Devils battle to 3-2 win over Skipjacks First period has 114 penalty minutes

UTICA, N.Y. H — UTICA, N.Y. -- The Utica Devils and the Baltimore Skipjacks weren't spreading any holiday cheer last night.

Beginning with main event between Baltimore's Richie Walcott and Utica's Bill Huard, the teams scrapped and clawed and yapped their way through a first period that included seven fights and 114 penalty minutes.


The Devils eventually overcame Reggie Savage's two first-period goals behind two newcomers -- right wing Kevin Kerr and goaltender Doug Dadswell -- for a 3-2 AHL victory at the Utica Memorial Auditorium before 1,931.

"That's been a problem for us all year," Savage said about the Skipjacks' inability to hold the lead. "We've had at least five or six games like that. "They [the Devils] came out flying in the third. It didn't seem like we had any zip."


Jeff Christian, a second-year left wing, broke a 2-2 tie at 9 minutes, 4 seconds of the third period, but East Coast Hockey League imports Kerr and Dadswell ignited the Utica comeback in their first home game with the Devils.

Kerr scored two late second-period goals 22 seconds apart -- his first two goals as a Utica Devil -- and Dadswell stopped 36 shots in his second start in as many games.

It was the third win in four games for Utica, 15-16-2 overall.

Goaltender Olaf Kolzig made 33 saves for the Southern Division-leading Skipjacks, 17-12-2 after dropping their third straight.

Christian got the game-winner, his 13th goal of the season, when teammate Mike Bodnarchuk burst down the right wing and around defenseman Jiri Vykoukal and one- handed a centering pass to Christian in front.

The Devils dominated throughout the final period, outshooting Baltimore by 14-11.

The first period began with the Huard-Walcott fight -- a carry-over from an altercation during Baltimore's last visit Nov. 30 when Huard sent Walcott to the hospital with a possible broken jaw (X-rays were negative).

After nearly coming to blows during pre-game warm-ups, Huard and Walcott waited until their first shift and drop of the puck to toss the gloves -- each throwing several big right hands before Huard dropped Walcott to the ice just 2:45 into the game.


Walcott said it was premeditated. "He sort of did me dirty here the last time, suckering me when I wasn't looking. He knew I meant business tonight."

Savage said: "It was a personal vendetta between Richie and Huard," said Savage. "There was no surprise there. That was expected."

The fists kept flying, too. There were three multi-player brawls and game misconducts assessed -- Utica losing defensemen Jamie Huscroft and Dean Malkoc and Baltimore losing forward Brent Hughes.

The Devils, though, couldn't capitalize on four first-period power plays, and Savage scored his 21st and 22nd goals of the season in the last five minutes.

Left winger Todd Hlushko took the initial shot on both goals, and each time Dadswell was unable to control the rebound. Hlushko's first shot rolled over Dadswell's back and fell to his right, where Savage was able to poke the puck free and score at 15:08. Savage struck again just 1:40 later when Hlushko took a slap shot from the high slot and the rebound dropped in Dadswell's skates.