The Colorado Eagles kicked off their inaugural season in the AHL Friday evening with a 5-3 loss to the San Jose Barracudas. Eagles goaltender Spencer Martin did all he could to keep the game in reach by stopping 37 of the 41 shots he faced and could easily have been the star of the night.
In his first season with the Eagles, head coach Greg Cronin skated a mixed preseason roster that included multiple players on professional tryouts as well as ten familiar faces returning from last years ECHL squad.
The Eagles opened up the scoring 13:32 into the first period when Michael Joly found the back of the net with a backhand wrap-around on Barracudas goalie Josef Korenar. Joly, who was named the MVP of the 2018 ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs, finished last season with 41 goals and 52 assists.
It didn’t take long for a Barracuda response as a streaking Jeremy Roy tied it up with a snap-shot from the right wing.
The period ended deadlocked at 1-1 with San Jose leading in shots 14-9. Cronin’s squad struggled to get the puck across the neutral zone and had some ill-timed turnovers while breaking out of their own end. Again, if it wasn’t for the fantastic goaltending of Spencer Martin, the score could have been higher.
The second period got off to a quick start as San Jose grabbed the lead after just 2:44 when forward Tim Clifton sent the puck across the slot to a waiting Jon Martin who capitalized on an open net.
With the score set at 2-1, the game started to heat up.
The Eagles found themselves short-handed four times in the second period but stood up to the challenge and kept San Jose from increasing their lead. The top penalty kill line of R.T. Rice, Tim McGauley, Sergei Boikov, and Josh Anderson looked fantastic as they prevented any passes into the slot and managed to get in front of multiple shots from the point.
With only 38 seconds remaining in the second, Barracuda forward Francis Perron poked a loose puck into the Eagles goal to give his team a two-goal lead.
The third period started off strong for the Eagles who kept the pressure on and played an aggressive forecheck in the neutral zone. The penalties continued to pile up — a total of ten in the game — and goaltender Spencer Martin was forced to fend off some solid scoring chances from San Jose.
Michael Joly was able to skillfully beat three defenders as he worked across the slot and rang a shot off the crossbar which landed behind the Barracuda goalie. In what seemed like an eternity, the puck sat in the crease before Eagles forward Grayson Downing was able to poke it across the goal line.
They were back within one.
The Eagles kept the pressure on but it was San Jose’s Tim Clifton who would score next as he bounced a tight angle shot off the back of Martin and into his net.
Colorado found themselves back on the power play with the clock running down and pulled the goalie for an extra attacker but Barracuda forward Evan Weinger found the empty net from half-ice to put them back up by two.
As the game entered its final seconds, Downing netted his second of the night for Colorado on a 5-3 power play but with only 19 seconds remaining, it was too little, too late as the Barracudas took the win by a final score of 5-3.
* Final shots on goal: Colorado 27, San Jose 42.
The eagles cap off their preseason with another game against San Jose tonight at Budweiser Event Center. Puck drop is set for 7:05 pm.