Patrik Juhlin, the right wing of the Philadelphia Phantoms who tossed a hat trick at the Bandits as his team was posting a 5-4 victory last night, said it perfectly when asked to give a reason for his team's success this season.
"We really don't have a top line," he said. "We have three lines that have scored pretty steadily all season, and I think that's what makes it so tough for our opponents."
"Tough" is putting it mildly. Last night's win at the Baltimore Arena was the fourth straight for the Phantoms, who also have won five in a row on the road and piled up 89 points with their blazing, 40-14-7 record.
In only its 61st game, Philadelphia has already qualified for the Calder Cup playoffs.
It's hard enough to beating the Phantoms, who average 4.2 goals a game and allow just 2.8. Any help the opposition gives them usually serves to facilitate its downfall.
Last night, the Bandits twice put the Phantoms on the power play, once when the game was tied and again when they trailed by a goal, and the Phantoms converted. Otherwise, Philadelphia was outdone by the Bandits in even-strength goals, 4-3.
Trailing 5-2 after two periods, the home team put a mighty scare into the league leaders, goals by Craig Reichert and Dave Sacco cutting the Bandits' deficit to a goal with nearly eight minutes remaining.
The Bandits put good pressure on the Phantoms' goal over the next five minutes, but were shut down as Philadelphia tightened up defensively.
The Bandits got on the board first, Mike Leclerc scoring his 20th goal just before the six-minute mark. The home team was defensing the high-powered Phantoms forwards well until drawing back-to-back penalties shortly after the midway point of the first period.
Philadelphia wasn't able to cash in on its first man-advantage opportunity, but, less than a minute after the clubs were skating even, Brett Bruinicks tied the game with his second goal in 32 games.
Less than 90 seconds later and on the power play again, Juhlin rapped in his 22nd goal out of a crowd in front of the Bandits' net.
Juhlin was at it again in the second period, getting goals early and late.
Pub Date: 2/28/97