The first two ‘Battle of the Birds’ took place last weekend as the teams faced off in a home and home set which saw the two clubs play each other twice in just over 24 hours. Friday’s tilt was hosted in Innisfail, and was the first road trip of the young season for your Eagles.
Game one saw the Eagles get off to a bit of a slow start, as Innisfail came out hard and were hitting everything in sight, which was the case all weekend in both games. If not for a tremendous start for Eagles starting net minder Travis Yonkman, the game could have quickly been out of reach. Innisfail got on the board early as they were able to convert on a power play marker just 4:35 into the period to get out to a one goal lead. Yonkman ended up stopping 12 of 13 shots in the frame to keep the Eagles in a one goal game.
The second period was a much better period, as the Eagles began to slowly control more of the play and began creating opportunities. Curtis Billsten was able to put one across the goal line to tie the game up just under ten minutes into the 2nd, as he sifted a backhand shot through the Innisfail net minder Dan Dunn. Before the period was over, Innisfail was able to regain the one goal lead as Clayton Goodall beat Yonkman with just 2:41 remaining in the second period.
Entering the 3rd, the Eagles were in a tough spot being down 2-1 to a solid veteran laden club, but they refused to roll over and quit. The action was fierce, back and forth, and extremely physical with either team willing to step aside and let the other take control. Both goalies were on their game and put on a display. With 5:36 to go, Innisfail seemingly put the game away as they managed to score their 3rd goal of the night to go up 3-1. As the penalties began to pile up in the final minutes, the Eagles found themselves with an opportunity to get within one goal as they were granted a power play which was ineffective, until Ryley Bennefield was able to rip home a wrister at 1:48 that beat Dunn low blocker to pull back to within one goal. Not to be outdone, Scott Aucoin was able to win a loose puck battle to the side of Dunn and jammed home the game tying goal while short-handed just 30 seconds after the Bennefield goal. Much to the shock of Innisfail and the stunned home crowd, we were headed to a 4-on-4 overtime frame to decide this one. Following an unbelievable shot block by Eagles Captain Kyle Rossiter, Branden Kosolofsky found himself and Scott Aucoin on a 2-on-1 break down the ice, Kosolofsky showed some terrific patience as he slid a feed over to Aucoin who put one through Dunn. The comeback was complete! Down two, with just over 100 seconds to play, to end up with two points was a great feat which showed the character and resolve of this season’s Eagles club.
Saturday night’s rematch saw a few lineup changes for the Eagles, as Vincenzo Marozzi made his first start in the pipes, Colten Hayes who was a member of the Allan Cup winning Bentley Generals last season made his debut in the Eagles threads as well. Other Eagles making their debuts were Dante Borrelli (member of ACAC Champions, the NAIT Ooks), and Jeremie Perron.
The hometown Eagles found themselves in an early 2-0 hole as the visitors were able to take full advantage of the opportunities that they were able to generate and carried that lead for most of the first period. Before the opening stanza was completed, with just 45 ticks on the clock Jason Lundmark was able to register his first as an Eagle as he put one through the Innisfail goalie Mark Muir, who played well all night.
As the puck dropped for the second period the Eagles looked to carry over the momentum created by the late Lundmark goal, and that is exactly what occurred. Colten Hayes registered his first as an Eagle as he was able to blast a puck through the Innisfail net minder to tie the game up at 2s. That tie was very short lived as Innisfail was able to respond just 17 seconds later, as Tyler Haarstad was able to convert a mini 3-on-1 break towards Marozzi, which restored the 3-2 Innisfail lead. That was it for the scoring in the second period, which saw the home side outshoot the visitors by a count of 14-5.
As was the case, for the 2nd night in a row the Eagles found themselves down one goal to Innisfail, and again they were able to claw back in the final period to draw even at 3s. This time it was a goal on the Eagles power play that got the game back to a 3-3 tie. A power play that had struggled for the majority of the game, until Adam Chorneyko was able to unleash a wicked half slapper that went in off the post to the right of Muir who was screened on the play. Everything was even between the two teams with 6:36 to play, we looked destined for a second consecutive night with some free hockey. Just as everyone in the building thought we were headed to OT, Innisfail had other plans as Simon Desbiens was able to capitalize on a partial breakaway following an unforced turnover at the Innisfail blue line with just 65 seconds to go in the third. Despite a last ditched surge from the home side, this one ended in a 4-3 loss for the Eagles who dropped to 2-1 on the season with a tough stretch of games upcoming.