The Salt Lake Golden Eagles are finding the home Salt Palace ice isn't too friendly.
The Eagles lost their fourth straight home game Saturday night, this time in heartbreaking style. After out-shooting San Diego and playing a fine defensive game, the Eagle lost 2-1 on a goal by ex-Eagle Brent Sapergia with just 19 seconds left in the game.Sapergia's goal gave the Gulls a two-game sweep this weekend and put the expanision club four points up on the Eagles, who dropped to 3-6-1 on the year. San Diego has won three straight and now stands 5-5-1.
"I'd say it was a heartbreaker all right," said Eagle Coach Bob Francis. "We had a lot of chances the first two periods but I thought they had an outstanding third period. They gave themselves a chance to win and then they got a break and put it in the net."
The break came when Larry Floyd cleared the puck off the boards behind the net to Taylor Hall, who hit Sapergia at the left angle in front of the Eagle net. When the puck came out to Sapergia, he flipped the game-winner past Warren Sharples.
Sapergia recalls the play this way: "I think Floyd intercepted it on the boards and got it to Taylor. I yelled to Taylor, got the puck and the (Salt Lake) guy was trying to tie me up. I was on one leg and barely got a piece of it and put it between (the goalie's) legs."
For Sharples, it was a disappointing end to an outstanding evening in the nets. He had 20 saves, not a huge amount, but several saves were of the spectacular variety.
"I was trying to locate it behind the net and it came out really fast and surprised me," said Sharples of the game-winner. "I got a piece of it, but it trickled in."
As they had the night before, the Eagles got on the board first as Bryan Deasley scored in the first period at the 13:42 mark. As he skated down the middle he got a perfect pass from Todd Harkins on the right side and backhanded it past Glen Hanlon.
It took the Gulls less than a minute to score the equalizer. Darren Lowe scored from three feet out front off a pass from Mike Gober in the corner.
The second period saw no scoring, but several penalties in the first five minutes of the period. For the second straight night, the Eagles received a 5-minute major, this one by Kevin Grant, who was also tossed with a game misconduct penalty.
The night before when Rick Lessard received a five-minute major at a similar juncture in the game, the Eagles gave up three quick goals. This time they killed the penalty well, especially when they were at a two-man disadvantage after Lessard got a roughing penalty during that time.
The final period was well-played with just one early penalty. The game appeared headed to overtime until Sapergia put in the shocker at the 19:41 mark. To win the game was especially gratifying to Sapergia because he spent his first two years as a pro here in the mid-1980s.
"There's a big soft spot in my heart here," he said. "I have a lot of memories and still have a lot of friends here. I feel comfotable coming in here and enjoy this building."
The Eagles play their third game of the seven-game homestand Wednesday when Phoenix comes to town for a Halloween night contest.
"I think we just need to keep a positive attitude," said Francis. "Tonight we were sound defensively and did a good job of penalty-killing."
"We need to keep our heads up and find a way to win," said Sharples. "We need to pick up some points."