On Halloween, who better to have a big game and lead the Baltimore Bandits out of a five-game American Hockey League losing streak than Steven King?
No, it wasn't Stephen King the horror novelist, but the former National Hockey Leaguer who is still on the mend from reconstructive surgery on his right shoulder that sidelined him all of last year.
King got his hat trick, the first in franchise history, while the Bandits were bashing the Prince Edward Island Senators, 6-4, last night at Baltimore Arena.
King's three goals gave him nine for the season and provided Baltimore with its second win in a dozen starts and first since Oct. 18. At home, the 2-9-1 Bandits are a respectable 2-2.
"I still have a way to go," said King of his scoring burst, "and right now it's mostly mental. It's always that way when you've been away from something for a year and a half."
It was January 1993 when King had his left shoulder reconstructed after he was found to have virtually no ligament holding the shoulder together. "I could play," he says, "but I had very little strength and power."
A year later, according to King, "it was the same symptoms occurring in the other shoulder, so we decided to have that one done, too. What they did was just shorten the ligaments so that they could do the job."
The Bandits enjoyed a marked advantage in speed over PEI last night and made it pay off by charging out to a 4-0 lead in the first half of the game.
Slava Butsayev had a goal and an assist for the Bandits, Mike Maneluk three assists.
It was a contest almost without sin through the first 12 minutes before a Senator was called for obstruction. Just 35 seconds later, Dave Sacco, who can always be found off the right post on power plays, had his fourth goal on a classy feed from Alex Hicks.
Five minutes later, with the visitors still in a lethargic state, Sean Pronger tapped in a rebound after J. F. Tromphe and Craig Reichert had caused considerable disruption at the goal mouth.
The home team doubled its advantage on two of King's goals, set up nicely by Pronger and Pete Leboutillier in the first 11 minutes of the second period, before PEI got the idea. Shawn Heaphy and Lance Pitlick then scored their seventh and first goals, respectively, for the visitors.
Pavol Demitra, the AHL's leading scorer, had a goal and an assist for the Senators, 6-8-0, who had a two-game winning streak broken. Demitra has recorded a point in each of Prince Edward Island's 13 games this season.
NOTES: The Bandits don't have to watch the tape for tips preparatory to their next game against PEI. It isn't for 139 days. . . . The Bandits entered their 12th game standing third in the AHL in penalty minutes (389), not a good idea when the team kills penalties at only a 75 percent clip.