True Grit. Yes, that is the title to a popular John Wayne movie, but it is also what the Colorado Eagles showed on Wednesday night. The Eagles looked dead to rights. But that’s why hockey has 3 periods. After trailing 3-0 after the first, Colorado mounted an improbable comeback to win 6-5. A lot of the fans headed for the exits when Bakersfield held a 2-goal lead late in the third. Little did those fans know they would make a very poor decision.
Early on, it seemed as if there would be no way that Colorado would even have a chance in the game, only mustering 2 shots on goal in the opening period. Trailing in the game 3-0, the air in the arena seemed to vanish. Bakersfield’s Austin Block got the scoring started four minutes into the contest. He also assisted on the Condors other two goals in the opening period, one by Nick Pageau and the other by Jordan Kremyr. Kremyr’s goal, his 13th on the season, was on the power play.
The Eagles came out to play in the second period. Chris Duszynski’s 7th goal of the season cut the lead to 3-1, burying a rebound on a shot from Jordan Kwas. Greg Gardner brought the Eagles to within one with his 11th goal of the year at 9:36 of the 2nd period.
The third period started much like the first, with visiting Bakersfield dominating the early part. Goals at :33 and 1:25 stretched the Condors lead back to 3 goals at 5-2. Colorado got it right back to a 2-goal deficit when a strange line change from Bakersfield allowed Eagles captain Trent Daavetilla to beat Tuohimaa glove side at 4:51. The Eagles kept the pressure on the Condors’ defense and at 14:36 of the 3rd, Jordan Kwas put home a rebound to pull the score to the slimmest of margins, 5-4. His goal also gave him the Gordie Howe hat trick, which occurs when a player scores a goal, has an assist, and gets a fighting penalty in the same game.
The crowd was alive and well and the Eagles seemed to feed off of the energy that the near-sellout crowd was giving them. Colorado tied it at 5 when Chris Knowlton fired a wrist shot from the slot that was a result of incredible puck movement and patience.
Daavetilla was called for tripping at :43 seconds of overtime, giving Bakersfield their 7th power play of the night. Although Colorado goalie Aaron Crandall wasn’t at his best on the night he sure brought his A-game in the extra period, stopping a flurry of shots from the lethal Condor power play, which went 2-7, far greater than their season percentage of just over 16%.
The Eagles killed the penalty and once again, the building erupted in appreciation for the hard-working Eagles. Shortly after the power play ended, Pavlovs received a pass at the point and ripped a slapper past Tuphimaa and the comeback was complete. The Eagles improved to 6-0 in overtime games and brought themselves within six points of the conference-leading Allen Americans. Idaho’s 7-2 beating of lowly Stockton kept the Eagles one point behind the Steelheads for the top spot in the Pacific Division. The Bakersfield Condors got a point for the overtime loss but trail Tulsa by six points for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The two teams clash again on Friday night.
By Luke Price