The Salt Lake Golden Eagles are fortunate they play Indianapolis only four times this year. Last year they lost 10 of 12 regular season games and four of five playoff games to the Ice.
Until Friday night the Eagles biggest loss this year had been a 4-goal defeat in Indianapolis last month. The Ice went a couple better this time, crushing the Eagles 9-3 at the Salt Palace before 5,716 fans."That was a lesson in humilation," said Eagle Coach Bob Francis. "We ran into a quality team that was in a desperate situation, the same as we were. But they obviously played more desperate."
Both Indianapolis and Salt Lake came into the game on two-game losing streaks and both had three losses in their last four games. The Ice had just fallen to third place in the IHL East, while Salt Lake was hanging onto second in the West.
The victory vaulted Indy back into second at 18-11-2, while the Eagles fell into third place at 16-15-2, behind San Diego, which won Friday.
"You never see one like this coming," said Francis, whose team was coming off two losses in Kansas City earlier this week. "You tend to want to want to forget these. I can't recall (coaching) a game like this."
The Ice dominated all the way in this one, jumping ahead 2-0 early and 6-2 after two periods. They added three more goals in the first eight minutes of the final period before Salt Lake tacked on a final score.
"Our defensive coverage was awful," said Francis. "We lost our focus."
The Eagles even used goalkeeper Steve Guenette, who hadn't lost in regulation at home this year. But he was abruptly pulled in the second period after giving up goal No. 5 in favor of Warren Sharples. According to Francis, it wasn't a slap at Guenette.
"I just thought it might disrupt the flow and change things around a bit," he said.
Mike McNeill, who was sent down by the parent Chicago Blackhawks for the weekend to shore up the Ice, scored two goals and added two assists.
"I'd say he had a pretty good game tonight," said Ice Coach Dave McDowall. "He has great speed, blowaway speed."
The Eagles were trailing just 2-1 in the first minute of the second period, and apparently tied the score when a shot by Darryl Olsen defelected off C.J. Young into the net. However, the officials waved off the goal, saying the shot hit a high stick of the Eagles, which is illegal.
"I didn't see it at all, but obviously, it was a difference in the game," said Francis.
Goals by Alex Roberts and McNeill made it 4-1 before Paul Kruse got an unassisted goal for the Eagles. But Indy added two more second-period goals and then scored at will early in the final period. Richard Zemlak had Salt Lake's first and last goals.
"This was one of those nights where the puck went in," said McDowall. "Some nights you get the same shots and get shut out. It just happens."
The Eagles get another chance against the Ice, whether they want it or not, tonight in the Salt Palace (7 p.m.).
"We have to go in there with the memory that we were humiliated in front of the home folks," said Francis.
The good news for the Eagles is that after tonight they only have to play the Ice once more this season.