By Michael Hicks
LOVELAND –– Greg Pankewicz may not start, but the Colorado Eagles captain more than makes his presence known on the ice. On Saturday night at the Budweiser Events Center, the ageless veteran made himself known pretty early.
Pankewicz scored one goal and assisted on another in the game’s first 2:03 and the Eagles held off a feisty challenge from Rocky Mountain, 4-2, in front of 5,289 at the BEC.
“Any time you lose you want to get back on the horse, obviously,” Eagles head coach Kevin McClelland said. Colorado lost 4-0 one week earlier at Rapid City. “We got the win tonight. It’s an old cliché, but good teams find a way to win.”
The Eagles did that, capping the victory with Pankewicz’ second goal of the night, an empty-netter with 10 seconds left.
The win was the third in as many meetings this season against the arch-rival Rage, pushing Colorado’s lead in the Central Hockey League’s Northwest Division to 19 points over their rivals. The Eagles lead the division by 17 points over expansion Rapid City.
Riley Nelson’s goal with 20 seconds left in the second period proved to be the game-winner as the Eagles improved to 13-0 this season when leading after two periods. Scott Polaski scored the Eagles’ opening goal just 1:23 into the contest.
While the Eagles won, it was anything but easy. Rocky Mountain out-shot the Eagles, 33-26, including 15-5 in the second period. But Colorado’s defense and the play of Andrew Penner in goal kept things in check as the Eagles got back on the winning track after losing 4-0 one week earlier at Rapid City.
“Our big concern tonight was the second period. That’s where we quit doing the little things that made us successful all year as a hockey club,” McClelland said. “We got back to it in the third period and had a pretty even period there.”
NO GOAL ZONE. It’s a good bet that nobody’s playing better in goal right now than the Eagles’ Andrew Penner. In his last four games, Penner has allowed just five goals while stopping 112 shots on 117 attempts.
Penner hadn’t given up more than a goal in a game until Rocky Mountain scored a short-handed goal early in the third period to Nathan ONabigon. The last time he gave up three goals was to Tulsa on Nov. 11. He’s also won his last five outings, having not suffered a defeat since Nov. 1 at Mississippi.
“I’m just trying to redeem myself after those two games with six goals against,” said Penner, who gave up six goals in two of his first five outings this season. He’s only given up eight goals total in his last five games in improving to 9-1 on the season. “I just wanted to prove that I’m one of the top goalkeepers along with Morgan (Cey) and give the team a chance to win every night.”
SLUMPED OVER. Erik Adams and Steve Haddon are headed in the opposite direction, even though they both play for the Eagles. That’s because Adams scored only five points in last month after opening the season with 10 points in October. Meanwhile, Haddon scored 10 of his 12 points last month.
So why the turnaround in fortune for each player? Maybe where they play has something to do with that.
Adams is a defenseman, while Haddon plays left wing. And considering Colorado has a league-high 89 goals after Saturday’s victory, it’s not surprising the Eagles’ offensive players –– all of them –– are putting up the points.
CALLING THE ACTION. The Colorado Eagles players won’t be the only all-stars seeing action on Jan. 14 when they play host to the CHL All-Stars at the Budweiser Events Center.
The Eagles’ Tori Holt, Kevin McGlue and Scott Swanson will be a part of the broadcast booth for the annual midseason showcase. Holt, Colorado’s play-by-play broadcaster, will serve as the play-by-play announcer for the nationally televised broadcast on Altitude Sports and Entertainment. He will be joined by color commentator McGlue.
Swanson will be part of the radio broadcast on KPAW 107.9, The Bear, along with Bossier-Shreveport’s play-by-play voice Travis Huntington. Swanson is a former star at Colorado College and a 1995 NHL draft selection of the Washington Capitals. Swanson and Huntington will also provide the play-by-play on the CHL Network.