Eagles fall to San Jose, set up all-important season finale

Ryan Loberger

The past two weeks have been anything but a cakewalk for the Colorado Eagles. After splitting their final series with the Tucson Roadrunners, both teams are battling for the final playoff spot in the division. The Eagles found themselves on the road again, this time battling the Western Conference-leading Chicago Wolves. Colorado split that series as well, keeping them in playoff contention with a decisive 3-2 shootout victory.

“t’s an intense game. they want to win, we want to win and nobody wants to give an inch.” Andrew Agozzino

Back home in front of a sold-out crowd Friday, Colorado found themselves in a playoff-style hockey game with San Jose, something they expected. 

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“They’re fighting for first place for a reason,” Eagles’ forward Andrew Agozzino said. “They’ve been good all season long and they’re a really disciplined team, they’re tough to play against. We knew what to expect I just don’t think we had a good enough game to win.”

The Eagles would fall to the Barracuda by a score of 3-1, ensuring that Colorado will have to win their final game to get into the postseason.

The opening frame was a fast, north-south style game with players on both teams finishing their checks and long stretches of play held up by only a few stoppages. The first period ended scoreless, with three power-play chances handed out between the two teams neither able to convert and solve the opposition’s net minder.

Second-period action mirrored the opening frame for the majority of play, more fast-physical hockey, but no goals.

Agozzino found himself in a wrestling match with the much bigger Keaton Middleton, around the 13-minute marker. The San Jose defenseman weighs in at 230 pounds while standing at 6’5 — Agozzino at 5’9 and 185 pounds didn’t shy away from Middleton.

“(I was) just battling for a puck, (lots of) emotions,” Agozzino said. “It’s an intense game. They want to win, we want to win and nobody wants to give an inch.”

Colorado got on the board when defenseman Sergi Boikov timed a San Jose change perfectly, hitting forward Micheal Joly at the opposing blue line with a stretch pass. With only one defenseman back to play a two-on-one, Joly slid the puck five-hole for a 1-0 Eagles lead.

Colorado Eagles forward Michael Joly high fives his teammates on the bench after scoring a goal in the second period of the game against San Jose. The Eagles fell to the Barracuda 3-1. (Photo Courtesy of Colorado Eagles)

The lead was short lived, as San Jose scored just 9 seconds later off a tipped shot from the right corner, with 5:54 remaining in the second period. As the clock winded down to the dying seconds of the second, it seemed the third period would be a winner take all, but that wasn’t the case. San Jose would score with just 12.1 remaining in the period and take a 2-1 lead to the dressing room.

“(It) was a bit of a rollercoaster, that one,” Agozzino said. “We got that big first goal — to give it right back 10 seconds later is tough and the timing of their second goal as well, late in the period. It’s tough to win games when you give up goals that are right after you score and right before the period ends.”

San Jose would add an insurance goal and hold the 3-1 until the end of regulation. While Colorado was a perfect 5/5 on the penalty kill, they just weren’t able to convert on their chances.

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“It can bog you down sometimes and take some rhythm out of the game,” Agozzino said. “It’s been a strong suit for us all season long and it’s gonna have to be if we wanna get in.

The Eagles loss puts power back in the hands of Tucson, who won over San Diego in overtime Friday. With the Eagles loss and the Gulls making it past regulation, San Diego has clinched a spot in the post season. Tucson got the win — bringing them to 76 points — and jumped over the Eagles — who still sit with 75 points — for the final playoff spot. Colorado will have to win their final game and hope San Diego can beat Tucson in regulation — this is the only way the Eagles can make the playoffs.

For the Eagles, it all comes down to the last game of the season. The game starts at 7:05 p.m.

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