The Colorado Eagles, the ECHL affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche and the San Antonio Rampage, are off and running in the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Rampage fans should be familiar with many of the faces that laced them up for Colorado, who finished with the ECHL’s third-best regular season (47-20-2-3). Former Rampage players Jackson Houck (F, 15-16), Julien Nantel (F, 16-17), Shawn St. Amant (F, 16-17), Alex Belzile (F, 15-17), Mason Geertsen (D, 15-17), Sergei Boikov (D, 15-17), Sam Jardine (D, 16-17), and Kent Simpson (G, 16-17) all spent time with the Eagles this season.
Colorado opened the 2017 postseason with a first-round series against the Idaho Steelheads, which began on April 14. Colorado dropped the series opener 4-2 to Idaho, before ripping off four consecutive victories – three of which came on the road – to win the series 4-1.
The series-defining moment for the Eagles came in an unforgettable rally in the final 2:28 of regulation in Game 4, when Colorado erased a three-goal deficit to force extra time. Riding their wave of momentum, the Eagles landed the game-winning goal just 41 seconds into the overtime period, courtesy of Belzile. He finished the game with two goals, three assists and the Second Star of the Game. After stealing Game 4, Colorado finished the series the next day with a decisive 6-3 victory over the Steelheads.
With Round 1 behind them, Colorado shifted their focus to Round 2 against the Allen Americans (49-17-4-2), who finished the season on a 15-0-1-0 run to earn the second highest points (104) in the ECHL this season.
Despite sweeping the Americans in their two regular-season games, the Eagles were in for a tough matchup against the hottest team in the ECHL. But that didn’t stop the Rampage affiliate as they traveled to the Lone Star State for the opening two contests of the second round. Colorado capped off the weekend with two statement wins, defeating Allen 4-1 and 5-2 to take a commanding 2-0 lead and home-ice advantage. The Eagles will return to the Budweiser Event Center for a three-game homestand, beginning tonight at 8:05 CT.
Playing pivotal roles in the Eagles playoff success are former Rampage forwards Alex Belzile and Julien Nantel. As a seventh-round (#204) draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2014, Nantel has provided an offensive boost to the Eagles’ lineup. He has tallied three goals, two assists, and a +3 plus-minus rating in Colorado’s seven playoff appearances.
Along with Nantel’s production, Belzile has taken the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs by storm, recording eight goals and six assists in seven appearances. Playoff success isn’t something new for the Saint-Éloi, Que. native, who helped lead the 2015-16 Fort Wayne Komets to the Western Conference Finals with six goals and 10 assists. His production in the ECHL continues to climb at a steady pace, and is highlighted by the fact that Belzile sits atop the ECHL playoff leaderboard in points, goals, and power-play goals (3). He also holds the longest goal-scoring streak this postseason with eight goals in six games, while tying teammate Matt Register for the highest points (5) in a single game this postseason.