So far this season, the Colorado Eagles have had little trouble handling their competition, racking up an overall record of 26-8-4; good enough for first place in the entire Central Hockey League.
Wednesday night's contest, however, posed a unique threat as they hosted the Amarillo Gorillas, the only team boasting a winning record against the Eagles this season (3-1). In order to avoid losing the season series to Amarillo, the Eagles needed to win the final two match-ups between the teams.
"Their whole team works hard, which is tough because you can't take a shift off," said Colorado center Riley Nelson. Nelson got things started early, scoring only thirty-two seconds into regulation for the Eagles, as a loose puck found him all alone at the top of the slot. Nelson's tally marked the 600th goal in the Colorado Eagles short franchise history.
Later in the period, Matt Desrosiers made a 2-0 advantage by scoring a power play goal from the point, off assists from Ryan Tobler and Sean Robertson. Amarillo answered however, cutting the lead in half as Brent Hughes scored with only two and a half minutes to go in the period.
Both teams tightened up in the second period, which proved to be much more defensive and hard-hitting. Although no goals were scored, Colorado goaltender Jeff Blair and his counterpart Jamie Vandespyker were tested often, both making several key saves. While Blair is officially the backup goalie for this Eagles squad, his play of late would suggest otherwise.
"He's really stepped up, giving us a lot of depth at the most important position on the ice," said Eagles head coach Chris Stewart.
Heading into the third period of play, Colorado held a 2-1 lead. Up to this point in the season, the Eagles have a record of 10-0-2 when leading after two periods of play, and they continued that winning trend as their momentum carried them through to the finish. Colorado scored two more goals in the third period as Nick Parillo and Sean Robertson each lit the lamp, and the Eagles held on to beat a gritty Amarillo squad by a final score of 4-1.
A crucial factor in this game was Colorado finding a way to slow down Derek Hahn, the Central Hockey League's leading scorer. So far this season, he had posted nine points in four games against Colorado, and the Eagles rendered him scoreless in this one. Maintaining their league-best record, the Eagles moved to 27-8-4 for a total of 58 points.
Colorado continues its 3-game home-stand this weekend, hosting the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees on Friday and Saturday night. The puck drops at 7:05 p.m. MT for both of those contests.