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November 16, 2001
By Todd Rourke
The Greensboro Generals (4-6-1), in what unfortunately seems to have become a trend at home, turned in two decent periods of hockey but went down in defeat. The Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies (6-4-4), playing a very opportunistic brand of hockey, benefited from an early soft goal and capitalized on Greensboro defensive breakdowns to skate off with the 3-2 victory.
The Bullies went on the board first with a soft, unassisted goal from Scott Matzka at 2:49. The shot was high and to the left of Generals net-minder Bujar Amidovski. Amidovski gloved it, dropped it, and then watched helplessly as the puck slowly trickled into the net.
The rest of the first period was relatively uneventful, with both teams mounting some offensive charges that were turned away. Greensboro finally answered at 19:14 with a powerplay goal from Brian Loney. The goal, assisted by Casey Kesselring and Vlad Serov, was a nice touch against Bullies' goalie Scott Stirling.
Second period play decided the game. The Generals out shot the Bullies, but the team from Atlantic City continuously had a man in the right place at the right time. Despite the fact that it appeared that both units were evenly matched in talent, the Bullies simply played solid team hockey while the Generals did not.
At 2:05, a loose puck in the Greensboro end was picked up by Atlantic City's Albie O'Connell. O'Connell, wasting no time, passed crisply to Matzka who was trailing the play. Matzka scored easily, just inside the left pipe, with a wrist shot while Amidovski scrambled to block.
Just over four minutes later, the Generals were on a powerplay when Chris Brassard failed to clear the zone. Bullies' Vratislav Cech tipped the puck away and passed to Stefan Rivard. Rivard flipped out a nice lead pass to Jamie O'Leary who then beat Amidovski for a shorthanded goal on the breakaway.
Throughout the second period, Greensboro struggled to clear the zone and keep the puck in the Atlantic City end. Even while on the powerplay, the Generals were tagged for icing calls and generally seemed out of sync. Jason Robinson and Chris Brassard both managed to generate some decent opportunities, but Stirling remained solid in net.
The Generals came back in the third period with a bit more spark and continued to out shoot the Bullies. The difference was the outstanding play of Stirling. The former Brown University standout demonstrated why he was the ECHL Rookie and Goaltender of the Year last season while with Trenton. Despite being an expansion team, the Bullies certainly looked anything but.
At 9:13 in the third, Greensboro's Brian Loney was felled by a hard cross check from John Campbell. It was difficult to tell from the angle, but it appeared to have struck him on or near the head. Loney remained down on the ice for several minutes before shaking it off and skating off under his own power.
The Generals finally broke through to bring it within one at 15:22. In a series of passes that the home crowd has not often seen, Brassard hooked up with Dan Passero and Chris Bell for a pretty goal that Stirling was powerless to turn back. This was certainly the offensive highlight for the team, but it was also the last time the Generals saw the red light flashing.
"Yup, same story ... over and over again," said Head Coach Graeme Townshend in post-game comments. "I don't know what more to do differently [in practice]. I don't know anything other than passing, shooting, skating, checking drills. Maybe we need to have a mind coach in here."
"Maybe we need somebody to come in and work with them mentally because we do the same stuff that every other team in the league does [laughs]. You know, I don't know what more to do. I mean, what can you do? It's all in their heads ... maybe we need a mind coach or a voodoo guy or something."
When asked if he was looking forward to getting back on the road, Townshend was pretty emphatic when he said, "No I'm not, actually. I want to win at home. I want to perform here in front of our fans. Maybe I put too much emphasis on that, but I don't see why it's so difficult to play in front of your home fans."
"Doesn't make sense to me, doesn't make any sense at all. That's why I think it's a mental thing, maybe we need someone in here to work with our guys heads. It's obvious they play one way on the road and play totally differently at home."
Townshend did maintain, however, that he was reluctant to contemplate any major roster changes at this time. "Oh boy, I tell ya, I don't really want to do that. I believe in the guys we have here. I guess I'm going to have to continue beating my head against the wall until they either do things my way or my head splits open."
Chris Brassard, the Generals leading scorer, played both goat and hero this evening. After costing the team a goal earlier, he scored late ... giving the home team and its fans a glimmer of hope in the closing minutes. The effort didn't go unnoticed by Coach Townshend.
"The thing I respect about him is he made a big mistake that cost us a goal and he went back out and got us one ... and had several other opportunities. That to me, that's incredible leadership. If you're on the bench and you can't follow that example, then you're comatose. That is just incredible to see this kid [with that effort.] He makes a mistake, you yell at him, he doesn't take it personally and he goes right out there and he leads the team by example. It'd be nice to have a few more of those [players]."
How about Sal Manganaro? Brian Loney? "Sal's another one. Sal's another guy who does his job, man, every shift. Gives everything he's got. You can't get mad at a guy for giving everything, he almost tied the game up for us tonight. Loney's playing well, a lot of our forwards are playing well but we're struggling on defense. Let in a soft goal tonight and that hurt, but again, it's a team game. You let in a soft goal and it's a team goal and we have to come back and we have to make up for that."
"I really thought things were going fine until that second period, again. [But for] another poor second period, the game was ours, really. I thought we outplayed them the whole game. We had 44 shots, quality shots, quality shots. I hate saying 'if if if,' but if you eliminate mental errors ... we win the game tonight."
"We need a mind coach now ... I mean that, really. Maybe that's what we need for this team. We'll have to look into that, and once we've exhausted all possible solutions then we'll have to go to more drastic solutions. I really don't want to do that. I'm hoping that they don't force me to do that. That's really what I'm praying to God for, that they don't force me to have to start making changes. I don't want to do that at all. We've got a good group of guys here, they care about each other, they work hard. They never quit."
Townshend indicated that Jon Forest will get the start in goal Saturday night in Greenville. The Generals next home game will be against Greenville on Tuesday, the 20th, at 7:00pm.