Gabriel Verpaelst Leads Colorado Comeback, Eagles Up 3-0
For the third straight game, the Wichita Thunder found themselves on top, taking a 2-0 lead early in the second period, but the Colorado Eagles would respond with four unanswered goals to win Game 3 of their first round Kelly Cup matchup, 4-2. Gabriel Verpaelst led the comeback with a goal and assist in the second period and Matt Grabowsky had the game-winner, putting the Eagles a game away from sweeping the Thunder.
After neither team was able to get on the board in the first, the Thunder would score two goals within the span of 16 seconds to have their first two goal lead of the playoffs. At 5:55 of the frame and with Wichita on the power-play, Lane Bauer passed the puck to Jeremy Beaudry, who was up high in the slot near the blue line. The defenseman blasted the one-timer that sailed by Joe Cannata and in for his first goal of the series.
The Thunder went back on the offensive, winning the faceoff and quickly entering the Eagles end. Etienne Boutet fired a shot that the Colorado goalie saved, but Ralph Cuddemi put the rebound in for his first goal of the playoffs and the Wichita Thunder were quickly ahead 2-0.
In true Colorado Eagles fashion, the team responded a little over two minutes later to pull within one. Travis Barron passed the puck to Gabriel Verpaelst who was in the circle to the right of Thunder goalie Shane Starrett. Verpaelst fired a wrist shot that beat Starrett to make it 2-1.
With a little less than four minutes left in the period, Colorado would tie the score. Verpaelst sent Ryan Olsen in on a breakaway. He made a nice move to the left of Starrett, but the Thunder goalie made a great leg save to keep the puck out of the net. Unfortunately, no one accounted for Ryan Harrison following the play, who put the rebound in for his first of the playoffs.
It would stay tied heading into the third, when the Colorado Eagles would take the lead at 14:24 of the period. Michael Joly got the rush going when he blocked a shot at his own blue line. He then gained control, passing the puck ahead to his teammate. Garbowsky was hounded by Thunder defenseman Guillaume Lepine as he entered the Thunder end. He fired a shot that Starrett saved, but Lepine pushed the Eagles forward into his own goalie and the puck carried in to give Colorado the lead.
With a little over a minute left in the game, the Thunder pulled their goalie, but J.C. Beaudin would put in the empty net goal seconds after Starrett was pulled and the Colorado Eagles were victorious 4-2. That gives the team a 3-0 lead, with a chance to sweep Friday night.
The Wichita power-play was dreadful, going 0-6, including recording just three shots on a four-minute man advantage in the third. J.C. Beaudin and Gabriel Verpaelst each had a goal and an assist for Colorado. Lane Bauer and Ralph Cuddemi also each had a goal and an assist for the Wichita Thunder.
Featured Image by Ed Bailey
By Robert Pannier