HERSHEY, Pa. -- Another solid, two-way effort was rewarded, and the Bandits' disastrous December was blunted some last night when they staged a gutsy comeback to tie the Hershey Bears, 3-3.
The Bandits' losing streak of six seemed almost assured of being extended when they trailed by two goals before the first period was half over.
Outmanned, but battling doggedly, mostly in their defensive end, the visitors got an acrobatic performance from rookie goalie Tom Askey (46 saves) and were within a goal of the Bears for more than two-thirds of the game.
It wasn't until Igor Nikulin broke away with less than three minutes remaining to score his third goal of the game that the Bandits could begin to feel good about their effort, however.
Askey saw that it did not go for naught by being as good during the overtime as he had been during the first three periods. He had six saves in the five-minute extra session.
"I love a game like that, reminds me of college [Ohio State]," Askey said. "You don't like to see it happen to the team, that many shots , but for a goalie, it's good.
"You feel more into the game and your confidence keeps building as you go along. Once you're in a groove, you tend to stay there."
The number of shots faced was nowhere near a personal record for the former Buckeye: "I faced 66 against Lake [Superior] State as a freshman. It was one of my better games, even though they got eight goals."
The tie halted the Bears' six-game winning streak against the Bandits this season and was not taken lightly by Hershey coach Bob Hartley.
His first words to staff members upon leaving the ice were, "See that they ride the bike for 30 minutes."
No sooner were the Bears out of their uniforms than they were seen trudging down the hall to the bicycle room.
If ever a team was at risk of being overrun almost as soon as it got its skates laced up, it was the Bandits. In the first 15 minutes, the Bears put 18 shots on goal to their three.
Fortunately, Askey was making like Plastic Man after the home team scored two minutes in, with Mike Hartman getting his second goal. Askey made two terrific saves in the next minute and three more after Blair Atcheynum (13th) and Nikulin (seventh) swapped goals in the eighth minute.
The Bears, who lost in Carolina on Friday night and arrived home by bus at 5 a.m., increased their lead to 3-1 midway through the second period.
Opponent: Rochester Americans
Site: Baltimore Arena
Time: 5 p.m.
Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)
Outlook: The Bandits and Americans end rugged three-game weekends, Baltimore having a slight advantage in that Rochester had to travel here after a game in Albany last night. The Bandits blasted the defending Calder Cup champions on the road a month ago, 6-3.
Pub Date: 12/15/96