Eagles limp into playoffs

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Mar 262006
 
Authors: Jordan Duvall

After this weekend’s series with the Wichita Thunder, one thing was clear to the Colorado Eagles – nobody is invincible.

The numbers speak for themselves. Colorado out-shot their opponents by a combined 95-43 Friday and Saturday nights, including one period in which the Eagles managed 21 shots to Wichita’s four. But in the end it was another number that stood out this weekend for the Eagles; Colorado lost 4-1 in each of the two games.

These two losses were not the result of a lack of effort, said Eagles defenseman Jesse Cook.

“I thought the guys played pretty hard the last two games; we just couldn’t put the puck in the net,” Cook said. “But the guys came hard and we’ll be ready for the playoffs.”

Controlling the flow of the game for the better part of six periods meant nothing to the Eagles. Winning their second consecutive Governor’s Cup as the regular season champions meant nothing. Being the odds-on favorite to repeat as league champions meant nothing.

What mattered to the Eagles this weekend was that the Wichita Thunder came into the Budweiser Events Center and staved off the Eagles with some spectacular goaltending and sent Colorado into the playoffs with the bitter taste of a two-game losing streak – something relatively foreign to this squad.

Assistant captain Riley Nelson spoke about his team’s mentality heading into the playoffs.

“We are pretty resilient,” Nelson said. “We have had our ups and downs all year but for the most part we have been able to bounce back. We’re going to have to.”

In an uncharacteristically poor offensive showing for the Eagles, captain Greg Pankewicz was the only Eagle to score in both games, netting the only goal in each game.

“We just have to put the puck in the net,” remarked Nelson. “Both times this weekend we had numerous opportunities to score and for whatever reason it did not go in.”

Eagle goaltender Paulo Colaiacovo started both nights, surrendering six goals on 41 shots. For Wichita, star forward Travis Clayton led the way, scoring three goals Saturday night.

Eagles assistant coach Phil Crowe saw some similarities between Friday and Saturday night’s games.

“I thought the two games were carbon-copies of each other,” Crowe said. “We worked hard but we just weren’t as sharp as we normally are.”

The regular season is officially over for the Eagles. They begin their playoff journey for a repeat as league champions next week. The first two postseason games will be held at home against the Oklahoma City Blazers on Saturday and Sunday.

Jordan Duvall can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

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