Eagles banking on experience as playoff race heats up

Ryan Loberger

At the beginning of every season, expectations are generally optimistic because every team feels they have a chance to achieve something special. The Colorado Eagles are no different, and with just 52 days remaining in the American Hockey League’s regular season, the goal of winning the last game of the AHL season is still in clear view. 

“Your expectations should always be high, especially coming into the season,” captain Mark Alt said. “I like that we’re in the hunt. We have the personnel and the group here to push and get higher up in the standings.”


The difference between first and fourth place is separated by just six points in the AHL’s Pacific Division, and the Eagles are caught right in the middle of it.

Colorado Eagles defenseman Dan Renouf (5) controls the puck while pressured by Andy Miele (51) of the Tucson Roadrunners. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles).

Colorado is currently situated in third place with 60 points in 48 games played but has games in hand over the Tucson Roadrunners. The Eagles are three points behind the first place Roadrunners, who have 63 points in 49 games played, and three points ahead of the Reign, who have 57 points in 50 games played. Regardless of how close the standings are, the Eagles know that their fate is in their own hands. 

“We’re only worried about how we’re playing and what we need to do,” defenseman Dan Renouf said. “When we play well, there’s no team in this league that can keep up with us. We just focus on ourselves. No matter who we’re playing or where they’re ranked, we just got to play the same way every night.”

Renouf came to Colorado as a free agent after this past off-season after claiming the Calder Cup championship in 2019 with the Charlotte Checkers. Like the other free agent signings the Eagles added before this year, Renouf adds a winning pedigree and experience that the team needs while in a contentious playoff race and when the all-important second season begins in April

“It’s (that) experience,” Alt said. “We have a great mix of veteran players who have been through it and have that experience (and) some young guys and prospects. There’s a certain energy and enjoyment for the game that the veterans on this team bring to the rink.”

The games in hand are a factor, and for Colorado, utilizing those games is important to help them lock up a top seed in their division. Fortunately for the Eagles, they’ll have an opportunity to add to the three-point cushion between them and the Reign. A bonus is that Tucson, who leads the division, will be playing against the Stockton Heat, currently in second place. If the Eagles can pick up two wins and either Stockton or Tucson sweeps the other, Colorado could find themselves on the doorstep of first place.

Colorado will be without Martin Kaut and Hunter Miska, who were called up by the Avalanche after injuries to Philipp Grubauer and Mikko Rantanen. The Avs also still have forward T.J. Tynan. Tynan led the Eagles with 40 points on the season and was called up last week after an injury to Nazem Kadri. While continuing the pursuit of first place, Colorado will head back to California this weekend for a match with the Ontario Reign on Friday night and the Bakersfield Condors on Saturday.

Friday’s game against the Reign will get underway at 8 p.m. MST.

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