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By: JP Puma
Aces Spoil Eagles 10th Home-Opener With Six Special Teams Goals
LOVELAND, Colo. - The Colorado Eagles fell to the Alaska Aces, 6-3, as the ECHL opened its 25th season and the Eagles opened their 10th. The Aces -- last season's regular season champions who came to town with three NHL-caliber players on their roster -- scored all of their goals on special teams, with four coming in the final frame as they came from behind to top the Eagles in the first of back-to-back games between the clubs.
The teams skated to a scoreless first frame, with shots being nearly as equal, as the Aces held an 11-10 edge. Kyle Jones was strong in net for Colorado, highlighted by a save 14 minutes in, in which he had to move right to left to make a save with his leg pad. James Reid was his equal at the opposite end of the ice.
The stalemate broke in the second period, starting with Tommy Mele converting a one-timer from the slot on an Alaska power play at 8:12. The Eagles countered just over two minutes later, though, when Joey Sides snapped a shot home from the right circle.
And just 39 seconds later, Colorado took the lead when Chad Costello -- the league's reigning MVP -- set up a pinching Aaron Schneekloth -- the league's reigning Defenseman of the Year -- on a beautiful play through the slot.
Fifteen minutes into the second stanza, Jones made another exceptional save when he got a piece of a Mele shot with his glove while sprawled out on his stomach, robbing the Aces' forward of a bid for his second goal in the period.
But at 16:24, Alaska knotted the game back up with their second power-play goal of the frame. The play started deep in their own end where Reid sent a great lead pass to Mele, who sent a cross-slot pass to William Wrenn.
Colorado countered just over two minutes later once again when Kyle Hood threw the puck toward the crease from the right point where rookie Norm Ezekiel stuffed it home from the paint for his first pro goal. That goal sent the Eagles into the second intermission with a 3-2 lead.
Alaska pulled away in the third when their special teams really went on display, helping them out-shoot the Eagles 12-4 in the frame. Garry Nunn knocked home the game-tying goal at 5:55 of the period to account for the Aces' third power-play marker of the game.
Then at 7:31, their penalty-killers got into the act when Nick Mazzolini punched home his own rebound for a short-handed goal that would end up being the game-winner. Alaska added two more power-play goals, at 11:40 (Corey Syvret) and 15:59 (Joey Crabb), to put the game away.