After a closely played game one of the President's Cup Finals, most hockey fans expected game two to be another hard-fought battle that wouldn't be decided until the final buzzer.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
In a surprisingly one-sided game, the Colorado Eagles dominated the visiting Laredo Bucks in all aspects of the game, outscoring them 4-1 to take a 2-0 series lead and moving within two wins of the President's Cup trophy.
A lot was riding on the matchup; this playoff series follows a two-at-home, three-away, two-at-home seven-game series format for the Eagles, meaning that a win would guarantee that they could not be eliminated while playing their away games in Laredo. Colorado, and especially goaltender Tyler Weiman, has been very solid at home. The Eagles have not lost a playoff game at the Budweiser Events Center this season.
"This is the big one, the biggest game of the year," head coach Chris Stewart said before the game.
Colorado recognized the game's importance early on in the period, exploding to a high-pressure start that seemed to completely catch the Bucks off guard. The Eagles put up a whopping 18 shots on Laredo goaltender Jason Symington in the first period, as opposed to only six shots on Weiman. Mike Lephart opened up Colorado's scoring halfway through the period with a power-play goal rebound off a hard shot by Riley Nelson. Fraser Filipic added a tally just three minutes later, sliding the puck under Symington's right leg and into the net to give the Eagles a comfortable lead.
"You couldn't ask Lephart to get it in any better than he did," said Phil Crowe, Eagles director of player personnel. "It set the tone for the game; really let us play our style of play."
Colorado got comfortable a bit too soon though.
After Ryan Tobler took a penalty for high-sticking just one minute into the second, Mark Wires lit the lamp with a power-play goal that rejuvenated a sluggish Laredo team. The Bucks carried the momentum for the better part of the second until Filipic crushed their comeback attempt with a one-time shot off of Karlis Zirnis to retake the Eagles' two-point lead and give Filipic his first professional two-goal game. Laredo seemed all but out of the game after Filipic's backbreaker. Despite playing a solid start to the period, the Bucks were dominated for most of the second, mustering less than half the number of Colorado's shots.
The Eagles continued their dominance in the third, despite the Bucks matching their shot total for a period. Greg Pankewicz added a tally late in the period to cement Colorado's victory 4-1. The Eagles maintained a solid presence throughout the game, outshooting Laredo 42-24. Tobler capped off the game by roughing up Bucks bruiser Jeff Bes, as well as two other Laredo players, after the final buzzer.
The Eagles will play games 3, 4 and 5, if necessary, at the Laredo Entertainment Center in Laredo, Texas. The recently constructed arena is one of the league's loudest and toughest arenas.
"It's going to be a really tight series," said Eagles defenseman Matt Derosiers. "It's going to be really close."
Sunday's game will be broadcast at 6 p.m. on 99.9 FM.