IRVINE, Calif. – The Colorado Eagles had to wait an additional week to start their 2021 AHL campaign.
After Colorado was slated to begin their season with two home games against Stockton on February 5 & 6, the Heat were moved to Calgary for the 2021 season by the Flames organization on January 26. The team moving across the border brought “Stockton” into the Canadian Division, thus nullifying its Pacific Division schedule (and the start of the Eagles season) in the process.
This pushed the Eagles’ season opener out to Saturday, February 13 against the San Diego Gulls.
The Eagles started the game off with a penalty when captain Greg Pateryn was whistled for a holding call at 0:54. After thwarting the resulting San Diego power play, Colorado then began to step up and gain an edge on their offensive zone entries. After both Jamie Drysdale and Antoine Morand drew penalties for the Gulls at 5:07 and 6:50 respectively, the Eagles found themselves with a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. Pateryn redeemed himself from the earlier infraction, scoring on a slapshot from the top of the right wing at 6:55 of the first.
Shots on goal were 7-3 in favor of Colorado late in the first, but San Diego generated a number of quality chances on rookie Eagles netminder Peyton Jones to knot the SOG at seven apiece by period’s end. The spurt of shots on net for the Gulls would be a foreshadowing of things to come from San Diego during the second period.
San Diego’s skaters came out of the first intermission with a little more motivation to neutralize the 1-0 Colorado lead. After the Eagles took the first three shots on goal for the period, the Gulls shot 13 straight pucks on net before Colorado got their next look. After enjoying a two-man advantage in the first frame of play, the Eagles found themselves with a 5-on-3 penalty kill of their own after infractions from Nick Henry (Holding, 3:11) and Ryan Wagner (Tripping, 4:46).
After Colorado killed their first penalty and Henry emerged from the penalty box, the puck found its way into the Eagles zone, ricocheting off of two Colorado defenders in the process. San Diego captain Sam Carrick then gained possession for an uncontested chance. Going forehand to backhand on the drive, Carrick lifted the puck above Jones’ pads for a power play tally at 5:39 of the middle regulation frame. With the game tied at 1-1, Colorado then went on a 12-3 SOG run to close out the second under the same score.
A Callahan Burke penalty at 19:53 of the second period carried over into the third for the Eagles. The resulting power play for the Gulls led to Vinni Lattieri possessing the puck on the left wing, firing a puck off on Pateryn and over Jones’ shoulder, hitting the crossbar into the net at 1:48. The 2-1 lead lasted for about four minutes of game time before Ryan Wagner pushed into the San Diego zone. Driving in with a 1-on-3 disadvantage, Wagner employed an evasive toe drag and wristed a shot past the glove of San Diego goalie Anthony Stolarz to even up the scoresheet again, 2-2, at 6:33 of the third.
San Diego would answer again just three minutes later. An Andrew Agozzino shot from the right wing was initially blocked by Jones, but the puck dropped down into the high crease. An eager Lattieri quickly swooped in and jammed it into the net for his second on the night at 9:30 of the final regulation frame. Lattieri’s go-ahead goal ended up being the deciding tally, as the Gulls would win by a final score of 3-2.
San Diego (4-0-0) joins Henderson (4-0-0) and Tucson (3-0-0) as the three remaining undefeated teams in the Pacific Division.
Jones saved 35 shots on 38 attempts in the loss; Stolarz netted 31 saves on 33 shots on goal in the win.
Colorado and San Diego face off again on Sunday at 4:00 pm PT / 5:00 pm MT.
The Eagles were missing Kyle Burroughs, Miikka Salomaki, Sheldon Dries, Jacob MacDonald, Jayson Megna, T.J. Tynan, and Dan Renouf for their season opener…the eight skaters were called up to the Avalanche taxi squad on February 12…Colorado was also without Martin Kaut due to injury…in addition to Eagles team captain Pateryn, Mike Vecchione and Ryan Wagner served as assistant captains to start the season…two rookies (Riley Woods and Miles Gendron) made their Colorado debuts in the season opener…four rookie skaters (Cal Burke, Charlie Gerard, Ian Scheid, and Jean-Luc Foudy) and starting rookie goaltender Peyton Jones all made their professional debuts Saturday…Foudy was pointed out in pregame by Eagles Head Coach Greg Cronin as someone the Avs wanted to see get a good amount of ice time for the season opener…San Diego finished 2-for-5 on the power play; Colorado went 1-for-4…Gulls Head Coach Kevin Dineen earned his 300th AHL career win with the victory Saturday night.