The Baltimore Bandits know the veracity of the old adage if at first you don't succeed, try, try again firsthand.
Six shots it took them, but, in the end, the Bandits finally won a third period (well, almost), a must in hockey, and thus recorded their first franchise victory at the Baltimore Arena last night, outlasting the Worcester IceCats, 4-3.
"That's what it's going to be like all year. We'll keep the fans around till the end," said coach Mike Kyle, who, in his wildest nightmares, never thought it would be this tough to capture No. 1.
Kyle then began a litany of players who served well. "Alex Hicks [two assists] was great. John Lilley played his game, speed and strong forechecking. Dave Sacco was an offensive threat all night. The young line we put together last week [Sean Pronger, Jeremy Stevenson and Craig Reichert] played well again. Steve King had a big goal [the eventual winner]."
The arrival of the veterans was expected a little earlier (about a week), but better late than never.
With a 2-1 lead after two sessions, the Bandits appeared to go into a defensive shell early and, at one point, they had to play two men down for a spell as IceCats pressure necessitated their taking penalties.
But with Mike O'Neill in goal, they were able to overcome everything Worcester threw at them. "When we got up 3-1 in the third period, I knew it wasn't over," said O'Neill. "It never is when you're talking about getting your first victory."
In the first 10 minutes of the final period, the Bandits had one shot on goal before going back on the attack and playing aggressively from a strong defensive position (the words of the coach).
Worcester never cried "uncle," following up Bandits scores with goals of their own to ensure the exciting one-goal finish for the announced 2,589 in attendance.
Darren Van Impe gave the home team a two-goal lead midway through the third period, but Dave Roberts countered for the visitors. King seemed to give Baltimore breathing room with his goal, but there were the IceCats again, pulling the goalie and narrowing their margin to one again with 51 seconds remaining. They were not able to muster a shot in the closing moments.
O'Neill, making his fourth start, made 31 saves, many of them of an acrobatic nature, and drew strong praise from the coach and his teammates.
"Mike's a veteran, a team guy. He knows we're young, particularly on the defense, and we're going to make mistakes. He stays positive at all times," said Kyle.
"I've been playing for seven years now," said the goalie, "and I'm sure back when I started I made a lot of mistakes, too. I don't remember anyone getting down on me. That's why we're here, to learn and gain experience."