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Bullies Even Series With 4-3 Win

Friday, April 26, 2002

By Mike Williams
SJSports Special Correspondent

ATLANTIC CITY - Game two on Friday night versus the Dayton Bombers was a game that the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies absolutely needed. A worst-case scenario for the Bullies saw them heading to Dayton down two games to none in the East Coast Hockey League's best-of-five Northern Conference final. Instead, Atlantic City's work on the night made for a whole new series in a night fraught with dicey moments for the home club. The Bullies used four goals on the power play to hold onto a 4-3 win over the Bombers before 4,192 at Boardwalk Hall. Daniel Lacroix's goal with 1:10 nailed down the win. Shawn Degagne made 30 saves for the Bullies.

Special teams dominated the night as a slew of minor penalties were called throughout the game. None of the contest's seven goals were at even strength.

Atlantic City came out flying early. Luke Curtin picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone and broke in on the Dayton net. But Bombers goaltender Karl Goehring challenged Curtain and made a pad save.

Seconds after, Curtin picked up a minor penalty that would help the Bombers jump out to an early 1-0 lead. Jason Sessa recorded his fifth goal of the playoffs, beating Degagne from in close at 5:49. But the Bullies needed very little time to respond.

After Dayton's Ryan Vince was nabbed on a tripping penalty, the Bullies went to work on the power play. Atlantic City immediately pressured the Dayton net. Vratislav Cech's shot from the right point was tipped by newcomer Mike Scott through Goehring's pads to tie the game.

City's power play continued to click.

Atlantic Bomber Chris Thompson took a minor at 8:49. Dayton managed to contain the Bullies for most of the man-advantage.

But Curtin broke down the right side and ripped a bullet from the top of the circle. The rebound kicked out to Caudron, who knocked home the rebound to put the Bullies up, 2-1.

Goehring and his teammates immediately argued that the puck had been kicked into the net, but referee Max Middendorf ruled the play a goal.

Dayton's penalty woes continued as Sessa was sent to the penalty box at 12:31. The Curtin-Caudron-Rivard combination again made the Bombers pay.

Caudron popped in his second power play tally of the game 32 seconds into Sessa's minor, knocking a rebound past Goehring to give the Bullies a 3-1 lead after one period. All four goals scored in the opening period by the clubs were on the power play.

The game's pace slowed considerably in the middle frame as the Bullies settled into a defensive posture, protecting the two-goal lead.

Atlantic City's Tyler Johnston nearly broke open the game with five minutes to go in the second period. Johnston took a pass in between the circles, but nicked the right post with a shot to keep the Bombers within two goals.

The passive approach eventually cost the Bullies. Dayton pulled to within a goal with 1:09 left in the period on a power play goal by Bill McCauley, his second of the postseason.

Referee Middendorf sent a steady stream of players to the penalty box through the first two periods. Nineteen minors were whistled, leading to six power plays for Dayton and seven man-advantages for the Bullies.

The Bullies nursed a 3-2 lead heading into the third period but opted to open up the play. Atlantic City had three point-blank opportunities on Goehring in the period's opening five minutes, but the 23-year-old rookie held the Bullies at three goals.

A breakdown at 8:58 allowed the Bombers to tie the score at three. Shorthanded, Dayton's Fred Slukynsky picked off Jamie O'Leary's pass at mid-ice, lured Degagne well out of the net and put the puck upstairs for a 3-3 game.

It was the second consecutive game that the Bombers had rallied from a two-goal deficit,

"The thing we said on the bench was, 'Learn from the other night,'" Atlantic City coach Mike Haviland said. "We're not going to give them this one. When you have a two-goal lead, you can't let things slip away...We got it done."

Cech's minor penalty shortly thereafter put the Bombers on another power play. But it was the home club that nearly grabbed the lead. Stefan Rivard's shot from the slot beat Goehring but caught the post.

But O'Leary would redeem himself. Bomber Brian Cummings took a high-sticking penalty with 2:50 remaining in regulation that would cost the Bombers the game.

Left alone in the slot, Lacroix took an O'Leary pass from behind the Dayton net and tucked it past Goehring for a 4-3 Atlantic City lead.

"We were kidding him, that he had assists on the last two goals," Lacroix said in regard to O'Leary's third-period play. "One of them was good for us. We believe in our players. When something like that happens, you just hope he's going to be the guy who either scores or sets up the next goal.

However, Dayton was not out of the game yet. Rivard's slashing penalty with 41 seconds to play put Bombers on another power play. Lacroix took a minor 23 seconds later that was coupled with Dayton head coach Greg Ireland pulling Goehring for an extra skater, giving the Bombers a 6-on-3 advantage with 16.9 seconds left. The Bombers put two shots on Degagne, but the Bullies managed to hold the lead and put an entirely new face on the series.

The clubs head to Dayton for games three and four on Sunday and Monday, respectively. Game five, if necessary, would be Wednesday night at Boardwalk Hall.

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