For the first time all season the Eagles have found themselves in a full blown skid. They dropped 6 straight games including being handed just their 2nd and 3rd regulation loss on home ice. The biggest factor to this skid is Joe Cannata being knocked out of commission. Before being injured in late January, Cannata boasted a 934 Sv% (the best in the ECHL). While the injury was originally thought not to be too serious, Cannata hasn’t played in a single game on this slide which began January 30th.
With their star goalie out of the lineup it became clear how much the Eagles defense relied on him. With Cannata in net the team gives up little more than 2 goals per game, in this stretch without out him they are averaging 4 goals against per game. Both Sam Brittain and Lukas Hafner have posted sub 900 Sv%. Bluntly, the Eagles aren’t the Kelly cup favorites everyone thought they might be without Cannata.
This was to some extent expected, few teams across any league can lose their all-star goalie and not feel the effects. What may be more concerning is the Eagles lack of offense during the past three weeks. A top 5 offense in the ECHL the Eagles are no stranger with scoring upwards of 4 goals per game. During this losing streak they averaged just 1.67, seeing production from many of their key sources dry up almost entirely. Michael Joly and Matt Register were both held to just 2 points each across the 6 games. Combine that with the fact that Captain Matt Garbowsky is sitting on the side lines next to Cannata and the Eagles depth just hasn’t provided enough to fill the hole.
The already short handed roster would see things take an even bigger turn for the worse as a slew of shifts in San Antonio brought J.C. Beaudin and Brady Shaw up to the AHL level. Incredibly, an Eagles team that was 1 short of a full lineup, icing just 8 forwards and 6 defensemen managed to break the down trend on Valentine’s day. With simply no one else to rely on Michael Joly would regain his form picking up 2 goals to lead the Eagles to victory. Not only does it end the streak but it keeps the Eagles in striking distant of the number one seed in the west which could hold some important playoff implications come April.
Even with the slide breaking win the Eagles front office wasn’t about to sit on their hands and let the offense slip away again. Instead they decided to show their parent clubs how the trade deadline is done. Seemingly out of the blue Jake Marchment and Gage Ausmus were shipped to the Utah Grizzlies for Ryan Olsen and Cliff Watson. The trade itself showed a clear goal for the Eagles to upgrade their back end, Watson was selected to this years ECHL All-star game and has seen a few stints of AHL time this season playing 6 games with the Utica Comets. He seems to be a direct upgrade for Ausmus, particularly on the offensive side posting 25 points in 36 ECHL games. It also appears Olsen will have little trouble filling in the hole Marchment left. Both players are centers and score at a similar clip with Marchment at .63 points per game and Olsen at .73. The trade really seems like a win/win for the Eagles as they appear to have directly upgraded at both forward and defense.
Every team goes through low points in the season, hopefully this is as low as it gets for the Eagles. The trade certainly seems to indicate they are going all in for their final shot at the Kelly Cup and they have recouped some of their depth with the Rampage reassigning Julien Nantel and Brady Shaw back to the Eagles so the offense is poised to uptick back to regular levels. As long as Joe Cannata remains in form when he returns it’s hard to see anyone that can stop them.
The Eagles are on the road through the next two weeks returning home in the final week of February. Keep an eye out here during the beginning of March for interviews with the newest Eagles.
Picture credit to @thevoiceofvlad