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Eagles Salvage Win After Another Late Utah Surge



Photo credit: Ross Prohaska


Saturday, December 3, 2011

LOVELAND, Colo. – The Colorado Eagles defeated the Utah Grizzlies, 5-4, in a shootout in the second of three games in as many days between the teams. After Utah scored two goals in the final five minutes to claim a comeback win Friday night, they nearly did the same as Paul McIlveen scored two third period tallies to notch a hat trick on the night.

The Eagles out-shot the Grizzlies 16-5 in the first period, taking advantage of a 5:1 power play differential, but at the same time missing several prime chances to put the puck in the net against the ECHL’s best penalty-killing unit. Colorado missed several open nets on their man-advantage chances during a period in which they never really seemed to be in sync. Regardless, they were able to enter the first intermission tied at 2 with Utah.

Utah struck first when John Armstrong — Friday night’s hero after scoring in the final minute of a tied game — scored from a similar spot when he beat Kyle Jones from the high slot at 5:27. Patrick Cey tied the game at the eight minute mark when he was able to beat Shane Owen 5-hole with a shot from low in the right circle.

The Grizzlies clawed their way back on top at 10:10 when McIlveen put home a Mitch Fadden rebound from the doorstep. Colorado countered back at 17:24 with a power-play goal from Luka Vidmar — his first as an Eagle — as he snapped a shot past Owen from the left circle.

Colorado out-shot Utah 9-4 in the second period (tying their low for shots allowed in a period this season), and took a 3-2 lead into the third frame courtesy of Riley Nelson. The Eagles’ captain intercepted a pass at the offensive blue line while killing a penalty, broke in alone on Owen and beat him with a forehand move at 8:21.

Jack Combs pushed Colorado’s lead to 4-2 at 7:10 of the third period. On the play, Michael Forney sent a blind, backhand feed from below the goal line to the front of the net where Combs was all alone for an easy tap-in.

The Grizzlies, however, cut that lead to 4-3 when McIlveen scored his second goal of the game from below the left circle at 14:09. And less than a minute and a half later he tied the game with a great individual effort, taking the puck the length of the ice and beating Jones inside the far post.

That goal ended up forcing overtime, in which Combs nearly ended the game with a great play of his own, only to have the puck collide with the post after some deft stick-handling through the offensive zone.

But he would have another chance to play hero, and he did just that by scoring the game-winning goal in the eventual shootout. Jones stopped four of five Grizzlies shooters, while Chad Costello was the only other Eagles player to score.

The teams will finish their weekend set Sunday night at the Budweiser Events Center.

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