It had been 55 games since the Golden Eagles were last held to one goal in a game, but in one of the most important games of the late season, the Lumberjacks downed Salt Lake 4-1.
The 'Jacks thus moved three points ahead of the Eagles for first place in the International Hockey League with two games remaining for each team.Any Eagle win or loss by Milwaukee this weekend would give Salt Lake the West Division championship, but the Admirals dodged that bullet Friday night. They beat Denver 6-4 in the Bradley Center.
Should the Eagles lose all of their remaining games and the Admirals win all of theirs, the Eagles would finish third overall and probably play Kalamazoo in the playoffs. It appears, however, that they will finish second overall and probably play Denver. The winner of the Huber Cup for the regular season will play eighth-place Peoria.
Muskegon plays a home-and-home series with Saginaw today and Sunday, while the Eagles are at Fort Wayne today and at Flint Sunday. Milwaukee meets Peoria and Kalamazoo in its final two.
Both teams now have 55 wins. Muskegon has 18 losses, the Eagles 21.
With the loss, the Eagles' frustrations in the state of Michigan continued. They are 1-10 in games in that state.
The Eagles never got going in this one before a packed (4,331) house at L.C. Walker Arena, falling behind 2-0 as Brad Aitken scored on a 2-on-1 break at 13:44 of the first period and Scott Gruhl added another score at 14:17.
Rick Hayward then scored the lone Eagle goal at 14:37 of the first period, getting off a 20-foot snap shot to beat the league's winningest goalie, Lumberjack rookie Bruce Racine, who took his 37th victory.
Randy Bucyk and Rich Chernomaz had the assists.
The second period was scoreless until 18:34, when Dan Frawley's rebounder went past Eagle goalie Steve Guenette.
Guenette, the former Lumberjack goalie, lost for the first time since March 3 and for only the fifth time since he joined the Eagles in mid-January from Muskegon in a trade for a sixth-round draft choice. He had won 12 straight games going into Friday's outing.