Starrett, Condors able to clip Eagles wings in close Game 1

Ryan Loberger

If you don’t follow hockey, you wouldn’t associate it as a sport that’s played in late April and the start of summer; it seems perfectly suited for the winter. But if you’re a fan or a member of the Colorado Eagles, spring hockey is something you’ve come to expect regularly over the past decade.

This year’s historic postseason kicked off Friday night for the Eagles, as they hosted the top-seeded Bakersfield Condors in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs. The first game in the best-of-five series didn’t have the result the Eagles had hoped for, but as fans funneled into the arena for a white out in game one, the crowd was rocking.

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Players from the Colorado Eagles and Bakersfield Condors gather together during a scrum in Game 1 April 19. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

“The crowd here, it’s gotta be the best in the AHL,” forward Sheldon Dries said. “They’re loud, they’re passionate, they love hockey and they’re used to winning here… We’ve got to learn from tonight and move forward.”

The Eagles channeled the energy of the sold-out crowd to start the first period, but were unable to solve Condors net minder Shane Starrett.

Starrett, a former goalie from the Air Force Academy, was shaky to start as the first shot he faced rattled off the post and out, nearly giving the Eagles a 1-0 lead early in the first. Starrett settled in and had himself a night in his playoff debut as his team pulled off a 3-2 road victory. Colorado will have to test the rookie net minder in game two as they try to even the series.

“You gotta get pucks and bodies to the net, you gotta take away his eyes,” Dries said. “As difficult as it sounds when there is traffic, it makes a goalie’s life very difficult. If we can do that I feel like the goals will come.”

Halfway through the first period, a point shot from Condors forward Brad Malone ramped up the stick of an unaware Pavel Francouz. The puck found its way through his pads and slowly slid across the goal line.

The Condors took a 1-0 lead to the first intermission, and some extracurricular activities at the end of the period yielded 2 minutes of four-on-four to start the second. Colorado took full advantage.

Eagles defenseman Mark Alt slipped through the Condor slot undetected and forward AJ Greer found the captain with a pass.

Captain Mark Alt celebrates his goal scored in the second period of Game 1 against the Bakersfield Condors April 19. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

Alt ripped a snapshot off the post; the first shot of the period for Colorado. It went in. The game was 1-1 just 55 seconds into the second period. The Condors also converted on another four-on-four chance in the second and again took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.

Fans were loud to start the third period, cheering for over a minute straight they did everything they could to help will their team back.

Eagles defenseman David Warsofsky scored to tie the game at 2-2 just over 5 minutes in, but Bakersfield answered less than a minute later with Logan Day scoring to retake the lead 3-2.

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After taking their third lead of the night, Bakersfield held on down the stretch to win game one. Colorado came close on a few chances but were unable to take the lead from the Condors.

While a loss to start the playoffs isn’t the way you draw it up, the Eagles will look to bounce back in game two despite playing a hard-fought game against Bakersfield.

“I thought we played a decent game,” Dries said. “We got pucks to the net, we got bodies to the net, but you’ve got to give credit to them. They played a well-structured road game, but you’ve got to move forward. You can’t dwell on it. It’s one game — it’s a series for a reason, we know we’re gonna have a great crowd again and we wanna give them a show.”

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