Dec 012003
 
Authors: Justin Goldman

For only the second time all year the Colorado Eagles lost a

game at the Budweiser Events Center.

The Memphis River Kings, Central Hockey League champions from

last season, came in with a record of 12-4 and defeated the Eagles

6-4 Wednesday night. The Eagles got their revenge just two days

later, defeating the River Kings 5-2 on Friday.

“We weren’t ready in the first period, and that was my fault,”

said Eagles head Coach Chris Stewart about the team’s first loss in

eight home games.

“We felt them out way too long and gave them easy goals,” added

left winger Ryan Tobler.

Despite taking a 1-0 lead on center Brad Patterson’s third goal

of the season, the Eagles allowed the River Kings to storm back and

score five unanswered goals to take a 5-1 lead after two

periods.

Memphis was led by forwards Don Parsons and Jonathan Gagnon, who

are fifth and eighth in CHL scoring, respectively. Gagnon had three

points (1 goal, 2 assists) and was named the first star of

Wednesday’s game.

“It was unacceptable how we came out,” said Eagles forward

Karlis Zirnis. “We could have either made it a brawl or play the

game we know how to play.”

Zirnis tried sparking a third-period comeback by getting his

fifth goal of the season just 18 seconds in. His goal was followed

by Ryan Tobler’s 10th of the season and linemate Riley Nelson’s

13th.

But three goals in the third period were not enough as Memphis

held on to a 6-4 victory, ending the Eagles’ home winning streak at

seven games.

River Kings’ goaltender Jean-Francois Racine made 34 saves for

his first win of the season while Ryan Bach was not mentally sharp

in net for the Eagles. Bach only made 14 saves on 20 shots and

suffered his fifth loss of the season.

“We were hungrier as the game progressed, but we weren’t

mentally sharp,” Stewart said. “At the end of the day though,

there’s another game.”

Friday’s rematch was more of the defensive effort the Eagles and

coach Stewart were looking for.

The Eagles came out killing an early Memphis power play and

limiting the River Kings to only eight first-period shots.

Unfortunately, their physical play led to roughing penalties and

more time playing shorthanded.

A roughing penalty on Nelson halfway through the second led to a

power play goal by Memphis forward Alexandre Mathieu. That was

followed by another goal less than a minute later. River Kings’

defenseman Brent Ozarowski gobbled a horrible turnover by Patterson

and slid the puck past Bach for his second of the season.

“This is two games in a row we’ve spotted teams easy goals,”

said defenseman Brent Thompson. “We have to stop turning the puck

over and start finding our focus.”

Down 2-0, focus came in the form of Patterson, who made up for

his earlier turnover by scoring on a 5-on-3 power play to cut the

Eagles’ deficit in half.

Thirty-six seconds later, Tobler scored his first of two power

play goals as his linemates, Nelson and Greg Pankewicz, made

beautiful passes to set up his 11th goal.

Tobler scored another power play goal just two minutes into the

third. He took another nice feed from Pankewicz and found the net

behind River Kings’ goalie Shawn Conschafter.

Tobler’s second power play goal of the game was enough for the

win, and Bach had a better appearance, making 25 saves for his 12th

win. The Eagles added two empty-net goals by Mike McGhan and

Pankewicz and defeated Memphis 5-2 to go 13-5-1 on the season.

Pankewicz is still the leading scorer in the CHL with 37 points,

Tobler is fourth with 32 points and Nelson is seventh with 25

points.

The Eagles face the New Mexico Scorpions Wednesday to close out

a six-game home stand. The Eagles are 4-1 during the stint and have

outscored their opponents, 24-16. Meanwhile the team’s power play

has caught fire, going 3-4 in Friday’s game and rising to 23

percent – good enough for second in the CHL.

“Even when we are down four or five goals, we always feel we can

come back,” Tobler said. “We have to continue using our advantage

of being the more aggressive team and having that great power

play.”

 

OUTBOX

NORTHWEST DIVISION STANDINGS AS OF MONDAY Division

Team GP W L OTL PTS

COL. 19 13 5 1 27

OK.C 21 11 8 2 24

Tulsa 19 9 6 4 22

N.Mex 18 8 9 1 17

Wichit 19 7 9 3 17

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