Chances are few teams throughout professional hockey this season have started a game in more ragged fashion than the Kentucky Thoroughblades did yesterday. The old line about a team showing up at 1: 30 for a game getting under way at 1 o'clock fit the situation.
Kentucky recovered from a couple of two-goal deficits and posted a 6-4 victory by holding the Bandits scoreless over the last half of the game.
The Bandits got a goal in the first minute and another at 3: 04, but it was what they didn't do when the opportunity presented itself that was noteworthy.
Igor Nikulin set up Chris Herperger (11th) and Craig Reichert (eighth) with nifty passes to start it. The score could have been twice as great in the first eight minutes alone, and Blades coach Jim Wiley realized it.
"In that situation," he said, "all I could think of is the old K-I-S-S expression, Keep It Simple, Stupid. Nothing fancy; stick with high-percentage hockey."
As Wiley advised his troops, "if you're prepared to battle and battle hard, things can change for you."
Even after missing an open net and having Jamie Spencer step into the crease, wiping out a goal by Bob Wren, the home team was ahead 3-2 after a period.
Provided an opening, Chris Tancil scored his second straight goal to square matters early in the second period, and now the game belonged to the team that not only wanted it but would do nothing untoward to hurt itself.
"We certainly didn't do everything the way it's supposed to be done," said Wiley, "but we began taking the body better and we cut down on the time and space we were giving them."
The score was 4-4 when the Bandits took their fourth minor penalty of the match, a high-sticking infraction against defenseman Brian Corcoran. It took Kentucky 11 seconds to teach the rookie to keep his stick down.
Jan Caloun got the puck past Bandits goalie Tom Askey. It was his 15th of the campaign to go along with two assists, and the expansion team had its third straight victory over the Bandits and fifth win in its past seven outings.
The Blades, who are back for a 5 o'clock rematch today, boosted their point total to 28, eight better than the Bandits. Not for one instant have they looked the part of a squad competing for the first time in a new league.
Kentucky started 4-2-0, lost four of five on the road, then went down just once with two ties over its next nine games, most at home.
"The players we have from the Islanders [five] have fit in well with the players from our main affiliate, the San Jose Sharks," said Wiley.
NOTES: The Bandits have lost four straight and seven of the past nine. Sean Pronger scored his 17th goal, but so did Steve Guolla of the Blades, so they remained tied for the AHL lead. Ryan Sittler, back from a 10-game absence with a broken bone in his hand, got his second goal. Igor Nikulin's two assists, excellent passes that set up the first two goals, give him eight points in six games.
Opponent: Kentucky Thoroughblades
Site: Baltimore Arena
Time: 5 p.m.
Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)
Outlook: After a recent streak in which they won five of six at home, the Bandits have lost three of their past four here and are 6-6-1 at the Arena. This does not mesh well with a road record of 3-10-1, including 10 losses in their past 11 starts. The Blades have won all three games between the teams.
Pub Date: 12/08/96