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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Mudbugs Come Back For Game 1 Win

LOVELAND, Colo. – The Colorado Eagles lost, 4-3, in overtime, to the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in Game 1 of the Northern Conference Semifinals. It marked not only the ninth playoff game out of 10 all-time between the two clubs to be decided by a single goal, but it was the fourth in the past five to end with a 4-3 score. It was also the third playoff game in a row between the two teams that went past regulation time.

The Mudbugs held a strong edge in shots in the opening frame (14-6), but the Eagles held just as strong an edge in hits. Jim Jackson got the only goal of the first period at 2:14 — on Colorado’s first shot — when he took an innocent-looking shot from atop the right circle that beat John DeCaro. For the Eagles’ defenseman, it was simply a carryover from the regular season when he led the team with three goals against the ‘Bugs in as many games.

Colorado nearly added to that early lead with good shorthanded pressure a couple minutes later, but the puck began to bounce in the low slot as Ed McGrane (the league’s goal leader in the regular season) and Kevin Ulanski (the league’s top point-producer in the regular season) nearly converted a 2-on-1 break. And just moments later, Jackson stole the puck just outside the offensive zone and snapped the Eagles’ second shot of the game off DeCaro’s blocker.

Bossier-Shreveport again out-shot Colorado in the second period (12-9), but it was the Eagles that scored the only goals in the frame. Andrew Penner book-ended the period with some stellar saves to keep the ‘Bugs off the scoreboard. Early in the stanza, he stopped Joe Blaznek with a lightning-fast left leg kick. And at 5:43, Riley Nelson made it 2-0 with a power-play goal from the right slot.

On the play, the Eagles’ captain took a diagonal pass from Aaron Schneekloth and snuck a shot 5-hole on DeCaro. Steve Haddon and McGrane nearly added another tally on a 2-on-1 break about two minutes later, but Haddon’s shot rang off the right post.

McGrane continued his goal-scoring spree from the regular season with a beautiful shot at 13:55 as he unleashed a laser from atop the left circle that went over DeCaro’s left shoulder and right into the crux of the top right corner of the goal. Penner capped off the period with another big save, with just over a minute and a half left, when he stoned Shawn Limpright (Bossier-Shreveport’s leading scorer in the regular season) on a mini-break with another left pad save.

Colorado had another shorthanded chance just miss in the first two minutes of the third period, when McGrane found Ulanski alone in the slot, but his shot went over the crossbar. It would be a sign of things to come the rest of the period — and the game — as things began to go the ‘Bugs’ way.

Adam Hogg was called for a double-minor, high-sticking penalty at the 7:11 mark, and Bossier-Shreveport would strike twice on the ensuing power play for their first man-advantage markers of the night. Limpright got the first when he was able to deflect Jeff Kyrzakos’ pass from the right midboards over Penner from the low slot.

Then, with just four seconds remaining in the power play, Tyrel Lucas made it 3-2 when his shot from the right circle deflected down low and slid across the goal line. And just over a minute later, Bossier-Shreveport tied the game with a shorthanded goal when David Pszenyczny converted a 3-on-1 rush from low in the left circle.

DeCaro slammed the door on the Eagles the rest of the period, making several big saves about 15 minutes in, and then stone-walling McGrane with 2:22 remaining on another 2-on-1 chance. The game would end up going to overtime for the fourth time in the all-time playoff series between the two teams — and the third time in a row.

It took just 42 seconds of the extra session for the game to be decided, as the Mudbugs scored the fourth of their four unanswered goals. The play occurred as Schneekloth turned along the right wing boards in his own zone and threw a blind pass into the slot that ended up right on Blaznek’s tape between the hashes; he quickly snapped it past Penner for the game-winner

The two teams will meet in less than 24 hours for Game 2 of the best-of-seven series.

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