LOVELAND, CO — A strong opening period laid the foundation for a tight contest as the Colorado Eagles were able to hold off the visiting Rapid City Rush for a 5-4 victory at home Friday night.
The goal lamps would light up the night in the opening frame as the teams combined for seven tallies in the first twenty minutes of action. Starting things off was Teigan Zahn fired a shot from the slot just 34 seconds into the game that went by Rush netminder Steve Michalek for the early 1-0 advantage. Rapid City countered just over two minutes later when Dante Salituro, who was making his Rush debut, deflected a shot from Rush veteran Riley Weselowski past Eagles netminder Sam Brittain at 2:45 to knot the game at 1-1. The back-and-forth contest continued as the Eagles regained the lead with help from their special teams. Michael Joly would put the Eagles back on top on Colorado’s first powerplay opportunity of the night, sending a line drive shot by Michalek at 6:14 of the opening frame. Colorado extended their lead on their next powerplay opportunity, scoring just over three minutes later, when Matt Register pocketed his fourth goal of the season at 9:17 taking a blast from the blue line and putting the Eagles up 3-1. The Rush would battle back, though, when Marcus Ortiz took the feed from Alex Guptill and went top shelf at 11:56 and cutting the Eagles lead in half. Both teams would trade off a couple late goals to close out the opening frame with Joey Ratelle snagging the loose puck on the Rush blue line and scored short-handed at 18:24. Rapid City responded just seconds after their powerplay expired when Anthony Collins deflected a rebound for the goal at 18:44 and sent both teams into the locker room with Colorado holding a slim 4-3 advantage.
The scoring calmed down the rest of the night, but the opportunities were there for both teams. The lone goal in the middle frame came from Shawn St-Amant at 4:43 fired a shot from the far faceoff circle to give Colorado a 5-3 lead.
The Rush made things interesting in the final frame when Kenton Miller scored his third goal of the season, and his 200th career point, at 11:14 and pulled the Rush within striking distance. Despite pulling Michalek in the final two minutes of regulation Rapid City was not able to get the equalizer with Colorado holding on to win 5-4.
Sam Brittain is credited with the win stopping 28-of-32 shots on the night while Steven Michalek suffers the loss stopping 23-of-28 shots.
Both teams will travel to Rapid City for the rematch and conclusion of this weekend series. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:05 pm MT at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.