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Eagles drop season opener, eye first win on Saturday

After a long offseason, pro hockey returned to Loveland last night as the sweet sound of cowbells filled the Budweiser Events Center for the first time since late April. However, the energy from the fans was not enough to lead the Eagles to a victory as they opened their season with a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Stockton Heat.

Forward T.J. Tynan takes a wrist shot during a game against the Stockton Heat Oct. 4. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles).

“The atmosphere was great,” forward T.J. Tynan said. “Obviously pretty disappointing effort on our part, (but) that’s on us for letting (down) all these fans that come out here to support us.”

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Despite the loss, the biggest disappointment of the night was the power play. Last season, the Eagles struggled with the man advantage, and the trend continued as the team went 0/8 on the power play. Three chances in the first period didn’t result in a goal as the Heat jumped out to a 1-0 lead despite being outshot 10-5 in the opening frame.

Puck luck and bad bounces seemed to plague the team in the game. The Heat’s second goal came off a sloppy turnover on an Eagles breakout. With nobody home, Eagles goalie Antoine Bibeau made a last-ditch effort to try and poke the puck away from Heat forward Byron Froese but was unsuccessful as they fell into a 2-0 hole in the second frame.

“You can chalk some of that up to the first game of the season,” captain Mark Alt said. “There (are) some nerves. All that kind of stuff … feels like the first game, a couple bad bounces, (but) we’re going to clean that up.”

Later in the second frame, the Heat exploded for two more goals to stretch their lead to 4-0, with a shorthanded goal followed by another score just 50 seconds later. Bibeau was unable to bail the team out when they needed it, but the Eagles know that they need to help their goaltender to be successful.

“We have to do a better job keeping pucks out in front of him,” Alt said. “Too many turnovers, too much stuff coming back at him quickly, we just weren’t clean, even our D-to-D (passes).”

In the third period, the Eagles added two goals, and Stockton added another to bring the score to 5-2 in the final frame. Not exactly the start the Eagles wanted, but it’s only the first game.

With 12 new faces on the roster, the team will take some time to gel and figure out their identity. Multiple players in the lineup joined the team late, as they were sent down from the Avalanche before the NHL season started.

Forward Shane Bowers looks for a shooting lane on opening night against the Stockton Heat Oct. 4. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles)

Despite the loss, Shane Bowers looked like a top end prospect. The forward was all over the ice in the first game of the season, generating scoring chances and creating turnovers. After joining the team late last year from Boston University, Bowers had a strong offseason and was one of the last cuts from the Avalanche’s opening night roster.

If he keeps playing with speed and urgency, as he did last night, he will see NHL action with the big club this year.

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“I think I’m playing my best hockey when I’m skating,” Bowers said. “I think if my speed’s not there and (if) I’m not using my feet, then I’m not engaged. So I think that’s the biggest part of my game, and I’ll try to bring that every night.”

The teams will run it back today in a rematch at 7:05 p.m.

Ryan Loberger can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Lobergerryan

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