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Blades Put the Bullfrogs in Dangerous Position : Roller hockey: Anaheim loses, 10-8. It must win Game 2 and a mini-game to advance to the second round of the RHI playoffs.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Injuries?

Taking the opponent too lightly?

Lackadaisical performance?

How about just plain beaten by a team that was better prepared and a lot more hungry?

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It was all of the above and more Sunday night for the Bullfrogs at the Forum as the Blades rallied from a two-goal halftime deficit to win, 10-8, in Game 1 of their first-round series in the Roller Hockey International playoffs.

The eighth-seeded Blades (10-10-5) snapped a six-game losing streak against the top-seeded Bullfrogs and outshot them, 54-47.

They also outchecked, outhustled and outskated the visitors to the delight of an announced crowd of 3,444.

The Blades’ workhorse goaltender, Sean Gauthier (9-9-5), stopped 39 shots to raise his league-leading total to 732. The Blades’ Peter Kasowski had a hat trick, his first of the season.

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There was little for the Bullfrogs (19-5-2) to celebrate Sunday night, although Victor Gervais scored three goals and added an assist. Todd Wetzel scored two goals, but without a solid defense, it didn’t matter who scored how many times.

“We got outhit, outshot and outplayed . . . we lost,” said Brad McCaughey, Bullfrogs assistant coach and forward, who summed up the feelings of his teammates.

“Wednesday better be better. We better show up,” said McCaughey, who had two assists. “We took this team too lightly.”

It was the third consecutive loss for the Bullfrogs, who set an RHI record with 19 regular-season victories. The series now moves to The Pond of Anaheim at 7:35 p.m. Wednesday. If the Bullfrogs win the regular game, a 12-minute mini-game will be played immediately after and the winner of that game would advance to the second round.

There wasn’t much talk in the Blade locker room about ever losing to the Bullfrogs again, especially because the Bullfrogs dominated all four regular-season games between the clubs.

“We’re still the underdog, no question about it,” Blade Coach Bobby Hull Jr. said. “We’ve got nothing to lose when we go in there and we’re going to play them smart, just like we did tonight. If we can do that, than we can . . . no don’t say can . . . say we will beat them again.”

Three Bullfrogs were not in uniform. Frederick Jax and Darren Banks continue to nurse injuries. Defenseman Darren Perkins served a one-game suspension for fighting in the season-ending loss to San Diego on Friday.

“I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” Bullfrog Coach Grant Sonier said.

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Aside from the early part of the second quarter, when they took a 5-2 lead, the Bullfrogs were not productive. The Blades actually won the game in the third quarter, which the Bullfrogs usually dominate, scoring five goals to the Bullfrogs’ two and out-shooting the visitors, 18-11.

“That third quarter was pathetic,” Sonier said before offering a litany of Bullfrog mistakes.

“But so what? Instead of winning this series in two straight like we thought, we have to win it in a 12-minute mini-game. We’re going to refocus and think positive. We’re too good of a hockey team not to.”

Todd Wetzel took a pass from Rick Judson and beat Gauthier with nearly five minutes elapsed in the second quarter.

That staked the Bullfrogs to a 3-2 lead. In the next four minutes, goals by Gervais, off another pass from Judson, and one by light-scoring defenseman Joe Cook after an assist by Todd Wetzel, raised the advantage to 5-2.

The Bullfrogs looked as if they were on another roll.

But with 1:59 to play in the half, reserve forward Greg Burke, who had scored only one goal all season, took a pass from Steve McSwain and lifted the puck over the glove of Bullfrog goaltender Rob Laurie.

“That got us up at halftime,” said Hull. “We came in here knowing we could beat them.”

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Burke didn’t realize the importance of the goal at the time.

“The guy guarding me over-skated and I had all the time in the world out there,” he said. “I just pretended it was practice.”

Laurie (9-4-1), making his fourth consecutive start, was never quite the same after, although he finished with 44 saves. Goals by Steve Bogoyevac and McSwain knotted the score, 5-5, with 5:56 left in the third period and after the teams traded scores several times, Bogoyevac put the Blades on top for good, 8-7, with an unassisted goal after he stole the puck from Gervais in front of Laurie.

The Bullfrogs pulled within a goal twice in the final quarter. Gervais made it interesting when he scored his third goal at the 2:08 mark, cutting the deficit to 9-8.

That put the Blades’ rally in doubt until Kasowski netted his third goal with 40 seconds to play.

A livid Sonier ordered the players as a unit to ride the bus headed back to Anaheim. They needed to think about this as a team, he said, before adding, that he expects smarter play from all of them Wednesday.


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