The Colorado Eagles are going to the Kelly Cup Final.
Protecting their home ice for the third game in a row versus regular season champ Toledo was never going to be an easy task, and Toledo was not going to bow out without a fight. Even after Friday night’s triple overtime marathon loss, the Walleye came out firing, scoring on their first shot of the game for the second consecutive night. Then they scored on their second shot of the game to stun a sold-out Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado. In fact, Toledo scored three goals on their first eight shots to take 3-1 lead halfway through game five of the ECHL Western Conference Finals.
Down a pair a pair the Colorado Eagles did not panic. They did not cower. They did not hang their heads on the bench. Instead, they looked for someone to step up and shift momentum.
Enter towering 6’4 Eagles defenseman Mason Geertsen.
Geertsen dropped the gloves with Walley defenseman Matt Caito right at the 10 minute mark of the second period and the Eagles down a pair of goals. At the same time, Toledo forward Evan Rankin took a tripping penalty to put Colorado on the power play.
“The fight just honestly calmed things down,” said Geertsen of the mid-game tussle. “There was a lot of slashing and hacking and there was no accountability for it. Once that happened, everyone settled down a bit and we went back to our game. I’ve seen other teams where you just fold when the going gets tough, but this team stays so composed, everyone knows we can score.”
And score they did. Colorado scored on the aforementioned power play to cut the lead in half on a beautiful redirection by ECHL playoff scoring leader Alex Belzile. Forward Cam Maclise flew down the right wing less than six minutes later and fired a howitzer by Walleye goaltender Jake Paterson to tie the game at three heading into the third period. The momentum shift was complete.
“I was able to make some good plays with the puck tonight. You get open and your teammates find you, and tonight I was able to get rewarded for that,” said Maclise who joined the Eagles late in the regular season after finishing up his Canadian collegiate career with Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta.
After fellow rookie Julien Nantel gave the Eagles an early third period lead, Maclise was able to tap home his second of the night to give Colorado a two goal cushion. Yet another rookie, Shawn St-Amant would add an empty netter as the Eagles scored five unanswered in the 6-3 win.
Colorado has now beaten the top two teams from the regular season in consecutive playoff series and will have home ice advantage against either Manchester or South Carolina in the finals. South Caroline leads the Eastern Conference Finals 3-2 with game 6 slated for Monday night.
For Geertsen, it doesn’t matter who the Eagles play in the finals.
“We just need to stick to our system. If we play our structure we can go with any team it’s what we need to do, just focus on ourselves.”
Games one and two of the ECHL Finals will be played at the BEC on Friday, May 26th at 7:05 pm MT and Sunday, May 28th at 7:30 pm MT.