Two good losses for the Eagles?

  

The Colorado Eagles’ season has finally begun! And while the Eagles lost both games this weekend against the San Diego Gulls, these are the kinds of losses that give a fan hope.

How? Let me explain. But first, let me start with the bad news.

Special teams woes continue

Special teams issues are nothing new to this organization. In 2018­–19, the Eagles’ power play finished dead last in the league at a rather depressing 13.8%. On the bright side, their penalty kill that year ranked sixth in the league. Logan O’Connor and Andrew Agozzino also led the league that year in shorthanded goals. Last season, the Eagles rose to 17th in the league on the power play, but fell to 16th on the penalty kill. The power play was so ineffective, Eagles fans joked that the team should be allowed to decline penalties like they do in football.

And this season? Obviously, two games is not much to go on, but the power play this weekend was generally underwhelming, converting on only one chance out of 10. The penalty kill allowed three goals in 10 chances. Those numbers definitely need to improve.

The good news

First of all, early indications are that the Gulls are a darn good team. Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked the Ducks/Gulls prospect pool at seventh in the league. This weekend, seven of the top 10 prospects named in that article were in the lineup—Trevor Zegras, Jamie Drysdale, Jacob Perreault, Lukas Dostal, Josh Mahura, Brayden Tracey and Benoit-Olivier Groulx.

The Eagles, on the other hand, were missing most of their star players. Colorado Avalanche injuries and the taxi squad took away a total of 16 players, including four of their top seven scorers from last season. To make matters worse, two more of their top scorers from last season, Erik Condra and A.J. Greer, are no longer with the organization.

Colorado Eagles top scorers from 2019–20 season.

The complete list of Eagles players missing from the lineup is impressive: Kyle Burroughs, Sheldon Dries, Dennis Gilbert, Martin Kaut, Jacob MacDonald, Jayson Megna, Keaton Middleton, Sasha Mutala, Logan O’Connor, Daniel Renouf, Miikka Salomaki, Kiefer Sherwood, Conor Timmins, TJ Tynan and their two main goalies, Hunter Miska and Adam Werner.

So who exactly did play for the Eagles? Here are the lineups from the first two games.

Saturday, Feb. 13

Alexandre Fortin – Shane Bowers – Jean-Luc Foudy
Ty Lewis – Mike Vecchione – Callahan Burke
Ryan Wagner – Josh Dickinson – Charlie Gerard
Travis Barron – Riley Woods – Nick Henry

Miles Gendron – Greg Pateryn
Brett Lernout – Ian Scheid
Matt Abt – Kevin Davis

Peyton Jones

Sunday, Feb. 14

Alexandre Fortin – Shane Bowers – Jean-Luc Foudy
Ty Lewis – Mike Vecchione – Riley Woods
Ryan Wagner – Josh Dickinson – Callahan Burke
Luka Burzan – Travis Barron – Jerry D’Amigo

Peter Tischke – Greg Pateryn
Brett Lernout – Ian Scheid
Matt Abt – Kevin Davis

Trent Miner

Of those 24 players, only two—Bowers and Henry—played with the Eagles all last season. Wagner, who had a goal in both games, plus an assist on Sunday, played half the season with the Eagles and half with the Utah Grizzlies (24 and 23 games, respectively).

That’s it. Three players left over from last year on the opening weekend roster.

Five more players—Barron, Davis, Dickinson, Lewis and Tischke—have all been staples in Utah for the last couple of years. Each have enjoyed the occasional call-up to the AHL, but were generally relegated to the bottom of the lineup. Gendron has played 52 game in the ECHL, but until this week, only one game in the AHL. And six players—Burke, Burzan, Foudy, Scheid and both goalies, Jones and Miner—were making their professional debut.

That makes 11 out of 24 players who are either ECHL regulars or rookies straight out of college or juniors.

The remaining seven players—Abt, D’Amigo, Fortin, Gerard, Learnout, Pateryn, Vecchione and Woods—all have AHL experience (although in Woods’ case, only six games), but were all playing their first games as a Colorado Eagle.

In other words, the Gulls were a high-caliber, undefeated AHL team, with a lineup full of hot young stars. The Eagles showed up, having not even played a single preseason game, with a roster made up almost entirely of rookies, newbies to the system and ECHL players. And yes, the Eagles lost both games, but they made the Gulls work for it, only losing by a single goal each night. Total shots on goal on Saturday were 38–33 in the Gulls’ favor, but on Sunday, the Eagles outshot the Gulls 45–29. In the third period alone, they outshot the Gulls 21–3, including the game-tying goal by Pateryn with only 13 seconds left in regulation.

Obviously, more of those shots need to find their way into the goals. But make no mistake, this team came to play, and they fought hard until the very end (something that, in my opinion, was missing in the 2018–19 season). It seems clear that every player in an Eagles sweater had something to prove. If anything, I worry that moving some of the “star” players off of the taxi squad and into the Eagles lineup will reduce that drive to succeed. But if those taxi squad players can bring their skills, plus an intensity equal to what we saw opening weekend? This could be an exciting year for Eagles fans.

Center Ice Forums Two good losses for the Eagles?

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    Marie Sexton
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    The Colorado Eagles’ season has finally begun! And while the Eagles lost both games this weekend against the San Diego Gulls, these are the kinds of l
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