The beloved Eagles had a 2-1 week thanks to the return of some skill to the lineup and weak opponents. I’m sure that some in the Avs organization secretly take some satisfaction at the 4-0 sweep over the Rampage this year, if nothing else it definitely helps in the standings. The Eagles have 4 games remaining against their main foes in the playoff race, the Tucson Roadrunners, and 2 of those happen this weekend.
– The Eagles signed useless ECHL goon Kale Kessy to a PTO this week. Even worse, they played him when they didn’t have to.
– Jared VanWormer was signed to a PTO from the KC Mavericks and played in the Ontario game and 2nd Rampage game. Sheldon Dries was called up to the Avs on the morning of the Ontario game thanks to an injury to Matt Nieto.
– Michael Joly remains out with an upper body injury. He didn’t make the trip to Ontario and wasn’t dressed for the San Antonio games. The word from French media is that it could be a while.
– Cody Bass has a facial injury from blocking a shot that will require surgery at the end of the season. He came back anyway and proceeded to fight several times and is back on the injured list. It’s kind of scary, this might be for his own good.
– AJ Greer, Andrew Agozzino and Sheldon Dries were re-assigned to the Eagles just before the NHL trade deadline to retain AHL eligibility for the rest of the season.
– Sheldon Dries was then recalled to the Avs
COL 0 – ONT 2
PP 0-6, PK 3-3
This was the worst lineup the Eagles have iced all year and it showed. VanWormer was ok, he’s got some speed and ability to score in the ECHL, but it was pretty obvious he hadn’t practiced and had no idea on system stuff. Kessy predictably did nothing but try to punch people in the face, starting 10 seconds into his first shift. As for the game itself there were lots of non-dangerous shots and none found the back of the net. Ontario finally broke through with a goal early in the 3rd and that was all they needed.
COL 5 – SAR 3
Goals: Agozzino (O’Connor), Toninato (Greer), Toninato (Wars, Greer), McCormick (Toninato, Geertsen), Greer (Toninato, Alt)
PP 0-5, PK 5-7
After a truly awful 1st period where they were outshot 13-4, the Eagles buckled down and tore apart the Rampage in P2. Dominic Toninato had a 3 point period with 2 goals and an assist on the way to a 4-2 lead going into the final frame. Dumb penalties by veteran players was the underlying theme of the night with the first 5 calls going to players over age 25. The PK was mediocre other than a couple of shorthanded goals, they were a net even on the night. The power play was hideous, combining the Avs ineffective system with bad personnel choices, giving up more chances for the opponent they created for themselves. In a nutshell, the Eagles were willed to victory by two players that probably should be on the Avs roster right now in Greer and Toninato with a lot of help from Pavel Francouz.
COL 6 – SAR 0
Goals: Agozzino (O’Connor, Alt), Warsofsky (Aggz, Alt), Agozzino (Nantel), Greer (Kosmo, Meloche), Agozzino (Alt, O’Connor), Toninato (Greer, Kosmo)
PP 2-5, PK 4-4
Wow, where to start with this game. We’ve been through 3 years of Rodeo Road trips with the Rampage and their generally deleterious effects. They were 5 games above .500 with a decent shot at the playoffs when they left town a month ago, coming into the final match of the trip they had gone 2-7 and kissed the season goodbye. They put up a good fight in this one and it didn’t get out of hand until late in the 2nd when Aggz made it 3-0. A pair of goals with less than 5 minutes remaining made it 6-0 and that’s when the shenanigans began.
For some reason, Coach Drew Bannister decided to pull the goalie after Kale Kessy took yet another idiotic penalty with two and a half minutes to go. Logan O’Connor took a shot at the empty net while on the kill, like you do, and Jordan Nolan freaked out about it. He augured LOC into the open bench door and all hell broke loose. Very dangerous play and totally uncalled for. Calm was restored and hockey resumed until 3 seconds left when Kale Kessy and Chris Thorburn decided to have a goon-off. Former Avs pick Conner Bleackley decided to jump Kessy from behind while he was engaged with Thorburn and everyone went nuts. Rampage goalie Ville Husso was running around and face-washed former teammate Mason Geertsen while he was engaged with someone else. Pavel Francouz roared down the ice and flattened Husso much to the delight of everyone in the arena not wearing an ugly gray uniform. The refs had seen enough and the game was called with 3 seconds on the clock.
In retrospect I’m going to heap a bunch of blame here on Bannister for antagonizing and escalating the situation. Pulling the goalie in a 6-0 game is unheard of and did nothing other than increase tension. Putting a goon line out at the end of a blowout has no other purpose than to create mayhem. I don’t blame Coach Cronin for matching up his 4th in this situation, putting a skill line out at that point has plenty of downside. The outcome was inevitable.
Breaking Down: Week 21
Goals: +11/-5, season +151/-164
Made a nice dent in the goal differential this week. If they can get back on the plus side they should make the playoffs.
Shots: +103/-91 (53.1%), season +1635/-1772 (48.0%)
53% is a nice week but it was really inconsistent with a 68% shot share game, a 38% game and an even game. The Eagles still give up more shots than anyone in the league other than Ontario. They would have to outshoot opponents by more than 8 per game for the rest of the season to get back to 50% shot share, which isn’t going to happen.
Shooting percentage: 10.7%, season 9.2%
Save percentage: 94.5%, season 90.7%
PDO: 105.2, season 99.9
A 10.7% week is some nice shooting but like shot share it was really inconsistent. A 0% game with tons of shots then a couple of games around 20%, all against bottom-feeders. Goaltending was solid the whole way with the 1st San Antonio game the worst at .925, nice.
PP: 2-16, season 35-223 (-8 SHGA), 15.7% – 28th in AHL
PK: 12-14, season 204-246 (+14 SHGF), 82.9% – 8th in AHL
Special Teams percentage: 98.6, adjusted 100.7
The Eagles have reached their goal of being the most penalized team in the AHL with an average of over 17 minutes per game. As much as Coach Cronin complains about all the penalties they take he doesn’t seem to make that a consideration with his lineups and deployment. Four out of the top five PIM per game players are leadership vets over 26 years old.
Your scoring star of the week is Andrew Agozzino with 4 goals and an assist. He had fallen from 4th to 8th in AHL scoring while with the Avs but is right back in 4th now. Dom Toninato had 3 goals and 2 assists, AJ Greer had 2 goals and 3 assists. Logan O’Connor and Mark Alt both had 3 assists against the Rampage as well.
Pavel Francouz had a solid week letting in only 4 goals on 90 shots (.956) and earning a charging major for blowing up Husso.
– Tucson and Colorado are tied in points coming into this weekend’s showdown but the RR’s have 2 games in hand. This is pretty much a must-win situation and along with the 2 games left in Tucson the only way the Eagles directly control their destiny. They win all 4 and they set themselves up for success. Lose one and it’s dicey, lose two and they’re probably out.
– As you may have noticed I’m not a big fan of the Kale Kessy PTO. If it was just vs Ontario for vengeance against Kurtis McDermid or something, ok. The lineup was short and it is what it is. Willingly dressing an ECHL goon that can barely skate and adds nothing other than dumb penalties is a horrible decision. This comes on the heels of adding another goon in Max McCormick at the expense of an actual asset. Vets like Andrew Agozzino and David Warsofsky help teams win games, they are what a team should look for during the summer to add consistent scoring while the younger players find their foothold in the pro game. Vets like Kessy, McCormick, Grayson Downing, Caleb Herbert and Jared Van Wormer clog up the roster and have the dual effect of not scoring while also preventing the youngsters from playing enough to contribute consistently. They make teams worse, not better. I didn’t like the Cody Bass signing in training camp but he has had generally positive effects all year, much to his own detriment at times. In retrospect it was a good acquisition but that doesn’t mean that management should double or triple down on what he brings. Penalty minutes aren’t a positive stat and fights don’t win games in 2019. Games are won with skill and making it more difficult to win by constructing an old, slow, low-skill, high-character mess will only hurt in the long run.
The Roadrunners come to town tonight and tomorrow, time to go big.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.