Things hadn't been going too well for C.J. Young since he rejoined the Golden Eagles last week after starring for the U.S. Olympic team in France.
That is, until Wednesday night when he scored two goals including the game-winner to give Salt Lake an crucial 4-3 overtime victory over the Kansas City Blades before 5,132 at the Delta Center.Young was making his first appearance at the Delta Center after three frustrating games in the Midwest over the weekend. "For me the first three games were a real struggle. It's been a real adjustment coming off the Olympic team."
That changed Wednesday as Young scored the Eagles' first goal and then stuck in the game-winner 1:16 into overtime.
"This couldn't be any better for me personally," said Young. "It's a nice way to come in for my first game in this building. I know the team's been real frustrated too, so it's nice to get a win."
The victory kept the Eagles three points ahead of Indianapolis in the race for the final playoff spot in the IHL. The Ice had defeated Muskegon ealier in the evening to climb within one point of the Eagles.
At that point, the Eagles were trailing 3-1 after two periods. However, they came out and played what Coach Bob Francis likes to call "desperate" hockey to tie the score and then win it on Young's goal.
"They don't get any bigger than this," said Francis. "This was a do-or-die situation for us."
The Blades got on the board quickly when Kevin Evans stuck in a rebound shot from a couple of feet out at the 3:22 mark for a power-play goal.
The Eagles tied it midway through the period when Young scored a power-play goal off a nice crossing pass from Todd Harkins.
The Blades broke through with a couple of goals in the second period to grab a 3-1 lead. At the 10:50 mark, Gord Frantti scored and then with just 37 seconds left in the period, Sandis Ozolinch flipped in a loose puck off a shot by Gary Emmons to give the Blades a seemingly comfortable lead going into the final period.
But Salt Lake came back to tie it with a pair of goals in the third. Alexander Godynyuk bounced a shot over the head of goalie Wade Flaherty at the 3:37 mark. Then Harkins made a nifty move on a K.C. defenseman, broke free and fired in a shot at the 11:50 mark.
The Blades had a chance to win in regulation when Salt Lake's Shawn Heaphy got called with a penalty with 2:25 left, but they couldn't capitalize on the ensuing power play.
Young's winning goal was set up by Kevin Wortman, who fired two shots at Flaherty. The second one bounced off the goalie and flew about 10 feet in the air and Young watched it land near the goalmouth before striking in a high shot into the net.
For Kansas City, which has held the best record in the league all year, it was a bitter defeat. It marked their seventh loss in nine games. Still Blades Coach Kevin Constantine wasn't too upset afterward.
"We're disappointed giving up a lead," he said. "But we got one point and right now that's good for our hockey team. We took a bunch of important steps tonight to climb out of a hole."
The Blades and Eagles will get to know each other quite well the next few days. They play again Friday night in the Delta Center and again on Tuesday.
"This is the type of game that can turn things around in a hurry," said Francis. "The guys deserve all the credit. They dug down and came up with an effort that hopefully will change everything around for us."