Rich Chernomaz hadn't been scoring goals like he had during the past two seasons when he was the Eagles' leading scorer. Kevan Melrose, a seldom-used defenseman, hadn't hardly scored all year.
Friday night Chernomaz and Melrose were the stars as they combined for five goals to lead the suddenly-explosive Eagles to their biggest win of the season - 9-1 over the Milwaukee Admirals before 7,515 at the Salt Palace.Chernomaz, who had scored 16 goals prior to Friday, scored his first hat trick since last year with a pair of first-period goals and another late in the second period. And Melrose doubled his season's output with a pair of goals.
The victory came on the heels of a 5-3 win over the Admirals Wednesday and improved the Eagles' second-place IHL West standing to 26-22-4.
Just two nights before that, the Eagles had been beaten badly by Phoenix 6-2 and Chernomaz, the Eagles captain, had a closed-door meeting with Coach Bob Francis. The Eagles have played well ever since.
"We played with absolutely no enthusiasm Monday night and were very sluggish," said Chernomaz. "The difference between tonight and Monday night was like night and day."
Chernomaz and a few teammates came to practice early Friday and worked on the power play, something the Eagles have struggled with lately. Not coincidentally, all three of Chernomaz' goals came on the power play.
His first goal came off assists by Darryl Olsen and Marc Bureau 14:48 into the first period. Less than a minute later, Cherno flipped in a left-handed shot from the right circle with Bureau and Sweeney assisting. His third goal 14:42 into the second period came off assists by Olsen and Sweeney to make it 6-1.
In between, the Eagles scored on a slapshot by Bryan Deasley in the first period and shots by Melrose and Paul Kruse early in the second.
For Melrose, who has played in fewer games than any of the Eagles who have been with the team all year, it was a thrill to score twice.
"Lady luck was shining down on me tonight," he said. "Finally I'm getting a little ice time. It's funny tonight to get two in one game, doubling my output for the season."
Melrose, who has played in only 28 games this year, now has played in seven straight games ever since Ken Sabourin was traded out of the organization. His second goal came late in the contest from just inside the blue line through a crowd of people.
"I looked up and there were about 18 people in front of the net so I just wound up as hard as I could and shot it," said Melrose.
Francis was happy for Melrose also. "He's an extremely hard workerand it's nice to see him get some results."
Other Eagle goals came from Bureau late in the second period and Darren Banks late in the third. Eagle goaltender Steve Guenette allowed just one Admiral goal, by Ian Kidd late in the first.
"The power play went extremely well tonight," said Francis. "I was proud of the way the guys didn't let up. We learned a big lesson Wednesday (nearly blowing a 4-goal lead) and we maintained our focus very well."
Francis gave his players the weekend off for a well-deserved rest. They hit the road for a game with San Diego Wednesday and return for a pair of games against Albany on the weekend.