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2022 Calder Cup Playoffs

Special Teams Lead Eagles to Sweep of Silver Knights

Photo Courtesy: Rob Trubia

Special Teams Lead Eagles to Sweep of Silver Knights

LOVELAND, Colo. – Friday night marked Game 2 of the first-round series in the Pacific Division bracket between the 3rd seed Colorado Eagles and the 6th seed Henderson Silver Knights. With Colorado taking Game 1 in this best-of-three series, a win on Friday would see them advancing into the second round. Henderson, meanwhile, was playing to extend their season at least one more game.

No changes in net: Henderson would be sticking with Jiri Patera, who had an excellent Game 1. At the same time, Colorado would remain with the victorious Justus Annunen to guard the crease.

In an intense, penalty-filled affair, the special teams would shine through for Colorado en route to a 5-2 win and a clean 2-0 sweep over Henderson to advance to the second round.

First Period

The story of the first was penalties. Two minutes into the game, Henderson’s Ben Jones and Colorado’s Jordan Gross and Jean-Luc Foudy were already in the box for minor penalties. Henderson tried to take advantage of the extra open ice to strike early, with two big chances from Jonas Rondbjerg that Annunen would turn aside rather calmly. Colorado, sticking to their offensive game plan from Game 1, and one that carried them all season, countered at the other end. Alex Beaucage took the puck behind the net and threaded a pass to Stefan Matteau in the slot for a one-timer that beat Patera and put the Eagles up 1-0 just over 8 minutes into this one.

The penalties continued to pile out. Following the successful kill of a Mikhail Maltsev minor penalty, the Eagles saw themselves on a two-man advantage with Brayden Pachal sitting and Rondbjerg serving a tripping penalty, with Patera taking down an attacking Eagle. With all their talent and the open space provided, Colorado wasn’t going to be kept out of the net despite Patera’s best work. The cycling puck movement eventually found Martin Kaut at the side of the net, who deposited the puck into the empty cage to double up the Eagles’ lead to 2-0.

The penalty minutes had only just begun with matching minors given to Pavel Dorofeyev and Andreas Englund for exchanging some heated words and a couple of slashes at one another. The tensions continued to rise. At the end of the period, it was Pachal getting into it with Dylan Sikura. Both players were also given matching minors for roughing. When the dust settled on the first, both teams had a combined 24 minutes of penalties.

Second Period

It took over six minutes for the Silver Knights to respond, but their effort to play a more focused game and keep the emotions in check eventually paid off. Alan Quine’s vision allowed him to find Dorofeyev left all alone at the side of the net in a defensive breakdown for the Eagles. Dorofeyev got the puck over Annunen’s stretching glove to cut the Colorado lead in half to 2-1.

On the next shift, Kiefer Sherwood came flying down the wing on a 2-on-1 and fired a shot that looked to beat Patera at first glance. Upon video review, the puck entered from the side of the netting and got tangled up in the twine, resulting in no goal. In terms of penalties, the only infraction in this one concerned Colorado putting six skaters on the ice and them back on the penalty kill. Just as they had done all series, the Eagles used the extra ice and the Silver Knights’ aggressive setup to counterattack shorthanded, but the shorthanded chances from Ryan Wagner and Maltsev on two different rushes were stopped by Patera.

Patera and Annunen remained perfect through the rest of the middle frame, leading to a one-goal game heading into the third.

Third Period

The Eagles came out flying to put this one away in the final period of regulation. Their effort and tenacity on the puck forced a Silver Knights penalty, and it was Beaucage getting a slick backhand feed from the zone entry by Sherwood. Beaucage let a laser of a shot go from the right faceoff dot that beat Patera short side to extend the lead to 3-1 and send the home fans wild with jubilation.

The Eagles kept up the pressure, and with traffic in front, Foudy let a shot go that found its way through the screen and Patera’s five-hole for the 4-1 lead with 9:10 left in the third.

The tension continued to build in this one, with Dorofeyev going after a loose puck with a few shots to Annunen that the Eagles took exception to – namely Englund and both were once again sent off for coincidental minors. However, Henderson had one last gasp coming from their end. At the 14:22 mark, Layton Ahac took the puck on the left-wing and, with a perfect screen set up in front of Annunen, had no chance on the shot going far side to bring the Silver Knights within two goals.

With the intensity ramping up, Englund wasn’t done yet. He lined up Gage Quinney in the open ice and laid a massive, high hit that led to a huge scrum with the powder keg finally exploding in this one. When it was all said and done, Kaeden Korczak was given 2 minutes for roughing in response to the hit, and Englund was given a match penalty for a hit to Quinney’s head. Both players were also assessed 10 minutes for continuing the altercation as the emotions were running high on both sides.

Once the dust settled, there was still 2:39 remaining, with Henderson only down by 2 and on the man advantage. The Silver Knights decided to pull Patera for the two-man advantage but that opened up the opportunity for Wagner to throw the puck down the ice 200 feet and into the empty net. That iced this one at 5-2, which held up as the final score in this one.

Annunen made 34 saves in the series-clinching victory, while Patera stopped 29 of 33 shots.

Three Stars

  1. Alex Beaucage – 1 goal, 1 assist
  2. Justus Annunen – 34/36 saves
  3. Kiefer Sherwood – 2 assists

Takeaways

  • For a regular-season series as evenly matched as this one was, the Eagles were clearly the better team in both games. They played with pace, dominated puck possession, and just wore Henderson down to the point where they didn’t have the energy to match. The Eagles are talented, yes, but they’re also an incredibly well-coached team to keep up the intensity and pressure at the level they have done so consistently this season. In any other division, this team would have competed for a #1 seed.
  • As for Henderson, they should keep their chin up. Despite the ice being tilted against them this series, the Silver Knights didn’t give up until the final horn blared. This team has battled through all sorts of adversity, not to mention head coach Manny Viveiros’ own battles off the ice following his cancer treatment and his resolve to get back behind the bench and finish up this season with his team. Henderson made some noise in a hyper-competitive division and will be looking forward to a full season in their new arena.
  • As the Eagles get ready for their second-round series, they should probably expect to be without defenseman Andreas Englund for at least a game or two. That was not a pretty hit on Quinney, and he was lucky it didn’t end up costing his team in a critical junction of the game.

Looking Ahead

With their sweep of the San Diego Gulls, the Ontario Reign are locked in for a showdown with the Eagles. The best-of-five series begins Wednesday, May 11 at 7:05 PM MST. They will play two games in Colorado before playing the next 3 (if necessary) in Ontario.

Download the Field Pass Hockey app from the iTunes or Google Play stores or follow @FieldPassHockey on Twitter for the latest news on the AHL, ECHL, and SPHL throughout the 2021 season!

    Andrew Rinaldi covers the Chicago Wolves for The Sin Bin. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinWolves.

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