Agozzino’s hat-trick powers the Colorado Eagles to win Game 2

Ryan Loberger

In the playoffs, you’re not really in trouble until you lose at home. Whether you’re the lower seed or the higher seed, winning your home games is critical when it comes to winning the series.

Colorado dropped game one of their first-round series to Bakersfield despite playing a well-structured game and only needed a few minor adjustments to get it done Saturday night.

Ad

“We didn’t make huge adjustments,” forward Julien Nantel said. “Just a little adjustment defensively, like to be more collapsed in the (defensive) zone. Besides that we knew as a group we did a good job (Friday) defensively and offensively, just (tried to) keep it going.”

Colorado Eagles mascot Slapshot fires up the crowd prior to Game 2 between the Colorado Eagles and Bakersfield Condors April 20. (Photo Courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

The Eagles skated to a 4-1 victory in game two behind a hat-trick from all-star forward Andrew Agozzino and tied the series at one a piece.

Condors goalie Shane Starrett was solid in Game 1. Game 2 was a different story. The rookie net minder just didn’t look comfortable and was unable to find his groove.

On the other end of the ice Eagles goaltender, Pavel Francouz followed up a great Friday night effort with a masterpiece in Game 2, as he turned aside 28-of-29 shots. Francouz had an answer for all but one of the Condors scoring chances and showed — as he has all season — that he’s one of the top goalies in the AHL.

“(He’s) awesome,” Nantel said. ”He was the best goalie (in) the league probably all year. Tonight and yesterday he played really good. Every game you know (he’s) gonna be there for us and it makes us more confident in our zone.”

The start of the first period wasn’t what the Eagles had in mind, a few bad turnovers and two icing calls produced four shots for Bakersfield in the first two minutes. Colorado got a break when Bakersfield was called for icing and forced an ensuing face off in the Condors defensive zone.

Center Cody Bass was able to win the face off and Nantel collected the puck and fired a shot that made its way through Starrett and into the net just over three minutes into the game. Colorado entered the game with a 16-4-1 record when leading after the first and are 23-9-2 when scoring first, and continued the trend. Nantel scored just his second goal of the season and first career AHL playoff goal.

Shane Bowers and Cody Bass huddle around Julien Nantel after he scored the first goal of Game 2. Colorado would go on the defeat Bakersfield 4-1. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

“(It was my) first shift so it was pretty nice,” Nantel said. “It was a face off and we were supposed to win it back but it went (the other way), got an edge on the other (defenseman) and just shot it on net. Feels pretty nice to get that first goal, gotta keep it going here.”

The Colorado penalty kill was on point again, going a perfect 7-for-7 and regained their scoring touch. Andrew Agozzino potted the Eagles 17 shorthanded goal of the year and first of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Agozzino fired a shot past Starrett while on a two-on-one just over 30 seconds into the penalty kill in the second period. Agozzino had clanked a shot off the left elbow earlier in the period that was deemed no goal. He didn’t make the same mistake twice.

Ad

The Condors made it a game in the third, defenseman Patrick Russell scored just over 90 seconds in to start the third period. It was a shot through traffic that beat a screened Francouz — the only puck that got past him all night.

On a power play chance six minutes into the third, Agozzino used a slick toe drag that dropped a Condors defenseman to his knees at the blue line. He fired a blistering shot past Starrett for his second goal of the game and regained the Eagles two-goal lead. Agozzino would add an empty net goal to seal the game and record a hat-trick with goals scored three ways: scoring a power play goal, a shorthanded goal and an empty net goal.

Mark Alt fist bumps Pavel Francouz at the conclusion of the Eagles 4-1 win over Bakersfield in Game 2 April 20. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

“You couldn’t ask for a better than that,” Nantel said. “He’s a huge leader for us all year, he was up (in the NHL) for a little bit, so that gave him (more) confidence there too. He was ready for playoffs, he wants to do well, he wants the team to do well. It’s nice to have a leader like that offensively as well.”

Colorado will take to the road for the remainder of the series and will have to steal two games from Bakersfield to advance to the second round. Colorado split the regular season series with the Condors, but the playoffs aren’t the regular season. They’ll try to replicate their performance the last two game while hoping for the same result they got Saturday.

“The main point is they’re really good offensively,” Nantel said. “They have some good guys in their top three lines… We just gotta keep going, road games are gonna be tough it’s a tough building to play in. We had some tough games there this season, so we’ve just got to play the same game we did (here) this weekend. The main thing is to play well defensively.”

Game 3 of the series will be April 23 at 8 p.m. The teams will then get a few days to rest before taking the ice for Game 4 April 27 at 8 p.m. with Game 5 taking place April 28 at 8 p.m. if necessary. 

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