Coming into Wednesday night the Eagles were on a 5 game win streak dating back to before the Christmas break. Their first home game in nearly 3 weeks the Eagles were bolstered by the additions of Shawn St. Amant and J.C. Beaudin being sent down from the San Antonio Rampage.
This being the tenth time the Eagles have played the Rapid City Rush this season, the two teams are very familiar with each other. The first period was a grind; neither team managing to generate much at all outside of a few individual efforts. Things opened up quite a bit in the second but Joe Canatta was playing well in the Eagles net. Both teams saw a number of quality chances fall to the wayside as no one could quite find the finish whether it was a puck skipping off a stick blade or a ring of the iron. Eventually the third period would see the end of both goalies’ shut-out bids. The Rush struck first as Jack Walker found space in behind the Eagles D and fooled Cannata with a nice move. After falling behind the Eagles went to work dominating play for the majority of the third. The hard work eventually came to fruition as the Eagles drew two penalties and had 23 seconds of 5 on 3 time. Shortly after the 5 on 3 expired, ECHL all star Micheal Joly came in clutch off a great feed from Jake Marto. The game remained knotted at one from there and headed to over time. After a back and forth OT it would be Brady Shaw with the OT winner, his 3rd goal in 3 games since returning from a scary injury early in the season. The Eagles took the OT victory to remain perfect in the new year and increase their vice grip lead on the mountain division by 9 points.
While he didn’t get on the score sheet, one of the main attractions of the night was J.C. Beaudin. The Avs’ 3rd rounder had a number of great chances but couldn’t quite manage to find the back of the net. What was immediately noticeable with Beaudin was his hockey intelligence. If you were watching the puck it would almost seem by magic that it would always come to him but, when you focused in on Beaudin you could see him constantly reading the play, putting himself in the right spot by design. His full skill set was on display tonight as he got ice time in all situations including 3 on 3 OT. You can see why it’s easy to trust him as a coach; anytime a defenseman pinched in, when you looked back to the blue line it was Beaudin covering for him. Beyond that he was money in the bank in the face-off circle.
I talked with Beaudin after the game, and asked him how he adjusted play between the AHL and ECHL, this being his second stint with the eagles. He answered, “I prepare the same way [for both leagues], trying to help the team win and we got that tonight.” His regular linemates for the night were Shawn St. Amant, whom he has played with in San Antonio, and Ryan Harrison. On them he said, “It helps a little bit, because I used to play with [St. Amant] so I know how he plays, and Harry is a good guy to play with, he’s got good speed, got good skills, so it was good.” Focusing in more on Beaudin I asked him about his first year of pro hockey and what the biggest adjustment has been for him. He kept his answer simple, “Just to play a little bit harder. All my career I’ve been told to play harder so just trying to improve that.” On the progress of his game within the Avs organization he said, “I haven’t really talked to [Avalanche Management] but I am happy with where I am.” With the move to pro also comes a change in scenery, Beaudin has split time between Loveland and San Antonio this year both close to 2000 miles away from his junior town of Rouyn-Noranda. On the three cities he said “Rouyn-Noranda was a little city and San Antonio is a little bit bigger and here in Loveland it’s kind of a similar feel to Rouyn-Noranda but still a lot bigger.” Finally when asked about a return to the AHL in the near future he modestly answered, “I hope to be back.” Despite his humble answer there is little doubt he will be back with the Rampage later this year and likely with the Eagles next year as well as he continues to mold himself as valuable prospect with NHL upside for the Avalanche.
The Eagles will play the Rush twice more this weekend as they look to sweep the home series.