By the end of the Golden Eagles' three-week homestand, a little of everything was happening in the Salt Palace. Paul Ranheim had at least one goal to show for all 11 games, tying a franchise record. Goalie Wayne Cowley was outplaying ex-teammate Doug Dadswell, mostly because he had a genuine defense in front of him. Eagle Coach Paul Baxter was feuding with former player Brent Saper-gia.
And the Eagles stayed in a tie with Milwaukee for the IHL West lead, thanks to five more third-period goals and an 8-4 win over the Indianapolis Ice. Milwaukee, which had split its last 10 games, scored a 6-2 win at Denver to keep a share of the lead.The Eagles left late Friday night for Denver, where they play the Rangers tonight in the first of seven road games. Their next Salt Palace appearance is not until March 9, which helps explain why a crowd of 8,121 - the largest non-Bikini Night gathering of the season - showed up. The fact they've won 12 of their last 13 games is another attraction, although Baxter was not completely satsfied.
"It could have been one better," he said of the homestand.
Just like Wednesday, when five third-period goals gave them an 8-2 win over the Ice, the Eagles waited a while to knock out Indy. They took a 3-2 lead into the final period before breaking loose, starting with Ranheim's goal on a tip of defenseman Michael Dark's slap shot. Jim Johannson, who would later just miss a hat trick by hitting a goalpost, delivered his second goal 80 seconds later and the Eagles had a commanding lead.
Cowley gave up a Sapergia goal in the middle of the period when the Ice had a 5-on-3 advantage, but Randy Bucyk countered to put the Eagles up 6-3.
One anxious moment remained when Alain Lemieux scored his second goal for Indy and Baxter took a bench penalty with 2:29 left by having Sapergia's stick checked - the stick was legal, which created all kinds of excitement. "That was a poor move," admitted Baxter. Sapergia taunted and laughed at his former coach, according to Baxter, resulting in an exchange as they left the ice after the game.
Before that, Bucyk scored an unassisted goal and Simard followed with 15 seconds left to stretch the Eagle lead.
"I shouldn't allow myself to stoop to an emotional level . . . that I do something irrational," noted Baxter. "I was close to doing something irrational at the end of the game."
On the other side, Sapergia was directing his anti-Baxter tirade to local reporters, concluding a vile string of sentences with ". . . and you can print that." No, we can't.
Added Baxter, "If there are sour grapes for certain individuals on their team from past experiences, let it ride . . . It wears on you - it's like some kid down the street who comes and rings your doorbell and runs away."
While the Eagles were racking up another eight goals, the Ice managed only 21 shots at Cowley, making only his second start in seven weeks after Steve Guenette was called up to Calgary Friday. Cowley was hardly tested, although Baxter said, "Their chances were sporadic, but I thought he was up to the task when the puck came at him."
Ron Handy, the Ice's leading scorer, spent most of the game behind the bench as an interim player-coach. A new coach, Reggie Thomas, will join the Ice in Saginaw tonight as Coach Archie Henderson continues to recover at LDS Hospital, following colon surgery this week.
EAGLE NOTES - The Eagles signed former CHL All-Star goalie Paul Skidmore, a local resident, as a backup to Cowley, just for Friday. Another goaltender will join the team in Denver; Guenette is expected back by the time the Eagles play again, next Friday in Denver . . . Stu Grimson's 15 penalty minutes allowed him to break an Eagle record for penalty minutes in a season, 332.