Inexperience continues to trouble winless Bandits 0-4-1 team's next chance is tomorrow vs. Worcester


Experience is the name we give our mistakes, a wise man once said, and Baltimore Bandits coach Walt Kyle is one man who won't argue the point.

A member of the American Hockey League for five games and nearly two weeks now, the Bandits still are in search of the franchise's first victory. Attempt No. 6 will come tomorrow at 7 p.m. against the Worcester IceCats at the Baltimore Arena.

Truth is, Kyle didn't expect the team to get off to a big start because of the circumstances of new franchise, new players, new city, etc. "Actually, we're probably only a game and a half behind where we thought we'd be," he said. "I was figuring we'd be 2-3."

That was before the roll was called for the season opener, and it was discovered that 90 percent of the experience on the team belonged to the people up front and goaltender Mike O'Neill.

The Bandits, it seems, have paid the price for every young defenseman who hasn't been quite sure how to react to an odd-man rush or has shown hesitancy when backed down deep during penalty-killing duty.

Besides being back-liners making the jump from the lower-classification East Coast League, Pavel Trnka and Nikolai Tsulygin are 19 and 20 years old, respectively, and playing away from their Eastern European homelands.

"In effect, they're all rookies," said Kyle. "The experienced defensemen we have are Jason Marshall and Darren Van Impe, and whenever they're off the ice [via penalty] we're really hurting."

The hurt was never more apparent than over the weekend, when wing Alex Hicks was forced to move back to defense during Baltimore's tie and loss to the other new team in the American Hockey League, the Carolina Monarchs.

"It's no secret we're looking for defensive help," the coach said, "and Anaheim [the parent club] is working on getting us a guy with some experience. The Ducks are presently carrying eight defensemen when seven are standard in the NHL, so maybe something will be happening soon."

But that doesn't mean the entire blame for the Bandits' 0-4-1 start is being laid at the skates of the defense. "Another main concern is we have to start getting production out of the experienced forwards who are supposed to be putting up numbers," said Kyle.

"We've got nothing, goal-wise, out of [Jarrod] Skalde, [Dave] Sacco and [J. F.] Jomphe so far and they're too talented for that to continue much longer.

"I'm not critical of their work, because they're trying hard. It just hasn't happened and that's led to a lot of frustration. Which often leads to unnecessary and just plain dumb penalties."

In Greensboro, N.C., last Friday, for instance, the last half-dozen penalties taken by Baltimore players went to veterans. In all, the home team had 11 power plays to the Bandits' four.

The bright spot in the five games occurred when the Bandits got a goal from Steve King with nine seconds remaining in overtime Friday to tie the Monarchs, 3-3. Ahead starting the third period, Baltimore fell behind before recovering and had the better opportunities during the five-minute overtime.

"I told the guys I was really proud of the way they hung in there to come back and tie even though it was probably a game we should have won," said Kyle.

"The other one we had and let get away was our home-opener [a 3-1 loss to Carolina]. We found a good line in [Craig] Reichert, [Jeremy] Stevenson and [Sean] Pronger, too. Every time these guys were out there they controlled the play."

Worcester comes to town with a 1-3 record. The team is fourth and last in the AHL's Northern Division.

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