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Wren, given chance, lifts Bandits over Crunch, 3-2 He gets a regular shift after Karpov is badly cut


Bobby Wren is a tough little battler who would probably rather have four molars yanked out in one session with a dentist than sit and watch a hockey game from the bench.

So yesterday, when he got a chance to take a regular shift against Syracuse from the first period on, he was happy but not so happy.

The opening arrived for Wren when teammate Valeri Karpov was hit in the face by a tumbling player's skate, resulting in gashes requiring 70 stitches, and he certainly didn't want to get his chance that way.

But, with opportunity knocking, Wren was there to answer. His unassisted goal inside the last two minutes gave the Bandits a 3-2 victory over the Crunch.

It was a strange affair, with most of the visitors nowhere to be found during the first period, when goals by Sean Pronger (No. 21) and Mike Leclerc (No. 14) gave the Bandits a 2-0 lead.

From just three shots in the first 20 minutes, Syracuse burst out to 16 in the second period as the officiating took an anti-Bandits ++ turn. The Crunch was treated to six power plays, one of them for four minutes, meaning the home team skated nearly three-quarters of the period a man short. Syracuse scored once, but it wasn't on a power play.

The Crunch tied it at 2 early in the third period and, given the way the teams matched up over the next half-hour or so, an overtime session looked to be more than a strong possibility. But then Wren stepped forward.

"The goalie had deflected a shot and one of their defensemen tried to put it back around the net when I intercepted," Wren

said. "I was able to walk out front and there was an opening, but he stopped my shot by hitting my stick with his stick."

If at first you don't succeed. Wren hustled after the rebound and headed back toward the goal. It was as if he were invisible. No Syracuse defender was on him. "The defenseman on that side had to stay with Igor [Nikulin]. That opened it up for me," Wren said.

Wren jammed the puck between goalie Frederic Cassivi's legs for his fifth goal of the season. It was his second game-winning score, the other coming in Hershey just four days before.

The victory went to Mike Bales, his first for the Bandits in more than a month. It was a well-deserved one, considering he made 36 saves in Binghamton on Saturday only to come away a 2-0 loser.

Pub Date: 12/23/96

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