After two straight losses to open the season, Colorado Eagles head coach Greg Cronin finds fault in the teams lack of discipline and inability to move the puck across the neutral zone.
The group finished the weekend with 50 penalty minutes in two games and frequently turned the puck over at crucial moments. While the combined 9,938 fans at the Budweiser Event Center voiced their disappointment with the officiating, the young group had little self-control and forced their penalty kill unit to find a new level.
“Cherry pick which ones are good calls or bad calls but you can’t take penalties,” Cronin said following Saturday’s loss. “You can’t turn pucks over against a team that has that much offense and we did both tonight.”
Saturday’s troubles started early - 1:05 into the game - when Chicago defenseman Zac Leslie took a shot from the point that redirected off the end wall and found the stick of Gage Quinney who quickly located the back of the net.
Ten seconds later, Chicago’s Reid Duke took advantage of a failed Colorado breakout to put his team up by two. That’s two goals off non-scoring chances, 5-on-5, within the first 1:15 of the game.
Although the game was still within reach at that point, the Eagles dwindled their opportunities from there on out through a continuous stream of unnecessary penalties.
At the 5:10 mark, A.J. Greer took a two-minute penalty for roughing, while Dominic Toninato received a double minor for high-sticking. A full two-minute 5-on-3 followed by a two-minute 5-on-4 penalty kill.
“I don’t think I’ve been in a game in 30-years and a first period where I saw a five-minute major, a double minor, and two minutes of the double were a 5-on-3,” Cronin continued. “That’s 11 minutes of penalty killing in one period.”
They tacked on an additional five-minute major and a game misconduct from Sergei Boikov for charging, and another two minutes for roughing from Andrew Agozzino, before the end of the period.
Colorado went to their locker room down 3-1 after 20 minutes.
The second period brought little improvement for the Eagles as Nicolas Meloche went to the box for cross-checking, David Warsofsky for slashing, and Agozzino with a double minor for high-sticking.
Still, the game wasn’t completely out of reach until an ill-timed turnover with all five players committed in the offensive zone.
“The goal that was a back-breaker was the fourth goal. We have a rush while the (defense) was up in the play. We turn it over and they come down in a 3-1.”
Before the final horn blew, the Eagles combined for 33 penalty minutes and a game misconduct. They went a very unimpressive 0-for-7 with the man advantage while their penalty kill kept the game from becoming a complete disaster by successfully killing all nine penalties.
A final score of 5-1 sent Chicago home with a seasoning opening two game win streak.
In discussions with both Coach Cronin and team captain Mark Alt, it was apparent that the frustration is mounting due to the number of turnovers at crucial moments and the teams complete lack of game discipline.
“Turnovers are part of the game,” emphasized Cronin. “You’re not going to have a turnover-free game, but we had turnovers in bad times of the game and they were along the offensive blueline where they had good gaps.”
This is a group of players who have had very little time to develop any sort of chemistry as roster moves continued to shift the team’s lineup up until their home opener. Their breakouts will undoubtedly improve throughout the season but to accomplish that, they have to keep out of the box and play 5-on-5 hockey as you can only replicate a game so much in practice.
The Eagles have a full weeks rest before they head out on the road for a two game series against the San Antonio Rampage.