Eagles one step closer to home ice in playoffs


LOVELAND, Colo. — The Colorado Eagles helped themselves a little more tonight against the San Diego Gulls. With a slow start, the Gulls would strike first and quiet the crowd in Blue Arena. Colorado could not counterpunch until the second period. As usual, the second game in the back-to-back is always a little more physical and gritty. Colorado would get the short end of the stick, incurring five penalties, one of which the Gulls converted to a goal. The scoring really opened up in the third period, with six goals between the two teams. In the end, the Eagles came out on top. The Eagles are one step closer to home ice now for the playoffs.  Here are my takeaways from the 5–3 victory over the San Diego Gulls.


— I am sure you all want to know about Nikolai Kovalenko. Tonight, he was not as much of a factor. He was playing on the tail end of back-to-back and at altitude. His positioning is solid, he just lacks some defense. He seems to float into the defensive zone a lot and fail to backcheck. It is understandable that he was tired tonight. He hasn’t played games since March 7th. His KHL team got knocked out of the playoffs when he got injured.

“I thought he created a little bit more last night,” said head coach Aaron Schneekloth. “Obviously a little bit tighter checking game tonight a little more physical on their part. They didn’t seem to have a lot of open space that they had, but I liked his tenacity. You know he had a real good, real good shot and follow up on his rebound that he almost connected on he has got a good stick. It was good for him to experience back-to-back and fight through one of these games.”

— The forechecking game for the Eagles was non-existent for the first part of the game. Last night, the Eagles were laying the forecheck on the Gulls nonstop. Tonight it did not start until later in the second. That is when the game turned around for Colorado and they could push the play more into the offensive zone. The forecheck would directly lead to a goal by defenseman Corey Schuenenman after Ryan Sandelin pushed the play hard into the boards. It made an enormous difference in the game for Colorado.

— Keaton Middleton has been a genuine leader on and off the ice this season. Several players, Sam Malinski included, have praised his leadership abilities. Tonight, Middleton scored his first career short-handed goal in the AHL and did not even know it. You can always see him directing traffic for the forwards and teaching the younger defenseman what to do. He wears the ”A” with pride on his chest.

“I don’t do anything different. I just kind of always been like that. I’m just who I am. I’m a vocal guy, and just how it’s always gonna be,” Middleton said.


The Colorado Eagles go into this weekend two points over the Abbotsford Canucks and with home ice. If Abbotsford loses just one game, and same with Bakersfield, Colorado clinches home ice for the first round. Abbotsford, against whom the Eagles have a 4-2-2 record this season, seems to be the likely first round opponent. The last two games against them got pretty rough, so it could be a long two or three games. The Eagles will look to take care of their side of things again on Saturday night against the Ontario Reign in Loveland.


Leave a Reply