Byce's score lifts Jacks to tie with Utica, 3-3


UTICA, N.Y. -- John Byce scored the only goal of the third period as the Skipjacks tied the Utica Devils, 3-3, in overtime in an American Hockey League game last night before a snowy-night crowd of 1,699 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.

Byce took a pass from Jeff Nelson and lifted a high shot into the net with 3:31 remaining in regulation.

"Nelson kept it in at the blue line. He threw it in, and it went in off my stick," Byce said.

The Devils argued that the Skipjacks were offside on the tying goal and that there was a man in the crease.

"It was close. I didn't see it," Byce said. "I knew one linesman was missing. It was a tough call. Maybe we got the benefit of the doubt."

Linesman Mike Emmanation was unable to work the game, leaving Mike Smith to call the lines.

Jon Morris scored twice and David Emma once for Utica (15-18-7), fourth in the Southern Division and four points behind Baltimore. Donevan Hextall had two assists.

The Skipjacks (16-19-8), who have a five-game unbeaten streak, also got goals from Reggie Savage and Darren McAusland, and two assists from Nelson.

"We've had some leads against them, and they've come back on us," Byce said. "This is probably the first time we've come back in the third period all year."

Morris scored his first goal of the season at 2:16 of the first period. Hextall deked goalie Byron Dafoe to the ice at the right post and Morris was able to put a wrist shot into the open net from the front of the goal mouth.

Emma made it 2-0 at 7:45, deflecting Jaroslav Modry's shot from the point by Dafoe's stick.

Savage got a goal for the fourth consecutive game, beating Martin Brodeur at 11:53.

The Devils outshot the Skipjacks 14-6 in the first period, aided by three consecutive power plays.

"We played very poorly in the first," said Skipjacks coach Barry Trotz. "We got off to a slow start. We were standing around one-on-one. We were asleep in the first period. Then, I changed a couple of things. They started turning the puck over and we got some chances."

But the Skipjacks picked up the pace in the second period, outshooting its host, 15-9, and keeping the game close.

Hextall, a rookie forward, set up Morris again at 8:44 of the second period. Hextall got the puck in the Devils' zone and head-manned it to Morris at the red line to set up a two-on-one. Morris used a slick move to catch Dafoe out of position and score into a wide-open net to make it 3-1.

That goal was crucial because five minutes into the period, during a Skipjacks power play, Brodeur fell to the ice on his left side to thwart Mark Hunter on a breakaway.

Unable to beat Brodeur up close, Skipjacks winger McAusland gambled with an 80-foot slap shot from inside the red line at 16:20. The puck deflected off Brodeur's blocker, over his shoulder and into the net, bringing the Skipjacks to within one goal again.

Baltimore 1 1 1 0 -- 3

Utica 2 1 0 0 -- 3

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