The Golden Eagles dropped their second-straight game Saturday night, but when Wayne Thomas' Peoria Rivermen defeated Milwaukee 4-2 a few minutes later, it gave Salt Lake the West Division championship despite its own 5-4 loss to the Komets at Allen County Coliseum.
The Eagles have a three-point lead over Milwaukee, and each team has one game left, meaning the Admirals can't catch up. The Eagles wind up the regular season today at Flint, and Milwaukee ends tonight at home against Kalamazoo.Muskegon wrapped up its ninth Huber Cup trophy for regular-season IHL championships with a 4-3 win over Saginaw. The Lumberjacks have 119 points,the Eagles 114 and Milwaukee 111.
No. 1 Muskegon will open the playoffs this week against No. 8 Peoria while the No. 2 Eagles will meet No. 7 Denver in the first round. The first two Eagle playoff games will be Tuesday and Thursday in the Salt Palace, and tickets are on sale. Milwaukee will meet Kalamazoo, and Saginaw will pair off with Fort Wayne to complete the playoff picture.
The Eagles have not lost three in a row all season. But then, they hadn't lost to Fort Wayne all season, either, going 5-0 against the Komets until Saturday night.
Fort Wayne never trailed and twice had two-goal leads. Paul Ranheim's 68th goal of the season gave the Eagles a 1-1 tie in the first period and goals by Jim Johannson and by Peter Lappin (his 48th) caught the Eagles up to a 3-3 tie at the end of two periods.
The Komets put the lead right back to two when the Komets' leading scorer, Mike McNeill, popped a power-play goal at 8:07 of the third and Joe Stepan followed with another goal at 11:06 on a headmanning pass from Guy Jacob. That turned out to be the game-winner.
Eagle Marc Bureau cut the lead to 5-4 at 16:38 of the third, thanks to a Jim Leavins steal and pass, but a high sticking minor to Brian Glynn left the Eagles killing a penalty for much of the last three minutes, and they were never able to pull goalie Wayne Cowley in time in the final minute to mount any kind of attack.
Cowley suffered his first regulation-time loss since February and is now 17-7-1.