The Salt Lake Golden Eagles shot their way into the professional hockey record books Saturday night with a 3-2 "shoot-out" victory over the Denver Rangers.
The win upped the Eagle winning streak to 15, setting an International Hockey League record for consecutive victories. The IHL record is now two games better than the National Hockey League record.After a scoreless first period, the Eagles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second period and seemed in control. Salt Lake got its first goal at the 3:48 mark when Chris Biotti slapped the puck in from near the blue line after taking a centering pass from Rich Chernomaz. It was a clean shot that found all net.
The Eagles missed an opportunity to add a second goal seconds later when the puck slithered past everyone - including Denver goalie Mike Richter - during a wild scramble in front of the goal. But the puck stopped inches short of going in the net and a Denver defenseman was finally able to scoop the puck away from danger.
Six minutes later though, Eagle left wing Paul Ranheim slipped in front of the Denver goal and flicked in a pass from Jim Johannson to put the Eagles up 2-0 at the 9:34 mark.
Denver didn't let down and got on the board at the 16:50 mark when center Simon Wheeldon followed his shot and slapped in the rebound off Eagle goalie Steve Guenette.
The intensity of the physical play of the first two periods started to show in the third period as both teams tired. Salt Lake managed to keep most of the pressure on Denver by keeping the puck in the Ranger end of the rink. The game seemed destined to wear down into a 2-1 Eagle win until the 7:39 mark when the Eagles mishandled a pass in front of their own net allowing Denver's Kevin Miller to skate in all alone on Guenette to score the tying goal.
The Eagles had their chances to pull the game out in the closing minutes but Richter slapped away a breakaway shot by Salt Lake's Randy Bucyk and then weathered a Ranheim slap shot right in front of the net to preserve the tie and force overtime.
Again, Salt Lake applied the pressure, but again Richter turned the puck away and the overtime ended with the teams still deadlocked at 2-2.
In the shootout, Guenette turned away four Denver shots while Ranheim and Biotti found the net for the Eagles to give Salt Lake a 3-2 win and the record.
"That was playoff hockey out there tonight," said Denver coach Doug Soetaert.
Salt Lake's Paul Baxter agreed and both coaches said their teams appear ready for the playoff's which start April 11 for the Golden Eagles.
"This was one of those games where the players are exhausted, when they have virtually nothing left at the end," Baxter said. "I can't say enough for the enthusiasm and courage these men have shown over the last month."
Baxter noted that while luck is a factor in setting records, he added, "Luck is also a result of opportunity and preparation. We took advantage of every opportunity."
"It's (the record) a great legacy for the players," Baxter continued. "They worked hard and they deserve it. But the streak is a close to being over as the next game."
The Eagles' next game is Tuesday at Denver.