Barracuda come to Loveland for 2-game series with the Eagles

Ryan Loberger

Coming back to Loveland after a successful road trip, the Colorado Eagles need to keep the win train going after taking two wins from their series with the Tucson Roadrunners.

“Our team played great; (it) was a huge weekend for us,” goalie Hunter Miska said. “They’re the number one team in our division. … We needed our A-game both games, and we found ways to win.”

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The Eagles will host the (14-23-3) San Jose Barracuda in a two-game series starting on Friday night.  

“They’re last (place) in our division, but I think they’re a good hockey team,” Miska said. “They’re young, and they have a lot of skill up front, so we’ve just got to be fast and play a 200-foot game, and hopefully we’ll come out with some good points this weekend.”

There’s a lull around February during the hockey season: a limbo where you’re just off the all-star break, teams are just approaching the home stretch of the regular season and playoffs still feel far away. For the Colorado Eagles, the momentum they’ve built in winning three of their last four games has come as a result of doing the little things right.

T.J. Tynan (right) hugs Sheldon Dries (left) following Dries’ empty net goal against the San Diego Gulls. The Eagles won the game 3-1. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles).

“(We’re) just (paying) attention to detail,” Miska said. “We’ve got to come to the rink every day with the right mindset. I think we have a team here that can make a big push.”

The Eagles, 52 points, are currently sitting three points ahead of the Ontario Reign, 49 points, for third place in the Pacific Division. They are trying to make up ground behind rival Stockton Heat, who are in second place with 56 points and have a game in hand over Colorado.

The push for a top two seed will continue, as having home ice advantage in the playoffs would be a huge advantage for an Eagles team that has qualified for the postseason for the past 16 seasons across three different leagues. 

Having already faced off five times this season, the Eagles own a losing head-to-head record of 2-3 against the Barracuda. In those three losses, the Eagles have been outscored 17-4, and in the victories they have only edged San Jose by an 8-3 margin. 

“This is a team that’s coming here at last place in the standings, but they’ve given us some fits this year, and they beat us pretty handily the last time we were in San Jose,” forward Jayson Megna said.   

The Eagles will need push the pace in the game and not simply match the level of competition the Barracuda present. Taking two wins from Tucson was a great response from splitting their home series against the San Antonio Rampage

Expect the Eagles to come out hard looking for the first goal, as they’ve had much more success playing with a lead as opposed to chasing their opposition. 

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After an injury sent goalie Adam Werner to the training room, backup Miska will be between the pipes this weekend for Colorado.

Eagles goalie Hunter Miska during a game against the San Jose Barracuda on Oct. 26. (Photo courtesy of the Colorado Eagles).

The third-year pro has put up some exceptional numbers in 17 games played this season, boasting a .923 save percentage, which is ranked top five among all AHL goalies, and a GAA of 2.52, ranking 14th in the league, en route to a 9-4-4 record. 

“(Miska) has been great for us all year,” Megna said. “He’s really stepped up, and I think the most important thing for us is taking care of the puck. … If we can limit our turnovers in the offensive and defensive zone, I think we can spend less time (in our end), which means your goalie is going to face less shots.”

Puck drop is set for 7:05 p.m. Friday at the Budweiser Events Center. 

“We need to bear down,” Megna said. “You can’t take a night off in this league. Every team is so good. We’ve had a couple good days of practice, and we’ll be ready to go.” 

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