Eagles rule the Reign, split series against the Stars

  

The Colorado Eagles hosted the Ontario Reign this weekend for back-to-back matchups on Friday and Saturday night, then faced the Texas Stars on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ontario

The Eagles won both games against Ontario handily, despite having several key players out of the lineup.

The Eagles were missing Sheldon Dries, Logan O’Connor and Kevin Connauton, all of whom had been called up to the Avalanche. They were also missing Jayson Megna and Anton Lindholm due to injuries. Igor Shvyrev and Michael Joly were also absent for unknown reasons. Colorado had a total of six players from the Utah Grizzlies in the lineup.

The Eagles played the same lines both nights:

AJ Greer — Julien Nantel — Shane Bowers

Ryan Wagner (Utah) — Colin Campbell — Martin Kaut

Griffen Molino (Utah player currently on PTO with Eagles) — TJ Tynan — Erik Condra

Tim McGauley (Utah) — Josh Dickinson (Utah) — Nick Henry

Jacob MacDonald — Connor Timmins

Josh Anderson (Utah) — Peter Tischke (Utah)

Dan Renouf — Mark Alt

Hunter Miska

Friday vs. Ontario

The Eagles came into the weekend at 3­–2–0–0 against the Reign so far this season. These two teams were also neck and neck in the standings. The first 10 minutes of the game were exactly what one would expect from two fairly evenly matched teams—lots of fast-paced, back-and-forth action. At the 12:16 of the first period, Griffen Molino thought about taking a shot on net. Instead, he tipped the puck to Erik Condra in the left circle, who put it home, scoring the only goal of the first period for a 1–0 Colorado advantage.

The Eagles held onto their lead until 13:31 of the second period when Sheldon Rempal scored to tie the game at 1–1. At that point, the Eagles kicked their play into high gear. Less than a minute later, Jacob MacDonald poke-checked a puck away from Kale Clague. Nick Henry picked it up and slapped it in from the top the of the right circle, putting the Eagles up 2­–1.

Less than three minutes later, AJ Greer tipped in a shot by Jacob MacDonald during a power play for a 3–1 gap. Just 2:15 later, Shane Bowers chipped in a rebound to make the score 4–1, which ended up being the final score of the game.

Saturday vs. Ontario

Saturday night started out with a bang when Mark Alt scored a mere 50 seconds into the game to put the Eagles up 1–0. Colorado hung onto this one-goal lead through the first intermission.

Three minutes into the second period, Ontario’s Tim Schaller was called for tripping. It only took nine seconds for Jacob MacDonald to score a power play goal, putting the Eagles ahead 2–0.

A minute later, Ryan Stanton was called for roughing. Greer scored his second power play goal of the weekend to put the Eagles up 3–0. Just like on Friday night, there were no goals in the third period.

As in any shutout, the real hero of the night was the goalie. Hunter Miska was amazing in net, turning away a total of 34 shots on goal.

Texas

The Texas Stars came into the series ranked seventh in the Central Division at 26­–27–3–4. The Eagles have beaten some of the best teams in the league, so in theory, this series should have been easy. But any sports fan knows it does not work that way. Absolutely anything can happen, and in this case, it did.

Tuesday vs. Stars

Once again, the Eagles had quite a few call-ups from Utah in their lineup. Kevin Connauton and Logan O’Conner were with the Avalanche. Jayson Megna, Anton Lindholm and Michael Joly were out due to injury. Igor Shvyrev was a healthy scratch.

AJ Greer ­— Sheldon Dries — Shane Bowers

Griffen Molino — TJ Tynan — Erik Condra

Ryan Wagner — Colin Campbell — Martin Kaut

Julien Nantel­ — Josh Dickinson — Nick Henry

Jacob MacDonald ­— Connor Timmins

Peter Tischke — Kevin Davis

Dan Renouf­ — Mark Alt

Hunter Miska

The Stars came out hot and immediately began outshooting the Eagles. At 11:35 in the first, Colin Campbell tipped in a shot from Dan Renouf to put the Eagles up 1–0.

The lead was short-lived. Only 17 seconds later, Oula Palve scored to tie the game at 1–1. Exactly one minute after that, Jerad Rosburg scored as well, sending the Eagles into the first intermission down 2–1.

Things only got worse in the second. Five minutes in, Gavin Bayreuther scored, and two minutes after that, Joel L’Esperance scored a power play goal to make the score 4–1 Texas with 12:54 left to play in the middle frame. Things looked grim.

But recently, the Eagles have made a habit of having big second periods, and they were not finished yet. Colorado outshot the Stars 21–­7 in the second. With just over five minutes left to play in the period, Julien Nantel scored his seventh goal of the season to cut the margin to 4–2. Just over a minute later, Campbell scored his second goal of the night, bringing the score to 4–3 Stars. Then, 36 seconds after that, Nantel scored again, completing the comeback for a 4–4 deadlock.

Just like that, the game was tied. The momentum definitely seemed to be in the Eagles’ favor going into the second intermission.

In the third period, the Eagles absolutely crushed the Stars’ offense, allowing only two shots on goal the entire period. Unfortunately, one of those two shots went in and ended up being the game-winner, as Texas won 5–4. Final shots on goal were 47­–23 in the Eagles’ favor, but they trailed where it counted most. It was a disappointing end to an exciting game.

Wednesday vs. Texas

Sheldon Dries was crosschecked into the boards head first in Tuesday’s game and did not return. He was also out on Wednesday. Martin Kaut was called up to play for the Avs, but the Eagles did get Lindholm back.

Jacob MacDonald­ — TJ Tynan — Erik Condra

AJ Greer — Julien Nantel — Shane Bowers

Ryan Wagner — Colin Campbell — Griffen Molino

Josh Dickinson — Igor Shvyrev — Nick Henry

Anton Lindholm — Connor Timmins

Peter Tischke — Kevin Davis

Dan Renouf — Mark Alt

Adam Werner

The Eagles came out much stronger on Wednesday than they had on Tuesday. The teams traded scoring opportunities through most of the period, with shots on goal staying mostly even. Finally, at 17:02 of the first, Josh Dickinson scored an unassisted goal for a 1–0 Colorado lead. Check out the crazy angle on this one.

The Eagles went into first intermission up 1­–0.

The second period saw only one goal, as L’Esperance scored just over five minutes into the period to tie the game at 1–1. Ryan Wagner broke the tie 3:38 into the third for a 2–1 Eagles edge, and at 12:12, Campbell gave the Eagles a much-needed insurance goal at 3–1. Both teams ended the night 0-for-2 on the power play. Shots on goal were also much more even than the previous night at 36–32 in favor of the Eagles.

Special teams

Last season, the Eagles finished dead last in the AHL on the power play. They spent the first few months of this season at or near the bottom as well. Since then, they have risen to 16th in the league at 18%. Colorado has scored seven power play goals in their last seven games—a huge improvement over their special teams performance earlier in the season. This is largely due to Connor Timmins, who is excellent at quarterbacking the power play.

The Eagles are 14th in the AHL on the penalty kill at 82.4%. Their penalty kill has only given up one goal in 21 kills over their last six games, including two perfect games against the Milwaukee Admirals, who were first in the league on the power play until they faced the Eagles, and have since fallen to second. This is largely thanks to Mark Alt, who is outstanding on the kill.

Could special teams be better? Of course. The Eagles had multiple power plays in the third period on Saturday night. At least two of those could only be classified as awful. The Eagles seemed to fall back into their old pattern of dump and chase, never managing to get themselves into position. But overall, the power play is improving.

Hot-handed goalies

As of Monday, Hunter Miska was ninth in the league in goals against average at 2.38. He is fourth in the AHL in save percentage at .928. By way of comparison, Adam Werner is 26th in the AHL in GAA (2.98) and 28th in the League at save percentage (.907). Both are good, but Miska has clearly earned the starting position in net. But in the AHL, development of a young prospect is sometimes deemed more important than who is playing well. The Eagles may eventually end up with Michael Hutchinson as well once Philip Grubauer is healthy, so it will be interesting to see who gets the starts once playoffs arrive.

Hunter Miska warms up prior to a Colorado Eagles game. (Photograph courtesy of Amanda Potts / Colorado Eagles)

Big help from Utah

The call-ups from Utah continue to impress. In the NHL, it is common for call-ups to be dumped onto the fourth line and given very limited ice time. Not so for the Eagles. Colorado has Utah players on three of their four lines, and all four lines seem to get fairly equal time.

Over the last six games, Griffen Molino has one goal and two assists. Wagner has three goals and one assist. Dickinson also had a goal on Wednesday night. The Grizzlies are absolutely holding their own. As a result, the Eagles are winning games against very good teams, even with a third of their lineup gone. This is a true testament to just how deep the talent runs in this organization, from the Avalanche all the way down to the Utah Grizzlies.

Other takeaways:

  • Since being suspended for fighting back in October, Greer has kept his head down, frequently skating away from potential dustups. Saturday night was apparently his breaking point. He dropped the gloves late in the second period against Mikey Eyssimont, but did not completely lose his cool as he has occasionally done in the past.
  • Scoring leaders: Greer had two goals and four assists this week. Jacob MacDonald had one goal and two assists. TJ Tynan had four assists, and currently has 22 points in his last 19 games. Campbell had three goals and one assist in the series against Texas. Nantel also had two goals against Texas.
  • The Eagles have had very strong second periods lately. This is a nice change from previous seasons when they often seemed to fall behind in the second and be stuck digging themselves out of a hole in the third.

What’s next?

Obviously, nobody knows. All play is suspended indefinitely at the moment. But, this is how the Pacific Division looks at the moment.

Center Ice Forums Eagles rule the Reign, split series against the Stars

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