The Eagles wrapped up their farewell tour for the majority of the ECHL. They said goodbye by doing the two things they do best: winning and throwing hands. In the final 13 games of the season the Eagles went a staggering 11 – 2 and only seemed to get stronger and stronger as they continued to add pieces down the stretch.
They had 22 fights across the final 13 games, averaging just under 2 per game. When you remove the 5 games in which there were no fights that makes 22 in 8 games, nearly 3 per game. The Eagles padded this stat heavily in their final game ever against rival Rapid City Rush which was less of a hockey game and more of a WWE, no holds barred cage match that included 6 fights and a total of 108 penalty minutes. The 6 fights did a nice job mirroring the final score of 6 – 1 as the Eagles took care of the Rush one last time. With Rapid City it was about saying goodbye, in a weird way punching the Rush players in the face was the Eagles way of showing their love. A thank you for a fantastic rivalry that fans will surely miss and remember for years to come.
After the game I had the opportunity to talk to one of the prime agitators in the rivalry this year, Joey Ratelle.
Ratelle downplayed it being the final time the teams would meet saying, “It’s always like that against Rapid City, it’s a big rivalry there’s always a lot of fighting, but this was a great game for the whole team.” Ratelle quickly became a fan favorite because of his flair for theatrics and his unwillingness to back down against anyone. He showcased that fully against the Rush in the 3rd period where a shot on goal by the Eagles would squib loose clearly after the whistle was blown. That didn’t stop Ratelle from charging to the net and poking it in before giving a faux celebration to Eagles fans behind the goal. He knew exactly what he was doing, with a smile on his face he told me, “I knew it was a dead play but I saw the puck so I just had to make sure it’s in.” Like so many others on the Eagles, Ratelle has no idea what’s going to happen at the end of the year with the Eagles moving up to the AHL. Of course, no one is getting ahead of themselves. They still have a cup to win.
In stark contrast to that game, the Eagles final ECHL regular season game ever was about saying, “We haven’t left yet.” The Wichita Thunder held the honor of being that opponent in the record books, and at that point both teams knew they were going to be opponents in the first round of the playoffs as well. The first fight came five seconds into the game, the next just 25 seconds later. The only time the Eagles stopped fighting was to score goals and their supercharged offense had little trouble using Wichita as a doormat. A not so friendly reminder that the Eagles have one goal left before leaving the ECHL in the rear view: win the Kelly Cup…again.
The Eagles saw all of the ringers come back to the fold as the season came to a close. Up front the return of Joly, Beaudin and Nantel likely gives them the best offense in all of the ECHL. They even took it one step further and added one of the newest Avs in Travis Barron (Eagles fans are going to love his game). On the back end Cliff Watson has returned once again from the AHL and behind him all-star goalie Joe Cannata is ready to backstop the Eagles into the warmer months. Outside of those on contract with the Avs, this playoff run will likely be the end of their time playing hockey in Colorado and you can be sure wherever they are headed they want to leave on top.
Ultimately the Eagles end their time in the ECHL with a 234 – 155 – 20 – 22 regular season record. They never had a season below .500, they never missed the playoffs, and while the 1st round was their nemesis for a long time they did eventually overcome and once they were past that it was straight to the championship.
The Eagles all time regular season ECHL records can now be set in pen, some of the major ones are as follows:
Games Played: Jake Marto (290)
Goals, Assists, and Points: Trent Daavettila (82 G, 200 A, 282 P)
PIMs: Teigan Zahn (871)
It would be a bit of poetry for the Eagles to take home the grand prize before moving on to bigger and better things. No matter what happens, the Eagles have known victory in two leagues so far and you can bet starting next year they will be hungry to make it three.
*Picture credit to @thevoiceofvlad