All season long, the most popular Golden Eagle player has been newcomer Darren Banks, who is known for his aggressive play and, ah, fighting ability.
Monday night Banks, the fighter, turned into Banks, the scorer, as he helped Salt Lake to a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over Fort Wayne in a wild contest at the Salt Palace.Banks doubled his season scoring output with a pair of goals from long range in each of the first two periods. And of all nights, he did it while fighting a case of the flu.
"I was sick today," he said. "I tried to sleep all day. I didn't even know if I was going to be able to play."
Banks made the most of his evening, scoring from the top of the left circle to tie the score at 2-2 and then putting the Eagles back in the game with a slapshot late in the second period to make it 5-4, Fort Wayne.
"He's got a great shot," said Eagle coach Bob Francis about Banks. "He scored two big goals for us tonight at key times."
The Eagle victory over the IHL's hottest team avenged an embarrassing 11-3 loss exactly a week earlier on New Year's Eve in Fort Wayne. The Komets saw their 4-game winning streak broken as they fell to 22-14-3.
The Komets came out of this game hurting. Their top defenseman, Brian McKee, left the game with a probable broken left leg after smashing into the boards early in the third period. And Kevin Kaminski got a double dose, an injured elbow from a second-period collision with Ken Sabourin and a cut under his eye from a nasty fight with Paul Kruse.
Komet Coach Al Sims was unhappy with the officiating, saying it cost his team the game. He accused Salt Lake's top player, Marc Bureau, of faking an injury, which led to the winning goals.
The incident came at the 17:49 mark of the second period, shortly after Banks' second goal. Dan Lambert was caught slashing Bureau from behind in the back of the legs. But instead of a two-minute minor, Lambert was given a five-minute major.
The Eagles scored just eight seconds later on a rebound shot by Andrew McKim to tie it at 5-5 and got the winning goal early in the third period, while Lambert was still serving his penalty (on a major penalty, the player doesn't leave the penalty box after a goal).
"We knew Bureau was faking, he's that kind of player," said Sims. "He was up 30 seconds later helping on the power play. That's not good officiating."
Francis disagreed, saying Sims misinterpreted the rules.
"That's not the rule. It's `intent to injure.' He doesn't have to be injured for it to be a major. So what difference does it make?"
Bureau, sporting some fresh stitches above his eye from a first-period hit, was just happy that his team took advantage of the penalty. "I got slashed from behind. I thought he'd maybe get a two (two-minute penalty), but he got a five. We wanted to get a power play. We scored a goal off it."
One thing Bureau isn't happy about is the rough treatment he's getting lately. On Saturday he was hit just about the eyelid so he wore a faceguard Monday - and still got stitches. "I'm getting tired of it," he said.
The Eagles fell behind early just as they did a week earlier. Robin Bawa scored 45 seconds into the game and Scott Gruhl made it 2-0 at the 6:44 mark.
Kruse tipped one in and Banks scored to tie it, before the Komets scored late in the period with Bruce Major slipping one past Warren Sharples.
For the second period, Francis switched to goaltender Steve Guenette - who was blasted for eight goals by Fort Wayne last week - in an effort to "change the complexion" of the game. "There were so many similarities to last week's game, and I didn't like the way this one was going," said Francis.
Guenette quickly gave up a goal to Bob Lakso, but Bureau came back with a power play goal a minute later. After Lonnie Loach scored, the Eagles tied it on the goals by Banks and McKim.
The game-winner came on Rich Chernomaz's tip-in of a blue-line shot by Sabourin, and Guenette held the Komets scoreless the rest of the way.
The two second-place teams square off again Wednesday in what will be the Komets' last regular-season appearance in the Salt Palace.