Cullen lifts Bandits to their first OT win, 6-5 Nikulin's hat trick helps defeat Philadelphia


PHILADELPHIA -- Igor Nikulin, who had turned in his second hat trick in a month earlier, made a brilliant foray through most of the Phantom team and put a shot on goal that rookie Matt Cullen rebounded into the net, giving the Bandits a 6-5 overtime win over Philadelphia before 17,380 at the CoreStates Spectrum last night.

The game started with five goals in the first 10 minutes, but turned into a wrestling match until the Bandits' big push to the winning goal. It was Baltimore's first overtime victory of the season, in their 78th game.

After stopping the Phantoms' league-best power play seven straight times in Friday's 3-2 victory and last night, the Bandits succumbed to the inevitable, Darren Rumble cashing in a man-advantage situation to tie matters at 5-5 midway through the third period. Philadelphia had scored on a power play earlier.

Nikulin's third goal, his sixth in the past five games, had given the Bandits the lead four minutes earlier after the teams hit the second intermission at 4-4.

The first two games of the opening-round best-of-five playoff between these two teams will be at the CoreStates Center on Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (7 p.m.).

Fans caught in the parking lot due to the late-arriving sellout crowd of 17,380 missed a slam-bang first period.

Philadelphia appeared as if it were on the way to double figures when Colin Forbes scored after 39 seconds and tough guy Frank Bialowas did less than two minutes later. But Bialowas, who has had goals in four of his past five games after getting three in his previous 61 games, started the Bandits back.

He meat-headed his way into the penalty box, and Nikulin made him pay for it within a minute at 5: 52 by placing his 25th goal under Phantom goalie Neil Little's stick. Half a minute later, Nikulin garnered No. 26, this time going high over Little's glove.

Jeremy Stevenson put the visitors ahead from point-blank range midway through the period, and Keith Aldridge made it four straight scores for the Bandits at the 16: 51 mark.

Bandits today

Opponent: Worcester IceCats

Site: Baltimore Arena

Time: 1 p.m.

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WASA (1330 AM)

Outlook: The IceCats won the highly competitive New England Division over Springfield and Portland by winning as many games on the road as at home (21) and garnering 97 points, the third-highest total in the league. The Bandits have beaten Worcester twice in three tries, losing the only game at the Arena, 2-1, in November.

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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