The Golden Eagles lost another game Wednesday night and may have lost another player as well.
The Phoenix Roadrunners defeated Salt Lake 4-3 on a late goal at the Salt Palace for the second Wednesday in a row and the Eagles, who lost Marc Bureau to Calgary Saturday, will likely lose one of their top scorers for at least one game.Rich Chernomaz was whistled for a gross misconduct penalty with just 26 seconds left in the game after he went after Phoenix goalie Mario Gosselin on the boards and then apparently made an obscene gesture to the referee as he was being penalized for a charging penalty. He faces possible suspension by the league in Indianapolis for at least one game beginning Friday.
That may be just as well for Chernomaz, who is not too popular with the Roradrunners after he checked Gosselin as he cleared a puck in the corner. Although there is no rule against it, there is an unwritten rule among hockey players about not checking the goalie away from the net.
Phoenix Coach Ralph Backstrom called it a "cheap shot." Gosselin, as he sat with ice on his back, called it "stupid."
"That's not too smart of a hockey play - he is not a smart guy," said Gosselin of Chernomaz. "I don't care about getting hurt, that's OK. We'll take the points and get out of here."
The play in question had no bearing on the outcome. Gosselin was replaced by David Goverde, but Salt Lake wasn't able to get any decent shots on him in the waning seconds. Gosselin is questionable for Friday's Eagle-Roadrunner game.
The Eagles played the last half of the game without Coach Bob Francis, who was ejected midway through the second period, and nearly pulled out a victory. But a shot by Petr Prajsler from just inside the blue line on the left angle whistled past goalie Wayne Cowley at the 17:12 mark to give Phoenix the victory.
Francis, who is not allowed to watch the game after being ejected, according to league rules, blamed his team's start rather than the finish for the loss.
"We have to be stronger in the beginning and not rely on a bounce at the end," he said.
Phoenix took a 1-0 lead after the first period on a goal by John Van Kessel. The Eagles blasted out of the blocks in the second stanza and scored just 19 seconds into the period when Chernomaz slapped a shot from the right side past Gosselin with assists by Olsen and goalie Wayne Cowley.
After Phoenix went up 2-1, the Eagles scored on nearly the exact same play as No. 1 when rookie C.J. put a shot in from the right side off assists by Olsen and Cowley.
The Eags briefly took the lead when Kevin Grant scored off a rebound shot by Kerry Clark, but the Roadrunners replied less than two minutes later on a goal by Chris Kontos, his eighth of the year.
Francis was ejected just after Phoenix had gone ahead 2-1 in the second. He was upset that his player Darren Banks was given 14 minutes worth of penalties compared to two for Steve Jacques after the two had a little altercation.
"Finding justice in that one was a little hard to figure," said Francis. "All you do is ask for the referee to be a little consistent."
Eagle assistant Jamie Hislop took over for Francis. "You just step in there and do the best you can," he said. "I thought it was a strange game."
The Eagles and Roadrunners, who built a strong rivalry last year when they met 24 times, have already shown that the rivalry is planty heated this year. They meet again Friday night, afterwhich the Eagles head out for a six-game, 15-day road trip.