PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – The Colorado Eagles closed out their season-long, seven-game road trip with a 5-2 victory against the Arizona Sundogs. The win was Colorado’s third in as many days against the ‘Dogs and left them with a 5-2-0 record on their trek away from home. Riley Nelson picked up the team’s third hat trick of the season, helping secure the 400th win in Head Coach Chris Stewart’s CHL career; he ranks third on the league’s all-time list.
Colorado out-shot Arizona 18-9 in the first period, but a late goal by the Sundogs — on their ninth shot, in the final minute — sent both teams to the first intermission tied at 1. Nelson opened the scoring at 8:42 when he carried the puck out from behind the Arizona net, circled into the low slot and beat Levente Szuper. But with 41 seconds left in the stanza, a turnover inside Colorado’s blue line led to Patrick Schafer skating down the slot and finding a wide open Luke Erickson standing at the left side of the crease for a tap-in, tying goal.
Colorado continued to win the shot battle in the second period, out-shooting Arizona 21-11, but it was the Sundogs that appeared to get the second frame’s first score when Jason Williams had an apparent goal waived off by referee Boone Bruggman. And just a minute later, Colorado went up 2-1 when Nelson got his second goal of the night four minutes in when Kevin Ulanski found him between the hash marks with a pass from along the left wing.
The Eagles made it 3-1 at 8:07 after Matt Glasser calmly controlled a loose puck in the high slot and found Steve Haddon skating through the left circle for a shot past Szuper. But Colorado would soon get into penalty trouble and the ‘Dogs converted on a two-man advantage when a pass was deflected in the slot to Tyler Butler for a blast past Kyle Jones at 15:18.
Giving a strong push in the final frame, Arizona out-shot Colorado 15-10, but it was the Eagles that got the period’s only goals. At 2:37, Ulanski snared the puck in the neutral zone and sent it to Nelson entering the offensive zone. The Eagles’ captain took a shot from the left circle that was kicked out to the right circle for Daymen Rycroft to put home for a 4-2 lead.
As the period wound down, the Sundogs had their chances when Colorado again found itself in penalty trouble. But the ‘Dogs couldn’t take advantage, and it was Nelson who notched the fifth hat trick of his Eagles career (his first since the 2007-08 season) with an empty net shot from just outside his own blue line just before time expired.
Colorado returns to the Budweiser Events Center to take on the Missouri Mavericks on Wednesday, Feb. 2. In honor of Groundhog Day, the Eagles will be celebrating Adam Hogg; in addition to Groundhog Day themed entertainment, the first 2,500 fans will receive a bobblehead of the Eagles player.