For the Colorado Eagles, game one of the Northern Conference Finals was about one thing: revenge.
The Eagles began the Northern Conference Finals last night against the Wichita Thunder at the Budweiser Events Center. The Thunder entered the game after only a three day break, ending their series against Bossier-Shreveport in seven games last Thursday. Their fatigue was obvious and the Eagles had no problem skating to an easy victory.
"It's great to get that first win under your belt at home, it's very important," said Phil Crowe, Director of Player Personnel, in an interview with 99.9 FM The Point. "It takes the pressure off."
The two teams played a fast paced first period, but the Eagles had the edge, more than doubling the Thunder's shots. Jaime Vandespyker played a solid period though, stopping all 13 of Colorado's shots.
In the second period, the Eagles sank their claws deep into the heart of the Thunder.
While the teams remained even in terms of shots, the Eagles hustled to recover missed passes and put much more pressure on Wichita's defense. Colorado managed to pick up goals from Greg Pankewicz, Mike Lephart, and Jesse Cook to go into the second intermission with a commanding 3-0 lead. A sold-out crowd that drove through a snow storm to cheer on their home team was energetic, looking for their first win against a Wichita team that dashed their playoff run just one year ago.
Thunder struck early in the third with a quick wrister by Nate Metcalf to start off Wichita's scoring. Jason Duda slipped a soft shot by the right side of Tyler Weiman halfway through the period to pull Wichita within one. But the final nail in the Thunder's coffin was but a few minutes away.
The back breaker for Wichita materialized in the form of Pankewicz, who tipped in an I-can't-believe-that-went-in shot from Ryan Tobler under the pads of Vandespyker. Colorado finished the game in grand style, with Fraser Filipic pouncing on Kelly Sickavish just before the final buzzer.
The Eagles had a lot of ground to make up for coming into the game, after making a quick, four-game exit against the underdog Thunder last year. Head coach Chris Stewart dismissed the importance of last season quickly though.
"It's silly to talk about last year. It's not last year, it's today. That's what counts," Stewart told 99.9 FM.
The Eagles and Thunder square off again tonight at 7:05 p.m at the Budweiser Events Center. The game can be heard on 99.9 FM.