It was a quick initial round of the playoffs for the Colorado Eagles who were tasked with defeating the Henderson Silver Knights in a tidy best-of-three series. All games were played in their home rink at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland and the Eagles took advantage of the home crowd to win both Games 1 and 2 by a 5-2 score. The sweep has the Eagles moving on to take on the Ontario Reign, affiliates of the LA Kings, in a best-of-five series in the Pacific Division Semifinals.
The lineup for Game 1 was very typical of how the Eagles ended the regular season. The look of the second line with Martin Kaut and Jean-Luc Foudy on the second line together has been successful over the last month. It was nice to see Justus Annunen back in net after an inconsistent stretch of play and losing starts to Hunter Miska. Absent Colorado Avalanche prospects include Sampo Ranta who is close to a return from a foot injury and Shane Bowers who has been a healthy scratch for the last few weeks.
Martin Kaut 5-on-3 PPG from Sherwood and Sikura. It’s been an eventful first period filled with penalties from both teams. pic.twitter.com/7OLZDdXPfG— Meghan Angley (@rightbyroy) May 7, 2022
The Eagles got off to a hot start in both games with two goals in each first period and never trailed in either game. Despite outshooting Henderson 38-24 in Game 1 it was a much closer affair in Game 2 with Henderson holding the edge 36-35. The top ten scorers for the Eagles are shown below as several Avalanche prospects had a strong series. Martin Kaut scored a crucial 5-on-3 goal plus it was good to see both Jean-Luc Foudy and Alex Beaucage contributing. Justus Annunen obviously picked up the two wins and 2.00 goals-against average with a .933 save percentage.
Moving forward the Eagles take on Ontario starting at home both Wednesday, May 11th, and Friday, May 13th. The series will then shift to California on Sunday, May 15th for Game 3 and then next Tuesday and Wednesday for Games 4 and 5, if necessary. Despite being the lower seed it is an advantage for the Eagles to have two guaranteed games in their building and they could potentially put a stranglehold on the matchup if they can win both of those home games.
The Eagles also got a gift with the Avalanche wrapping up their own first-round series in four games as both of their goalies in Justus Annunen and Hunter Miska were on recall and might not have been available for the Eagles had that series with the Nashville Predators been extended. Both have since been reassigned and the Eagles should have Annunen in net for Game 1 after the performance he had against Henderson.
As far as the rest of the lineup, both Jayson Megna and Jacob MacDonald were injured last week and their availability is unknown. Defenseman Dennis Gilbert had been on the shelf for a while but there’s hope he and Sampo Ranta could return in the postseason. Oskar Olausson is also still with the team and could make his North American pro debut. But the squad is largely healthy and should put out a lineup similar to what they entered the Henderson series with.
For their part, Ontario also swept their play-in series in two games against the San Diego Gulls putting up 10 goals in the process as well. In the regular season, the Eagles handled Ontario 4-2 in their six meetings with five of those games taking place in the month of April so the teams are certainly familiar with each other. Ontario had the league’s best power play this season at 27.5% but was poor on the penalty kill at 76.6%. Colorado had a slightly worse penalty kill so staying out of the box is going to be crucial. Ontario is a much more offensively driven team than Henderson so the Eagles will need to keep up their hot streak in order to win this series.