Eagles ready for dogfight against Tucson as playoff push continues

Ryan Loberger

Riding a wave of momentum through the month of March the Colorado Eagles currently find themselves in the playoff picture. Nothing is set in stone yet, and the team is still trying to secure their first ever appearance in the Calder Cup playoffs.

The Eagles were able to jump over the Tucson Roadrunners at the beginning of the month after they secured all eight points during a four-game series at Budweiser Events Center. Colorado swept back-to-back series against the San Antonio Rampage and Tucson.

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The Eagles then went on to accumulate a nine-game win streak to carry them into the playoff picture. However, all good things must come to an end. The Eagles have dropped their last three games and now find themselves only four points ahead of Tucson.

The Roadrunners have two games in hand over Colorado, making the head-to-head series this weekend crucial for both clubs.

“We’re in dog fights in our standings and right now every game is a game seven, and that’s the mentality we have to have going into Tucson.” -Mark Barberio

Colorado dropped their last contest in OT by a score of 3-2 after getting shut out 2-0 in the first game of last weekends series with the Manitoba Moose. Manitoba came away with four points on the weekend and the Eagles managed just a single point to keep a four-point lead over the Tucson Roadrunners for the final playoff spot.

“Our challenge in Tucson is going to be breaking out of the swarm they play within the (defensive) zone, maintain some quality possessions and defend against their four-man attack because they get up the ice in a hurry,” Head Coach Greg Cronin said.

a player skates with a hockey stick
Michael Joly looks for a pass in his first game back after missing 15 games due to an undisclosed injury. (Photo Courtesy of Colorado Eagles)

The Eagles are hoping some key additions will aid their playoff push, forward Michael Joly returned to action against Manitoba. Joly had missed the previous 15 games with an undisclosed injury, Joly last played Feb. 9 when Colorado suffered a 6-2 loss at the hands of the Stockton Heat.

Joly’s return to the lineup couldn’t have come at a better time as Colorado is still without leading scorer Andrew Agozzino, who is still on a call-up with the Colorado Avalanche.

The Eagles also received Colorado Avalanche defenseman Mark Barberio, who will join the team on the road trip to Tucson after being loaned to the Eagles on a two-game conditioning assignment.

“He’s a veteran, he’s been around awhile, he’s won a Calder Cup,” Cronin said. “You just watch him in the one-on-ones in practice (with) his stick positioning … it’s gonna be a big bonus for us and we’re gonna try and play him as much as we can. It’ll be good for him too because he’s got to get into game shape and help the Avalanche down the stretch.”

Barberio joins the Eagles as they make their playoff push, although he hasn’t played in an NHL game since Jan. 21 and has only played in 12 games this season. After spending the majority of the season out of the line up due to two injuries, Barberio is optimistic about returning.

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“It’s been a tough season injury-wise for myself,” Barberio said. “These things happen when you play a sport that’s high velocity, high contact. I’m excited to get back to playing some games and meaningful hockey. I know the Eagles are in a dogfight for the last playoff spot, so I’m just excited to come and help the boys. I think both teams right now, wether it’s with the Avs of the Eagles, we’re in dog fights in our standings. Every game is a game seven. That’s the mentality we have to have going into Tucson.”

The Eagles fly to Tucson to battle Friday and Saturday, looking to keep their narrow lead over the Roadrunners.

The puck will drop Friday night at 8:05 p.m. at The Tucson Convention Center.

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