The playoff push that the beloved Eagles have made over the last few weeks is truly remarkable. I figured Tucson going in the tank would be the only way they could get back in it, and Tucson has definitely tanked, but Colorado has taken care of their side of it to the point that what Tucson does isn’t all that important. San Diego has not been a place that the Eagles/Rampage have found much success over the years but they went in this weekend and produced a pair of shutouts. Nice job.
– The flu has been making the rounds through the lineup. Igor Shvyrev didn’t make the trip due to illness. Pavel Francouz played through it Friday night but the team had to sign an EBUG to back up Marty on Saturday.
– Michael Joly and Cody Bass are still out with UBIs and didn’t make the trip either.
– Josh Dickinson was called up from Utah to handle 4C duties.
– Sheldon Dries was returned from the Avs on Friday and played Saturday night in San Diego.
– Nic Meloche was injured midway through game 1 and didn’t return or dress for game 2. Kevin Davis took his place.
– Mark Alt left game 2 early and didn’t return so basically the Eagles played with 5D for most of the two games.
COL 1 – SD 0
Goal: Toninato (Wars, Greer)
PP 0-1, PK 4-4
Dom Toninato’s goal with less than 8 minutes remaining was about the only highlight of the night but the team in general should be commended for a disciplined strategy with lots of puck possession and few mistakes. Nic Meloche left the ice halfway through doubled over in pain. He’s dealing with something chronic and whatever it is it let go again. Francouz didn’t have to deal with a lot of volume, never facing more than 9 shots in a period, but handled the few dangerous Gulls chances easily.
COL 2 – SD 0
Goals: McGauley (Greer, Geertsen), Greer (McGauley, Davis)
PP 0-4, PK 2-2
Tim McGauley tipped a Greer shot past Kevin Boyle halfway through the 1st and that was all the Eagles would need. Mark Alt left the game around that time with what appeared to be some kind of face or eye injury. Also around then Spencer Martin’s mask broke and he ended up using the EBUG’s generic black mask for most of the game. A brush with greatness. Greer added some insurance with a few minutes left and that’s all she wrote.
Breaking Down: Week 21
Three goals is pretty light production for a two-game set but it turned out to be one more than they needed. Given the shot volume, somewhere north of 5 goals would be expected. Then again 4.68 goals against would be expected too and that would be 4.68 more than they gave up.
Playing to the score works fine until it doesn’t. The ability to win low scoring games is pretty crucial in the playoffs so I guess they may as well learn how. As Coach Cronin has mentioned many times, there’s not a lot of scoring talent on the roster so figuring out how to shut everyone out would be a great strategy.
Shots: +58/-52 (52.7%)
I’d love to have the shot attempt numbers for the weekend, pure SOG was fairly low-event but it didn’t always feel like that. The Eagles had the puck a lot and just didn’t generate many scoring chances while the Gulls just didn’t do anything. The 14 shots San Diego had in the 1st period of game two was the only period over 10 and more than a quarter of their total output for the weekend. This was a masterstroke of shot suppression via possession.
Shooting percentage: 5.2%
Save percentage: 100%
Given that the power play is a lost cause and generating quality chances is tough when cycling and grinding all night, the shooting percentage isn’t all that surprising. Aggz is one of the best finishers on the team and he wasn’t around so the onus was left on the top line and that’s where all 3 goals came from. Those guys, Greer, Toninato and Lewis/McGauley, went 3-for-13 (23%) while everyone else got blanked.
A bit of a change from normal Eagles games, only 11 combined PP/PKs all weekend when on average we would see around 18. It was a very low event set in general for penalties with Colorado only having 12 minutes per night, close to 5 minutes below their average. Coach Cronin has been pleading with the guys to stay out of the box and they finally obliged.
Your scoring star of the week is AJ Greer who scored one goal and assisted on the other two. Tim McGauley tipped a Greer shot in for a goal then turned around and assisted on Greer’s late goal, both in game two. Dominic Toninato gets a very honorable mention for scoring the only goal in game one.
The goalies stole the show both nights with Frankie getting a shutout while battling the flu on Friday and Marty backing that up with his own the next evening.
The Eagles have won 6 in a row and 7 out of their last 10. In that same time Tucson has lost 7 in a row, two of those to Colorado, and are 1-7-2 in their last 10. A total reversal of fortunes for both teams. As recently as two weeks ago the Eagles were 3 points out of 4th in the Pacific, now they are 7 points up on the RR’s sitting in 5th. Even with just 12 games left the clinching scenarios are pretty far off. The magic number is 22 points, so any combo of Eagles wins or Roadrunners not wins that add up to 22 gets us close to the clincher. Both teams have 6 games before they meet for the final time in the desert. It’s unlikely but if the Eagles win all 6 and Tucson takes 2 points or less in their 6 then the spot will be decided before they play. Which would be hilarious. Odds are that the spot could be decided that weekend with 8 “magic” points on the line if Colorado can win both.
In all honesty, the Eagles should be looking up rather than down. They are only 2 points in back of San Jose and San Diego, currently tied for 2nd with 66. Yes, home ice in round 1 is within reach. Dream big.
I’ve mentioned a few times that some reinforcements could be on the way. Shane Bowers and BU head into the Hockey East tournament next weekend as an underdog at UMass Lowell. By Sunday it’s possible he would be available to turn pro and play in the AHL. Denis Smirnov (PSU) and Cam Morrison (Notre Dame) are a couple of NCAA juniors that the Avs might have some interest in signing this Spring. Both are headed to the Big 10 semifinals next weekend and their seasons will end with losses just like BU. There are a few others that could be available later in the season once their teams finish up but those three are the most immediate help currently on the Avs reserve list.
An odd week for Colorado, a pair of home games against Ontario on Tues/Weds then back to California for a pair of matinees at San Jose on Sat/Sun. Those Ontario games are the last mid-week matches of the year so after that they play weekends only with plenty of practice time until the regular season closes on April 13th.
Thanks to the AHL for stats and standings and to the Colorado Eagles for the feature photo.