Sometimes it takes a little desperation to get a team going.
The Skipjacks, who before the weekend appeared to be fading quickly from the playoff scene in the AHL Southern Division, turned in a rare stellar performance in spite of a grisly road trip of three games in three nights.
The Jacks (35-29-5), now holding steady in third place with 75 points, first flattened Springfield (4-3) Friday night, continued on to Hershey for a 6-3 win before shutting out New Haven (1-0) last night.
Reasons for the sudden surge abound.
Jim Hrivnak is back in goal after being up with Washington for two weeks. Newcomer Bobby Reynolds has given the Jacks another scoring threat in Reggie Savage's absence. Perennial puncher Bobby Babcock returned to the lineup. Leading scorer Alfie Turcotte appears to be peaking at just the right time.
"It's hard to pin a lot of the credit on any one reason," Jacks coach Robbie Laird said. "Hrivnak is certainly a big factor in our success. But so is Alfie Turcotte's play [four goals and an assist]. So is the toughness we're getting from Jim Mathieson and Bobby Babcock [who combined for 19 penalty minutes]."
Laird said the attitude has changed completely in the last 72 hours.
"We're getting a great work ethic from the whole team," he said. "It's amazing because a week and a half ago was an all-time low for me and for the team. We've really responded and it's great to see what a few big wins can do for morale around here."
Last night was a particularly grueling affair.
The Jacks were playing their third game in as many nights after nearly 1,000 miles of travel since Thursday. Against New Haven (23-40-9), they also were facing a last-place team that has been in a state of disarray since late last week when the NHL Los Angeles Kings pulled several key prospects off the team to play for Phoenix of the IHL for a run at the Turner Cup.
"All we talked about was keeping the shifts as short as possible," Laird said. "We were tired and this team [New Haven] didn't play Saturday night. We just didn't want to get trapped on the ice."
After Turcotte's sole goal at 17:07 of the second period the team went into a defensive style of play, trying to protect the lead.
"We didn't change the game plan after the second period but we sure didn't want to get sloppy," Laird said.
Hrivnak did the rest, finishing with 29 saves and 88 for the weekend.
The team stayed in Utica, N.Y., last night en route to Newmarket, Ont., for a game with the Saints tomorrow night (7:30, WLIF-AM 1300). Ice time was held at a rink in Utica for an afternoon skate but Laird happily canceled practice for today and officially called it a travel day.
"I don't want to do anything to disrupt what we've got going," Laird said. "All we want to do is get into Newmarket and get two more points."