LOVELAND, CO – In a clash of ECHL Mountain Division titans, it was the defending league champion Colorado Eagles who proved they belonged perched on top.
Riding the momentum of three first-period goals, Colorado never trailed in a fast-paced game featuring the best two teams in the Western Conference. Wichita came into the game trailing the Eagles by just a single point.
The 4-3 Eagles victory give them seven wins in a row, a record of 9-0-1 in their last 10, and have earned points in 12 straight games. They trail league-leading Florida by two points for first place in the entire ECHL.
Colorado was led by captain Matt Garbowsky‘s goal and an assist, equaled by linemate Drayson Bowman. Defenseman Matt Register had two assists and leads all ECHL defenseman with 26 points.
The Thunder got off to a slow start and could never take the lead even after coming back from the early 3-0 deficit. A goal by Thunder forward Steven Iacobellis late in the first period cut the Eagles lead to 3-1, then a sharp-angle goal midway through the second period by Greg Chase as he squeezed one past Eagles netminder Sam Brittain sent the teams to the locker rooms at 3-2 after two. Wichita clawed all the way back to tie the game early in the third on a beautiful shot by forward Travis Ewanyk.
Enter gritty, diminutive Eagles forward Joey Ratelle for some late-game heroics with under six minutes left in regulation.
“I applied the forecheck and their defenseman didn’t see me coming,” said the generously listed 5’10 forward. “I just took the puck away from him, was patient and went around the goalie and put it in the net. Applying the forecheck is part of my DNA, I like to finish my hits and tonight I was rewarded for it.”
Eagles coach Aaron Schneekloth loves Ratelle’s game and what he brings to the ice.
“You see the player he’s grown in to, playing with confidence, really embracing his role on this team and it’s great to see him get rewarded for it. Not only on the scoresheet, but he’s out there last minute, no stick, blocking shots, playing with grit.”
Colorado will look to extend their winning and points streaks as they head out on the road for three games in three nights this weekend. The Eagles play six of their next eight away from the Budweiser Events Center, including in Tulsa on Friday, and in Kansas City on Saturday and Sunday.
- Wichita did something most teams haven’t been able to do this season: they kept high scoring forward Michael Joly from putting one into the net. Joly leads the ECHL in goal scoring with 19 goals in 22 games. He did have an assist on Garbowsky’s first-period tally.
- Joly leads Colorado in scoring with 28 points. Register and Bowman each have 26.
- The Eagles as a team lead the ECHL in goal scoring with 104 goals for.
- While the two teams are division foes, they only play each other 4 times in the regular season.
- Colorado welcomed defenseman Nicolas Meloche into the lineup for his first game with the team after being assigned by the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage.
- Wichita continues their five-game road trip with two games in Idaho against the Steelheads on Friday and Saturday. They are 0-3 on the road trip thus far.