Hockey games continue to be just too long for the struggling Baltimore Bandits. If 30-minute halves ever come into vogue as rumored, the team might flourish.
Playing their 13th game last night, the Bandits kept intact their perfect record of not having "won" a third period, as the Saint John Flames sprinted past them for a 4-2 victory at the Baltimore Arena.
Out to a two-goal lead after a period, telltale signs of a fade began to show up after mid-game as the visitors evened the match in the last nine minutes of the second period.
Come the deciding 20 minutes, Baltimore was able to hold its own for about eight minutes before fatigue set in. Niklas Sundblad's fourth goal at 7:56 followed less than a minute later one by Jesper Mattsson sent the Bandits to their 10th loss.
Was it a case of Baltimore wearing out because of a lack of manpower, or was it a case of a tough team coming on when it came down to crunch time?
The first star of the game, Dave Ling (two goals and an assist) left no doubt where he stood on the question.
"They were tough early," he said, "but all teams are at home. Our goalie [Dwayne Roloson] kept us in it in the first period, then the rest of us picked it up.
"We were lousy on defense at the start, but we got back to the game plan of good forechecking and that's what brought us back."
Ling's two goals tied it during the middle session and, once the game was tied, "they began to cough the puck up. That was our good forechecking," said Ling.
How difficult did it get for the home team to get something going during the stretch run?
"I don't think they had a shot on goal in the last period until there was about three minutes left," said Ling. "That's something."
Bandits coach Walt Kyle obviously agreed. Disturbed as his team could muster only four shots and very little pressure on the Saint John goal, while the Flames were peppering the Bandits' net with nine shots, the coach called a post-game meeting, and it was not to discuss what treasures the troops came up with trick-or-treating the other night.
Despite being outshot by the visitors 14-9 in the opening 20 minutes, the Bandits took off as if this one would be easy.
J. F. Jomphe got his first goal of the campaign just before the midpoint of the period and enjoyed it so much, he smacked in No. 2 about seven minutes later. John Lilley set him up expertly on both occasions.
Then, without warning, the momentum swung the other way and the Flames took on the appearance of some sort of Calder Cup machine. Ling tallied his seventh and eighth goals as part of a 19-shot barrage by Saint John in the second period.
NOTES: The crowd count was 4,053 for the Bandits' first real weekend date of the season, about four times more than showed up Tuesday night. . . . The Bandits are now off for a week, visiting Providence Friday.