Eagles score four unanswered goals, down Heat in first game of weekend

Ryan Loberger

Friday night’s contest between the Colorado Eagles and Stockton Heat was a packed house at Budweiser Events Center and the Eagles fed off it. With both teams looking to make a playoff push, the division rivals were set to kick off the weekend series with a bang.

“This is a crowd that hasn’t had a home game in a while,” Head Coach Greg Cronin said. “They’re excited to watch us play (we want to) give them something to cheer about, throwing big hits and putting the puck in the net.”

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The Heat led the season series with a 3-0-0-1 record, the Eagles were looking to change the narrative and beat Stockton in regulation.

Stockton was able to score a pair of goals in the first period, the second goal coming with 8.5 remaining in the opening period. Stockton was able to capitalize 5:06 into the first, when forward Dillon Dube was able to poke home a loose puck through a sea of bodies to give Stockton a 1-0 lead.

Colorado had an opportunity to tie the game when awarded a power play midway through the first. Forward Logan O’Connor one-timed a pass that squeaked through the arm of the Stockton goalie Jon Gillies, but slid wide of the goalmouth.
Stockton would score again late in the first, when forward Spencer Foo was able to beat Eagles goalie Pavel Francouz with a shot on a rush into the Eagles defensive zone with less than 10 seconds remaining in the first period. The Eagles were slow to start the game and appeared to be out of the contest early.

“We just weren’t skating, we were flat,” Cronin said. “It wasn’t about systems or anything else, they were skating aggressively and we were just flat.”

After yielding two goals in the first period, the Eagles wasted no time getting on the board to start the second. Defenseman Nicolas Meloche fired a point shot that sat in the Stockton crease for forward Michael Joly to put home. Scoring less than a minute into the second period the Eagles had life.

“I don’t think we played a good first period,” Joly said. “The guys responded with a good second period, a good team effort in the third.”

The Eagles would knot the game at 2 in the second frame with a shorthanded goal from forward Andrew Agozzino. The Eagles forward leads the team and the entire Pacific Division in scoring, with 20 goals and 24 assists for 44 points in 44 games, as well as eight points against Stockton in the season series.

Eagles forward Andrew Agozzino puts pressure on Heat goaltender Jon Gillies during the game against Stockton Feb. 8 at the Budweiser Events Center. (Photo Courtesy of Colorado Eagles)

The Eagles would get a power play to start the third and forward Michael Joly would do the rest. After working his way to the slot from the right circle, Joly would fire a snapshot that found the left corner of the Stockton net, potting his second goal of the game.

“In the third we got the lead 3-2 and the guys gave it everything they had defensively, even though we had a couple penalties,” Joly said.

Stockton would get their chances in the third, getting four power plays in the final period, two coming in the last four minutes of regulation. The Eagles were able to fight off the late push by the Heat when forward Andrew Agozzino would score a short-handed empty-netter to seal the 4-2 victory.

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The Eagles were able to score four ways: a shorthanded goal, a power play goal, an even-strength goal and a short-handed-empty-net goal. The starting line of Toninato, Joly, and McGauley scored the goal to bring the Eagles back into the game, as well as the game winner.

“(Toninato) played his best game of the year, Joly had two goals, and McGauley gets better every game,” Cronin said. “They play with pace, there’s some chemistry there that’s good. We started them with (Stockton’s) Lazar’s line and I thought that was a good matchup.”

Saturday night puck drop will be at 7:05 p.m. and the Eagles will look to make it four-straight wins.

“We haven’t been good on back-to-backs this season,” Cronin said. “So we have to go out tomorrow night determined to win.”

Ryan Loberger can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @LobergerRyan.