The Golden Eagles had just lost their fourth straight game, their second in two nights to the Indianapolis Ice, but Salt Lake's Bob Francis wasn't acting the part of dejected coach afterwards. He's not about to let a few hockey losses spoil his Christmas.

"I'm very encouraged," said Francis, after his team lost 2-1 on a late goal by the Ice at the Salt Palace. "That's a quality team out there. They're well-balanced, well-disciplined . . . you can say what you want about Peoria and Kalamazoo, but they're (Indianapolis) still the team to beat."Perhaps the reason Francis wasn't too upset was because of the contrast with the previous night's contest, which ended 9-3 Indy. As oppposed to the night before, on Saturday the Eagles looked crisp, checked hard and received some improved goaltending from Steve Guenette.

"There were a lot of positives tonight," said Francis. "It gives us something to build on."

After a scoreless first period, the Eagles got on the board when Bryan Deasley scored off a rebound shot by Mark Osiecki at the 4:45 mark of the first period.

Late in the period, the Ice got a two-man advantage following a holding penalty on Darryl Olsen and a roughing penalty on Ken Sabourin. Sean Williams received a crossing pass from Noonan and slapped it in from the right side.

The two teams appeared headed for overtime as both goalies, Salt Lake's Guenette and Indy's Jimmy Waite, made some nice saves.

Then just after Salt Lake had made a line change, Noonan took a quick shot from a few feet inside the blue line and beat Guenette at the 16:13 mark.

"The guys came off the bench and we kind of caught them on their heels," said Noonan. "I just tried to shoot as quick as I could."

It was a tough loss for Guenette, who was pounded for five goals the previous night before being lifted midway through the second period.

"We made a poor line change and hung our defensemen out to dry," he said. "He just caught me coming out and put it in the corner. It came down to one bounce and they got it."

The Eagles had a couple of good chances to score after that, the best one a flurry around the 18:15 mark when Andrew McKim and Scott McCrady both had close-in shots that Waite stopped. McCrady also came close on a long shot in the final seconds after Guenette had been pulled.

Salt Lake has obviously missed Marc Bureau and Martin Simard, the team's top two goal scorers, in recent games. Simard was called up by Calgary and Bureau has been nursing a leg injury.

"It's unfortunate, but you can't cry over spilt water," said Francis, coining a new cliche. "Bureau is obviously an integral part of our team and we're estatic for Simmer being up there. We have to figure we'll never see him again here."

The Eagles (16-16-2) take a few days off for Christmas and then come back with a two-game set with Kalamazoo, the IHL East leader Wednesday and Friday before concluding their season series with Indianapolis Saturday in Indiana.