Doug Soetaert was singing his Kansas City Blades' praises Tuesday night, but Thursday he had a sadder tune, even if Thursday's 8-2 loss to the Golden Eagles in the Salt Palace didn't look much different in the standings than Tuesday's 4-2 loss.
"Different team, huh?" said Soetaert, at a loss to explain where the Blades' cohesiveness went. They'd won six of seven coming into Salt Lake. "Our goaltender should have sued for non-support," Soetaert said.Eagle defenseman Scott McCrady said he knew what happened to the Blades. "I don't think they were the difference. I think we were the difference," he said. "We have a little more jump tonight. We created our chances."
Eagle Coach Bob Francis also considered the Eagles to have played better, perhaps because of "a little discussion before the game," he said. "We said we have something special going on, and as a player, you don't want to take it for granted. You want to build on it and see how far you can go."
What the Eagles are building is a knack for winning.
Salt Lake has posted an 18-2-1 record, 11-0-1 at home, of late. Overall they're 42-24-5. Young players like McCrady have become a part of that. McCrady had three more assists Thursday for eight in his last four games.
He sat out 27 games earlier, "but when you look at Scott, he typifies our team," says Francis. His point is that, since veteran Ken Sabourin was traded, young defenders like McCrady and Kevan Melrose have been asked to respond.
"He stepped forward," Francis said of McCrady. "Melrose," he added, "is the most unsung guy on the team, the most improved player in the league, an anchor back there."
Another man in that category, though he's a veteran, is Darren Banks, who had two of the Eagles' first three goals Thursday before earning a game misconduct. "He definitely had an impact on the game, and I'm not talking with his two goals alone," said Francis. "He has great presence, a physical force."
Banks opened scoring at 10:30 of the first period, a period that really was played fairly well by Kansas City, even if the Eagles did take a 2-0 lead to intermission, thanks to the first of Andrew McKim's two goals. Banks came back with the only goal of the second period when his slap shot from the boards sneaked through a screen set by an Eagle and a Blade.
The second period was a mass of penalties, with a couple fights and assorted roughings and cross checkings. "I don't think too many people are going to outbang us," said Francis, suggesting the Eagles responded well.
C.J. Young opened the third period with a goal at :35, and Rich Chernomaz scored the first of his two goals for the period at 1:25 before a power play finally helped the Blades solve Eagle goalie Warren Sharples. Kansas City got its goals at 5:12 and 12:12, but McKim, Chernomaz and Todd Harkins scored at 15:32, 16:26 and 16:51 to give the Eagles a four-game win streak and Sharples in ninth win in his last 10 starts.
The Eagles take off today for their last regular-season trip to the Midwest, playing at Muskegon Saturday. They'll be without forward Tim Sweeney, who stretched ligaments in his left thumb on the last shift of Tuesday's game. He's expected back for Wednesday's home game.