The final standings of the American Hockey League all but shriek the fact that the Philadelphia Phantoms should have little difficulty disposing of the Bandits in their first-round American Hockey League playoff series getting under way today.
While the Phantoms were leading the league with 111 points, the Bandits didn't qualify for the postseason until the last weekend of the regular season and finished with 73 points.
Then, too, there was this admission by Bandits coach Moe Mantha: "That team should beat us. It's a heck of a club with all those veterans."
Philadelphia did handle the Bandits with aplomb in their first five meetings, winning by an average of 3.4 goals per contest.
Since Feb. 20, however, the worm has turned. The Bandits have won four of five, including two at the Spectrum in Philadelphia.
"More and more as the season went along you could see us cutting down on our mistakes and coming together. That's the only way we were going to beat Philly," said veteran goalie Mike Bales, who will be missing due to a call-up by the Ottawa Senators. In his stead, Mike Torchia has been assigned here by Anaheim.
"We've followed our game plan almost perfectly since we beat them the first time," Mantha said. "There's no big secret to it: Keep things simple. Make the basic play. Be smart dumping the puck into the offensive end. Keep the puck deep and support each other."
The Phantoms scored 26 goals in their first five games against the Bandits, 16 in the next five. Meantime, Baltimore improved its production from nine to 20 goals.
For the most part, the Phantoms are the same aggregation of players that, while performing in Hershey last season, were eliminated from the playoffs by the Bandits in five exciting games.
Phantoms coach Bill Barber remembers well, but said, "It has nothing to do with this year. We're a much better club than that one."
Bandits vs. Phantoms
Southern Conference quarterfinals
Day ......... Site ...... Time
Today ....... Phil. ... 1 p.m.
Tomorrow .... Phil. ... 7 p.m.
Wednesday ... Balt. ... 7: 30 p.m.
April 25 .... Balt. ... 7: 30 p.m.*
April 27 .... Phil. ... 7 p.m.*
Pub Date: 4/19/97