LOVELAND, Colo. – The Colorado Eagles won their first regular season home-opener in the ECHL, 3-1, over the Stockton Thunder. All three of Colorado’s goals came off the stick of Jack Combs, who introduced himself to the home fans in style by recording the 35th regular season hat trick in the team’s just-over-eight-year history.
After being out-shot 19-9 in the first period of their first meeting a week ago, Colorado controlled play in the first period of this game, holding a 14-4 edge in shots after the first 20 minutes of play.
The Eagles were awarded an early power play — and had several near-goals on it — but couldn’t beat Olivier Roy. Stockton had their own chance on the power play minutes later, but couldn’t register a shot; in fact, their first shot of the game didn’t come until 8:17 had elapsed off the game clock.
At 10:13 of the first period, Combs took advantage of an odd bounce off a partition, picking up a Thunder turnover in the neutral zone. He then skated down the left wing and sent a sharp-angle shot from the goal line that rattled around the cage, hit off the back of Roy and went into the net. It was the first opening goal of a game scored by the Eagles in the ECHL (including preseason).
That Stockton power play that couldn’t register a shot in the first period made amends just 1:54 into the second when Kevin Baker finished some tic-tac-toe passing with a shot from the left side of the crease to tie the game at 1.
A few minutes later, things got heated between the teams and the Thunder were awarded a four minute power play. After failing to convert on that chance, they were immediately given another two minutes and couldn’t capitalize again. It proved to be a turning point.
At 14:28 of the second period, Combs got his second goal of the game — and the first power-play goal of the year for the Eagles (again, including preseason) — when he swept home an Aaron Slattengren rebound that was laying in the crease.
The Thunder put up a late push in the final frame, but Jones was up to the task, stopping all eight of their shots in the period. Stockton then pulled Roy in the final minute for an extra attacker, paving the way for Combs’ third goal into an empty net.
The two teams will meet again Saturday night to finish their weekend set.