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Springfield trips up Skipjacks


Robbie Laird clutched what he believed to be the damning evidence in his left hand. Not that it will do him or the Skipjacks any good.

"I want to show them," Laird said, speaking of American Hockey League officials, "how bad a call it was. But what good will it do? It's not going to get the point back."

No, whatever Laird had on the videotape that he held in an angry grip will not reverse last night's wretched 5-2 loss to the Springfield Indians. Nor will it erase the controversial goal that sent the Skipjacks reeling to their third straight defeat at the Arena.

What Laird expected to see on the tape was Springfield's Michel Picard tripping Baltimore defenseman Joel Quenneville with his stick and then going in unchallenged to beat goalie Jim Hrivnak with a wrist shot to break a 2-2 tie with 1:31 left. Forget that Springfield scored two goals -- one into an open net -- in the last 28 seconds. This was a one-goal game, a one-play game.

"It was an obvious penalty on Picard," Laird said of the key play. "[The referee] said Joel fell on his own. Joel Quenneville, a veteran of 1,300 NHL games, doesn't just fall down in that situation."

"He hooked me down," Quenneville said. "It's a tough call for the ref. At that time in the game, they usually put the whistle in their pocket. But he was going in on a breakaway. You've almost got to call it."

Skipjacks right wing Reggie Savage, who scored his second goal in three games since recovering from a groin injury, saw it from the bench and was equally disbelieving. "You have to call that," Savage said. "But it was a big-league play by Picard. Nine out of 10 guys go around [Quenneville]. He took a chance and it paid off for them."

Picard finished with a hat trick. The Skipjacks finished with a headache. After a 4-1-1 road trip, they came back to an 0-3 homestand. Thanks to Utica's 4-2 loss to Maine, they need three more points to clinch a playoff berth in the Southern Division. But with only six games left, they are precariously close to falling into the fourth place-vs.-fifth place playoff miniseries.

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