The Komets have lots of injuries, but, said Coach Robb Laird, the same Fort Wayne lineup that lost 5-2 to the Eagles Thursday in the Salt Palace beat the league-leading Lumberjacks 4-3 in a double shootout at Muskegon Tuesday, so the ability's there.
It's just that the Eagles, who've won six straight, really put a game together against the Komets, who have the best goals-against average in the IHL, 3.27."It might be our best 60 minutes all year," said Eagle Jim Johannson, who scored two second-period goals six minutes apart to put Salt Lake up 3-2.
"I've said all along," said Laird, "I think Salt Lake City is the best team in the league. They have good size, finish checks well and wear you down. I feel sorry for our guys more than disappointed."
The Eagles, now 3-0 against the Komets with games Saturday and Sunday nights in the Palace against them, outshot Fort Wayne 15-3 and 19-4 in the first two periods and 44-15 for the game and put high pressure on the Komet net, particularly, said Laird, in the second period. Normally, Laird said, Fort Wayne moves opposing players away from its net, but Thursday, that didn't happen. "They do physically outmatch us," he said.
Paul Ranheim got loose up the slot at 9:52 of the first period, Johannson twice scored from right on the doorstep on rebounds of Rick Hayward shots, and Ranheim goaled again at 18:21 of the third from a few feet up the slot as Randy Bucyk fed him from behind the goal line. It was Bucyk's third assist. Ranheim's 54th goal of the season came short-handed into an empty net. It left him five short of the franchise record.
"They were victorious in the one on one battles," Laird said.
"That's partly because of their defensive system," said Johannson. "A lot of times you end up man to man, and they don't converge; you try to exploit that," he said.
Eagle Coach Paul Baxter said, "From a territorial standpoint, that was as well as we've done all year. We got quick pressure by limiting their time and space."
Rick Hayward, a defenseman, had another strong game at forward. "Hayward was sensational; he was dominant," Baxter said. He moved Hayward to forward when Shane Churla was traded to get "more of a physical presence" up front. "I'd be deceiving if I said I thought he'd play this well," Baxter admitted.
For now, said Hayward, he'd just as soon play forward since the Eagles have so many good defensemen. "You get to run guys up there without getting caught out of position," he grinned, meaning he could get in some hits he couldn't get away with as a blueliner.
He looked like a seasoned forward on the assist on Johannson's second goal, which turned out to be the gamewinner. Hayward came from behind the net for a wraparound. Instead of going to the short side like most players, Johannson observed, Hayward went for the long side, and that's why the rebound stayed alive long enough for Johannson to poke it in.
Another Rick with impact was defender Lessard, whose two hits took Komets out of the game temporarily. "They both went off; you gotta like that, as long as they don't get hurt too bad," Lessard said. Fort Wayne had three injuries - to Ron Pesetti, Don Martin and Steve Hollett - and Laird said all three would have medical checkups today.
EAGLE NOTES - Defensemen Brian Glynn and Ken Sabourin were called up to the Calgary Flames following the game as emergency injury replacements . . . The Birds got their 28th home win, one short of the franchise season record.