After a hard-fought weekend, the Colorado Eagles will be playing in the Kelly Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. Colorado held a 2-1 series lead heading into the weekend’s games, before outlasting the Toledo Walleye 5-4 in triple overtime in Game 4 and scoring five unanswered goals in Game 5 to claim a 6-3 victory and the Taylor Trophy as Western Conference champions.
The Eagles await their next opponent, as they will meet the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Manchester Monarchs and South Carolina Stingrays. Former Rampage skaters Joe Devin and Cody Corbett look to help the Stingrays – who currently hold a 3-2 series lead – capture the Gingher Trophy as Eastern Conference champions tonight in Game 6 at Manchester.
Friday’s contest went back and forth between the Walleye and Eagles. Neither team was able to build off of any momentum until Toledo’s Zach Nastasiuk put the Walleye up 4-3 shortly after Toledo tied the game earlier in the third period.
The Eagles recorded 16 shots in the first period, but struggled to get the pucks on net until A.J. Jenks committed an interference penalty at 17:05. Colorado took advantage of its power play 46 seconds later when Casey Pierro-Zabotel found the back of the net on a redirected shot.
Pierro-Zabotel’s tally forced the game into overtime, where both teams combined for 18 shots in the opening frame. Toledo’s Jake Paterson and Colorado’s Lukas Hafner stood strong between the pipes for their respective teams, holding their opponents scoreless for the first two periods of overtime.
The Eagles landed the game-winning goal early in the third overtime when Matt Garbowsky went top shelf on Paterson at 3:07 to secure a 5-4 victory in front of the home crowd.
After a 103-minute game, both teams returned to the Budweiser Events Center the next day for Game 5, but this game would be a different story. Colorado found themselves in an early hole, down 3-1 after the first 28:01 of regulation. But the Eagles found a spark in former Rampage forward Alex Belzile, who leads the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs with 14 goals and 24 points in 14 games. Belzile redirected a shot past Paterson at 10:47 of the second period, putting the Eagles within one with roughly 29 minutes of hockey remaining.
Belzile’s second-period goal shifted the momentum of the game and sparked the Eagles roster into scoring five unanswered goals – three of which came off the stick of Rampage Alums – to defeat the Toledo Walleye 6-3 and advance to the Kelly Cup Finals. Former Rampage goaltender Kent Simpson made the start in net for the Eagles, shutting out the Walleye in the final 31:59 of regulation and securing his second series-clinching victory of the 2017 Kelly Cup Playoffs.
Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals is set for Friday, May 26th at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado.