Eagles to open season against Stockton Heat Friday night

Ryan Loberger

Eagles fans rejoice; after a long off season, the team takes the ice Friday for the first time in the 2019-20 season as they’ll battle Pacific Division rival Stockton Heat Friday and Saturday.

Coming off an appearance in the Calder Cup playoffs last season, the Eagles are primed for another successful season, and like last year, it will come down to the young core of the team. 

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A winning team needs reliable goaltending, and with the promotion of Pavel Francouz to the big club in Denver, the Eagles have a trio of young netminders on the roster.

Similar to Francouz’s arrival to the AHL last year, 22-year-old goaltender Adam Werner will be playing in his first season in North America after signing an entry level deal in May. Werner was originally a fifth round pick by the Avalanche in 2016, and the first thing that Eagles fans will notice about the young goalie is his size. At 6 feet 5 inches, the Mariestad, Sweden, native possesses good height for a goalie and will look to build off an impressive season in the Swedish Hockey League: his first as a professional.

The Eagles signed Hunter Miska and Antoine Bibeau, two goalies that the club played against last year in the Pacific Division. Miska comes over from the Tucson Roadrunners and Bibeau from the San Jose Barracuda. Miska is in his third year as a pro, having played both seasons in the desert.

Bibeau is the most experienced of the three goalies, having played 182 games in the AHL. He was an AHL All-Star in 2017-18. The Avalanche organization traded defenseman Nicolas Meloche to the Barracuda for Bibeau on Sept. 27, the day of an Eagles preseason game against the Barracuda.

Meloche is the most recent player to depart from the Eagles dressing room as the club will feature 11 new faces on the roster. Notable departures from last year include 2018 AHL All-Star Andrew Agozzino, Dominic Toninato, David Warsofsky and Scott Kosmachuk.

Last season, the Eagles struggled in their season series with the Heat, finishing with a 2-4 record. The Eagles did finish above Stockton for the final playoff spot but had trouble in the regular season matching Stockton’s physicality.

The Heat should enter Friday’s matchup with Flames’ top prospect Dillon Dube in their lineup, but they will have to deal with the loss of 2018 top scorer Alan Quine, who will start this season with Calgary. As is typical with the American League, players go up and down, and the outlook on the season can change like that.

The Eagles still have a plethora of players who will benefit from another year in the AHL but could find themselves in the burgundy and blue this year: players like Logan O’Connor, Conor Timmins and Martin Kaut.

Expect Head Coach Greg Cronin to have his team playing with pace and intensity come Friday night as they’ll look to give the Eagles faithful a win on opening night.

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