Was he or wasn't he? That was the big question after Salt Lake took a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Phoenix Friday night in the Salt Palace in a game that looked amazingly similar to Wednesday night's contest, also a 4-3 Eagle win.
Each side had differing opinions as to whether Eagle right-winger Martin Simard was in the goal crease when the Eagles' Tim Sweeney scored the game-winner with a little over eight minutes left in the game.If Simard was in the crease (the rectangular box directly in front of the goal), the winning goal would have been disallowed and the two teams likely would have headed into overtime. Of course, the Phoenix folks said Simard was definitely in the crease, while the Salt Lake side took the opposite stand.
"I thought he was in the crease," said Phoenix Coach Ralph Backstrom. "(Goalie Mario) Gosselin said he couldn't even move, because (Simard) was right in the crease."
Thank you Phoenix. Your witness, Salt Lake.
"He wasn't in the crease," said Eagle Coach Bob Francis. "He provided good traffic and that's what he's there for. Simard did what he's supposed to do."
OK, now let's hear from the two players in question. First Mr. Gosselin.
"He was in my crease, that was obvious. It was a smart play for him," said Gosselin. "But the referee has to do his job and call it."
So what about it, Mr. Simard?
"I was just trying to get in front of him and their defenseman pushed me in," said Simard. "Their defenseman was just doing his job."
All right, so Simard admits he was in the crease, but that an unidentified Phoenix player pushed him into the crease. Now things are really getting confusing.
Whatever the real story was, the goal counted and caused such frustration among the Roadrunner players that Gosselin hit Simard across the back of the leg with his stick (a slashing penalty) right after the goal and the game ended with a fight and a near-brawl as the two teams left the ice yelling and giving mean looks to each other.
Isn't it great these two teams get to play again tonight in Phoenix at 7:30? Things could get very interesting.
All in all, it was an extremely frustrating trip for the Roadrunners, who are fighting to keep their spot in the playoffs. They're still third in the IHL West, but with seven losses in their last eight games, they're looking over their shoulders at Milwaukee and San Diego, who are within striking distance.
The game started with a rare goal by Eagle defenseman Rick Lessard, just like Wednesday. After two periods the score was 2-2, just like Wednesday. And Salt Lake fell behind 3-2 early in the third period, before coming back for two goals . . . just like Wednesday.
C.J. Young scored the second and third Salt Lake goals, his second coming at 3:59 of the third period, just 26 seconds after ex-Eagle Rick Hayward put the Roadrunners ahead.
A high-sticking penalty by Phoenix's Kyosti Karjalainen after he had been checked hard twice by Lessard, gave the Eagles a power play and they capitalized.
Sweeney sent the puck from the right side past Gosselin, who was screened by Simard, who, as we all know, was either in the crease or he wasn't.