Two teams that saw long streaks stopped the night before, ended short streaks Saturday night in the Salt Palace.
The Golden Eagles, who had their 11-game winning streak snapped by Muskegon the night before, skated to a 5-0 win over San Diego, which had halted a 9-game losing skid Friday night against Milwaukee.The difference between the Eagles' 7-6 loss the previous night and their shutout victory was obvious - better defense. Coach Bob Francis drilled that into his team earlier in the day and the Eagles responded with their fourth shutout of the season.
In fact it was so easy that goaltender Warren Sharples admitted afterwards, "It was probably the easiest (shutout) of my life.
"It's really a credit to the team to come out after a performance like last night where we probably had our worst game in a month and play so well in our own end," said Sharples, who faced only 15 shots on the night for his second shutout of the season.
Fifteen shots is a normal period for some teams, but thanks to the Eagles defensemen, few Gull shots made it as far as the goalmouth.
"Coach told us today that we were lax, thinking offensive and not thinking about our own end," said defenseman Rick Lessard. "With us playing eight games in 12 days, our thinking ability wasn't there. We know a good defense makes a good offense."
Another defenseman who had a good night was Mark Osiecki, who gets overlooked night in and night out because he is still looking for his first goal this season, despite playing every game.
"He probably had more saves than I did," said Sharples. "He's a goaltenders dream."
"He gives us a lot of stability defensively," said Francis of Osiecki.
Osiecki was one of two Eagle players who had parents watching at the Salt Palace Saturday. The other was Andrew McKim, who just happened to score two goals in the final period to clinch the victory.
McKim claimed he wasn't any extra motivated because his mother was in attendance. Actually it was more of a motivation for the rookie to be playing, period. With the Eagles four men over the dress limit, McKim has missed some games lately, including Friday's.
"It was nice that she was here, but it doesn't make any difference who is in the stands," he said. "When you're in the lineup, you have to pull your weight. With 22 guys, it's a situation where you have to go out and do your job."
In contrast to Friday night when 13 goals were scored and Wednesday when 11 were scored, neither team was able to score for most of Saturday's game. In fact until late in the third period, it was 1-0 Salt Lake, thanks to a goal by Rich Chernomaz midway through the first period.
Then all of a sudden the Eagles started scoring like crazy. Martin Simard scored his first goal in a month at the 12:08 mark, on the power play. Two minutes later, McKim skated down the left side and flipped one past Alain Chevrier. A little over a minute later, Tim Sweeney scored and less than two minutes later, McKim found the net again. That made four goals in less than five minutes.
"We learned our lesson last night," said Francis. "You can't win many games giving up seven goals. We placed heavy emphasis on defense tonight."
The Eagles continue their homestand with a pair of games next week against Kalamazoo Tuesday and Thursday.