trailing, 1-0, after one period, Baltimore took a 2-1 lead during the second period on goals by Turcotte and Rob Murray after skating two men down for 35 seconds. Don Biggs tied the game with a power-play goal with 1 minute, 18 seconds left in the period.

The tie left the season series even at 1-1-2, with both ties in Rochester.

"The last time we tied, I wasn't very happy," Skipjacks coach Rob Laird said. "Tonight, we played well enough to get two points. We could have gotten a loss, and then first place would be very difficult."

The Jacks have 18 games to play and have three games in hand on the Americans, but their regular-season series is complete. They'll need help from the rest of the league to catch Rochester. They trail the division leaders by 10 points and are five points ahead of the fifth-place Adirondack Red Wings.

"We really needed a win right now," Laird said. "I know our players gave a great effort. I just have to accept the one point."

The Americans beat out the Skipjacks last season to win the division, then eliminated them from the Calder Cup playoffs in the semifinals.

They could be on another collision course this spring, and if so, they left each other with something to think about.

From the first period, when a hit at center ice sent the Amerks' Brad Miller sprawling, to the overtime when Scott Metcalfe leveled Steve Seftel and Kent Paynter joined the pile, the teams showed moments of playoff intensity.

"I wouldn't say there's blood, it's just an intense level of play," Turcotte said.

Early in the third period, Tyler Larter was laid out just inside the Amerks' blue line on a hit after a line change and no penalty was given. Larter, who injured his jaw and neck, is questionable for tonight's game at Binghamton.

Late in the period, a forechecking Seftel bore down on Dave Littman and checked the goalie, who was handling the puck. Littman went down, and Seftel received a penalty. Amerks coach Don Lever was as hot as his pre-game 103-degree temperature.

"Everyone thought Seftel ran the goaltender," Laird said. "That's not Steve Seftel. Littman moved into his path. He was trying to create interference, draw a penalty. I don't know why their bench got so upset. There was a lot of intensity. That will happen."

At opposite ends, Littman and Jim Hrivnak, the second and third stars of the game, added to the intensity with their goaltending.

Littman faced 29 shots and Hrivnak 36, and both were flawless with their teams skating two men down.

Hrivnak, making his 21st start in the past 23 games, was at his finest after Murray took a penalty with Ken Lovsin already serving two minutes in the second period.

He made saves with his glove, stick, pads and left toe to keep the score tied, 1-1.

"That was really clutch," Turcotte said.

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