As far as the Eagles are concerned, they got THE record Saturday when they broke the International Hockey League win-streak mark with their 15th-straight victory in an overtime shootout, 3-2 over Denver in the Salt Palace.
"The record we have is the one we really wanted," says goalie Steve Guenette, who has won 11 straight games and allowed 1.90 goals per game in that period. "Everything else is a bonus."That's the attitude on the team. Everyone seems to be a lot more relaxed."
There is, however, another record the Eagles could break as they play at Denver tonight and Wednesday to start the final regular-season road trip.
The Baltimore Skipjacks won 16 straight five years ago, and that seems to be the pro hockey record. There is no central record-keeping body in hockey such as baseball's National Association, but Eagle officials so far have found no longer streaks, so it appears a win tonight at Denver Coliseum would tie the all-pro record and another win Wednesday would break it.
"I didn't even know about it," said Eagle defenseman Ken Sabourin. "We got the (IHL) record. The pressure's off."
Coach Paul Baxter and the boys have so far kept a pretty good lid on the situation. "I don't think we're so focused on the streak that we're not concerned with things we have to do to get better for the playoffs," Baxter says. "I don't think there's a complacency - `Look how good we are; we just have to show up.' I don't think that happens," he says.
"Winning is a by-product of how we've improved as a team. It's something tangible the guys can look at and see the fruits of their hard labor."
As the regular season's final week begins, the Eagles are battling for the championship and first seed in the playoffs. Muskegon has 113 points, the Eagles 111 and Milwaukee 107. The Eagles have one game-in-hand on the other two but have no more home games. Milwaukee has three home games left, Muskegon two, including the Eagles in the L.C. Walker Arena Friday night. The Eagles have 54 wins, most in the league.
Though he talks often about the Eagles' new self-discipline - in not taking dumb penalties and in playing proper positions to accomplish team defensive goals - Baxter says this trip is a time to improve and eliminate mental mistakes that still occur.
"We want to focus on making the right decisions at the right times during games," Baxter says.
Defensively, Baxter wants to continue to pester Denver scoring leader Simon Wheeldon, a hard-working forward who makes the offense go. Baxter and Ranger Coach Doug Soetaert engaged in a "chess match," said Baxter, in last week's two games. Baxter tried to get Sabourin on the ice when Wheeldon was, and Soetaert tried to match lines and Wheeldon away from Sabourin, who abuses forwards enough to throw them off their game without drawing many penalties. In Denver, Soetaert will have the last line change on every play stoppage, and Baxter expects more of the same. "Dougie is aware of Wheeldon's importance. As a five-man unit, we have to play him strong," says Baxter.
Guenette's not so worried about Wheeldon's goal scoring. "He scares me more with his passing ability," Guenette says of Wheeldon. Guenette adds that Wheeldon's an irritation, an agitator, who "has the talent to back it up. You just hate playing against a guy like that."
Offensively, the Eagles "Have to get some goals on Mr. Richter," says Guenette, talking about his Ranger counterpart, Mike Richter.
"We've got to solve Richter," agrees Baxter. "We've got to at least create a disturbance in the goal area. We've got to be better going to the net."
EAGLE NOTES - Eagle MVP Paul Ranheim was named IHL Player of the Week Monday for three games last week in which he had two assists and five goals, including two game-winning goals and a short-handed goal. He was a +5. Ranheim, with 65 goals, needs one to tie the IHL mark for rookies and 10 to tie the overall league record.