LOVELAND, Colo. – The Colorado Eagles got goals from six different players and saw both Rapid City netminders in a 7-4 win in Game 3 of the Turner Conference Finals. The Eagles used two power-play goals and a pair of shorthanded tallies as well to take a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series that will send the winning team to the Ray Miron Presidents’ Cup Finals.
The Eagles started strong — getting a goal on their first shot — when Daymen Rycroft broke into the Rush zone and beat Danny Battochio just 54 seconds into the game. But Rapid City countered just 63 seconds later — on their first shot of the game — with a goal from former Eagle Konrad Reeder.
The play developed after a big hit along the left wing boards caused a pileup of players and Ryan Menei found Reeder cutting to the far side of the crease for an easy equalizer. Rapid City went up 2-1 at 16:12 when Les Reaney scored his playoff-leading eighth goal by beating Andrew Penner from low in the right circle.
Colorado had chances to tie the game up the rest of the period, but Battochio showed the form that made him the 2009-10 CHL Rookie of the Year with several outstanding stops. His first stellar save came 14 minutes in, with the Eagles on a 4-on-3 power play, when he moved left to right to stop Scott May’s shot with his right toe. He followed that up with more clutch stops the rest of the period to keep the Eagles off the board.
Just over six minutes into the second period, Jason Beatty tied the game at 2 with the first shorthanded goal by an Eagles defenseman in the franchise’s playoff history. The defensive defenseman took the puck coast-to-coast — skating by Vladimir Hartinger in the neutral zone — before beating Battochio with a blast from the left circle.
Then, at 9:39 of the second stanza, Colorado took advantage of a full 5-on-3 power play by methodically moving the puck for nearly the entire odd-man advantage before Riley Nelson, stationed below the right circle, found Kevin Ulanski in the left circle for a 3-2 lead.
The Rush tied the game at 3 with a power-play goal of their own at 2:47 of the third period. It took just nine seconds into the advantage for them to convert when Reaney’s shot from the right wing caromed off the goalpost and shot out to Brendon Hodge in the left circle. It all happened so fast that Hodge was able to unleash a quick shot before Penner could get set after tracking the puck.
But the Eagles re-took the lead just 39 seconds later when Adam Hogg fed Adam Chorneyko on a rush in which the rookie forward beat Battochio from the top of the right circle. From there, Colorado fully took control of the game’s momentum with another goal 51 seconds after that to make it 5-3.
On the goal, Kyle Peto took a shot from the right point that was deflected past the Rush netminder by Rycroft as he skated through the low slot. Then, at 5:53 of the final frame, Dan Sullivan made it 6-3 by converting tape-to-tape passes from Aaron Schneekloth and Ulanski before beating Battochio from the left circle.
With that goal, Tim Boron replaced Battochio in the Rush net after the former had stopped 20 of 26 shots in nearly 46 minutes of play. It continued a trend that saw the Eagles chase Rapid City’s goalie in a third of the teams’ regular season meetings.
The Rush trimmed the Eagles’ lead to 6-4 at 8:22, just five seconds after another power play had expired, when Scott Wray was able to tuck a puck behind Penner after coming from behind the net. But the netminder got stronger as the game went along, making several solid stops to keep the Eagles in a comfortable lead.
And with less than three minutes left in the game, Chorneyko picked up a turnover in front of the benches and sent Nelson into the offensive zone where he beat Boron from the high slot for the Eagles’ second shorthanded goal of the game, marking the first time in franchise history the team had scored more than one shorthanded goal in a playoff game.
Fitting for the night, the Eagles spent the final minutes on a 5-on-3 power play that turned into a 6-on-3 advantage for a while when the Rush were called for an additional delayed penalty. Colorado didn’t score again, however.
Game 4 of the series will be played Thursday, May 5 at the Budweiser Events Center. Game 5 will be played on Saturday, May 7 in Rapid City, S.D.