The hockey season is barely under way, but one thing has become clear already - Salt Lake and San Diego don't like each other too much.
Back in the second game of the year, the two teams went at it in a penalty-marred game that included several fights and resulted in some suspensions.Friday night in the Salt Palace, the Eagles and Gulls went toe-to-toe for the fourth time this season in another penalty-filled game as the Gulls escaped with a 7-4 win, thanks to three goals (two empty-netters) in the final two minutes.
Despite the three late goals, it was a three-goal flurry early in the second period that spelled the difference for San Diego. And, fittingly, a penalty by Salt Lake was the cause of the San Diego spurt.
Eagle defenseman Rick Lessard was hit with a cross-checking major and a game misconduct for apparently hitting San Diego's Dennis Holland from behind on a cross-check. Lessard was ejected from the game and Kerry Clark filled his time in the penalty box on the major for five minutes. It was during those minutes when San Diego broke the game open.
Salt Lake led at the time 1-0 on a first-period goal by Rich Chernomaz, his first of the year. Salt Lake goalie Wayne Cowley, who had shut out the Gulls two weeks ago, ran his streak of scoreless periods against them to four.
But it changed in a hurry. With a man advantage, the Gulls scored as Mike Gober got an unassisted goal after a fortunate bounce off the boards in the corner. Normally, Salt Lake would have been back to even, player-wise, after the goal, but on a major penalty, the entire five minutes must be served.
Two minutes later Gober scored again on a deflection off a long shot by former Eagle Brent Sapergia. Then a mere 23 seconds later, the Gulls made it 3-1 when Sapergia scored from just inside the blue line on the left side.
"They capitalized on that five-minute major and obviously that played an integral part in their victory," said Eagle Coach Bob Francis. "I didn't see the play, but it definitely cost us, the five minutes and the fact that we lost him (Lessard)."
The Eagles fought back to tie it at 3-3 on a Kevan Melrose shot that nobody apparently saw except the goal judge and on Cory Lyons' third goal of the year. On Melrose's shot, the puck appeared to bounce off the post, but the red light went on. After a long huddle and meeting with the goal judge, the officials allowed it.
Just seven seconds after Lyons tied it, Mike Sullivan sent a screamer from 40 feet past Cowley to make it 4-3.
Salt Lake evened the score early in the final period on a rebound shot by rookie Todd Harkins, who leads the team with five goals on the year. The rest of the period, the two teams seemed more interested in fighting than scoring until Clark Donatelli scored on still another long shot that flew past Cowley's right shoulder.
The Eagles had one brief flurry that almost tied the game again, but the Gulls got loose and scored two more goals, one by Sapergia and the other by Donatelli.
"The game was up for grabs all night, but we made the most of our opportunities," said San Diego Coach Mike O'Connell. "It's nice to come out on the winning side for a change."
San Diego moved ahead of Salt Lake in the standings at 4-5-1 to the Eagles' 3-5-1. The two teams go at it again tonight in the Salt Palace.
EAGLE NOTES: The Eagles lost defenseman Brian Glynn, who was traded to Minnesota by the parent Calgary club in exchange for Frantisek Musil, who will report to the Flames. Glynn had played in all eight games this year, scoring one goal and three assists. Last year he was a first-team IHL all-star and was named Most Valuable Defenseman in the league. "Brian was a big part of our team, but I'm very happy for him to get a chance in the National (Hockey) League," said Francis.