When a player of Dwayne Norris' caliber has to sit out a game with a balky knee and a rookie goalie is getting the call in net, it's imperative that a team play a smart game.
But the Bandits never will be accused of doing the same last night at the Baltimore Arena as they fell into a gorge early and didn't have enough to make it back to ground level while losing to the Binghamton Rangers, 6-3.
The game was less than a minute old when Baltimore's Nicolai Tsulygin drew a penalty, and another minute along, the Rangers were on the scoreboard with a power-play goal.
Later and after the Bandits had moved into a 1-1 tie, bang, same thing: Baltimore unnecessary penalty, red light on over the Bandits' goal. Oops!
Byron Penstock, the rookie goaltender was clearly shook up now. Small wonder. The opportunities being given the visitors were too good . . . and these guys know what to do with opportunity. They lead the AHL in scoring with 260 goals.
Usually, coach Walt Kyle can roll with the setbacks. After all, there have been enough of them. Not this time:
"There will be changes on defense for Sunday's game," he said. "Generally speaking, our defense was horrible." He singled out Darren Van Impe as playing well all season, but others didn't fare as well: "Too many of our guys played soft. They didn't check anyone."
Mike O'Neill showed up in goal for the home team after the Rangers had taken a 4-2 lead into the first intermission, and he was smoking. Binghamton outshot the Bandits, 18-8, in the middle session, but Baltimore scored the only goal, Steve King's second of the evening.
"Mike kept us in during the second period and it looked like we had a pretty good chance. That fifth goal killed us."
NOTES: Don't think Norris' sitting out didn't cause a major problem putting attack lines together. . . . Kyle offered this quip during a news conference introducing prospective team owner Mike Caggiano earlier in the day. "We're announcing that the Bandits are the third team in the Wayne Gretzky trade and the 'Great One' is coming here to save the franchise." . . . Hershey visits Sunday (5 p.m.) with 5,000-plus tickets already unloaded, and Baltimore's seven-game homestand concludes next Tuesday with Carolina aboard.
Binghamton .. 4 .. 0 .. 2 .. -- .. 6
Bandits ..... 2 .. 1 .. 0 .. -- .. 3