Away we go!

Driving through the fog this morning up I-25, the only thing I could think to myself was ‘Yep, this is hockey weather.” Of course, by mid-afternoon it had approached 80 degrees and all I wanted to do was go enjoy another sunny summer-like day, but I digress.

The Colorado Eagles are back in business, as of 10 this morning.

There was a nice crowd out to see the first day of training camp, though the guys on the ice all kind of blended together as is typical. The only thing different than the usual practice might have been my 9-month-old boy catching a glimpse of the sport for the first time (pretty sure he loved it).

Some quick notes:
True to his word, Chad Costello was skating full the first day of camp, and he looked pretty darn good. He said he felt good other than maybe feeling a bit more like an old man, that the thing he had to get used to was taking longer to warm up.
— Costello was skating with Jack Combs (no surprise there) and newcomer Trent Daavettila (imagine that line?) in blue; The whites included Riley Nelson, Michael Forney and Gabe Gauthier; donning yellow were Kyle Ostrow, Jason Visser and Dylan Hood; reds were returners Adam Chorneyko, Jordan Baker and Teegan Moore.
— Dylan’s brother, Kyle, was taking defensive reps. It sounds like he will begin the year as a straight up D-man and then if the Eagles need a swing guy he is very capable of that role.
— With his 21st birthday coming up on Oct. 12, goalie Adam Brown is the youngest member of the team (a few months younger than defenseman Collin Bowman), and it sounds like a large group decision was made to bring him to Eagles camp over St. John’s. Brown is the son of Vancouver Canucks assistant coach Newell Brown, and it sounds like he was involved in the decision just a bit. Could be an interesting story.
— There are eight rookies in camp, two of them goalies with Brown and Aaron Dell. That’s the first time since I’ve been on the beat where there haven’t been at least two goalies with significant pro experience. But as the ECHL played out last year, some of the best goalies were rooks; I think the Eagles noticed that, too.

More tomorrow.


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The Penner Era is over in Colorado.

For the first time in three years, there won’t be a player with the surname Penner on the roster, as Andrew retired and Alex signed with the Cincinnati Cyclones today. It’ll be interesting to see who becomes the sheriff on the ice for Colorado this season (Jason Beatty, Kyle Hood, Jason Visser?).

While we know a couple of guys who are not going to be around anymore (Steve Haddon, Kyle Peto, Liam Huculak, Tommy Maxwell among others), there are some still unsigned players who one can assume will be back. I am banking on hearing the signings of Riley Nelson and Aaron Schneekloth any day now. I don’t think Kevin Ulanskiwill be back, but then again he didn’t come back until the season started last year, either. I suppose you just never know.

In talking withChris Stewartyesterday, it sounds like he has one more guy he’s honing in on — another DU player.

Meanwhile, I got a tip that the Eagles might be getting on of the ECHL’s leading scorers, Trent Daavettila, who played for Kalamazoo the last three years. While I could not confirm this with Stewart, I think you’ll want to get familiar with him. If indeed he is an Eagle, that’s another 80-plus point scorer in the stable.



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Roster slowly taking shape

It looks as though the Colorado Eagles are bringing back several of the notable rookies who ended up on the playoff roster last year, and indeed there will be some young guns around camp come October.

The signing of Chad Costello is the only one that the club has officially announced, but a few more guys have inked if you are to believe the Twitterverse. Most recently, as in about two hours ago, Isaac Smeltzer (@issacsmeltzer) tweeted out that he had signed with the team, and Kyle Jones (@kyjo29) also offered his congrats.

It also appears that Jordan Baker and Teegan Moore will be back. That comes from from Darryl Wolski, who on Twitter list himself as a hockey agent (is it safe to assume Moore and Baker are a couple of his clients? I think so).




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Chad Costello is scheduled to have surgery to repair his knee on April 10. Maybe today’s news will help brace him for that a little bit better and motivate him for next season.

Costello was named the ECHL’s Most Valuable Player today after finishing way ahead of the field in points per game (1.62), with his 76 points good for fourth overall in the league when things were said and done.

Dustin Gazley, who already had won the Rookie of the Year award and had been named ECHL All-Rookie and All-ECHL first team, finished second.

I voted for Costello and not through Eagles-colored glasses. The points-per-game thing was huge for me, and I also like goal-scorers for MVP. Among the top five scorers this year Costello had the most balanced stats in the time that he played. Costello’s plus-minus rating of 21 also was incredible, so that factored into my final say.

I thought highly of Eric Lampe, the top goal-scorer, but Costello had more points in fewer games — that, and one-third of Lampe’s points came against one team. That team just happened to be Colorado.

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Aliu, how do you do?

When Akim Aliu was traded out of the Winnipeg Jets organization, I admit I immediately lost track of him. He did little to impress in his 10 games with the Eagles, and his track record seemed to indicate he was pretty much stuck.

Well, apparently he worked to impress the Calgary Flames organization, because on Thursday night, he played 10 minutes, had an assist and was assessed a roughing penalty in the Flames’ 3-2 win over Vancouver. He becomes the second Eagles player to have appeared in the NHL after his time with the Eagles, joining Tyler Weiman.

That’s a pretty good debut for a guy who has played over 150 AHL games without a sniff of the Big League and had a minus-13 rating with Abbotsford this season.

You wonder how many guys have recorded any points in their NHL debut over the years. I’m sure the list includes Hall of Famers and one-hit wonders alike, but it’s still a pretty impressive accomplishment.



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Ol’ Reliable does it again

It seemed like all season, the rest of the ECHL was catching up to veteran Aaron Schneekloth, with only teammate Jon Landry giving him a run for his money in terms of goals and points from a defenseman.

Well, no one ever did come close, and that’s a big chunk of the reason why Schneekloth was named the ECHL’s Defenseman of the Year on Wednesday. He is the 12th different player to win it in the last 12 years, but it his the third time he has won the award with two others coming in his Central Hockey League days.

Schneekloth won the award by getting the most votes for defenseman on the ECHL First-Team, and the league will run the Goaltender award in the same manner.

Bryan Miller of Alaska finished second. Schneekloth’s 20 goals was six more than anyone else in the league (Chicago’s Scott Wietecha had 14), and his 62 points were 12 ahead of David Fischer of Florida.

He also led D-men in power-play points and shots tallied and tied for the lead in game-winning goals.


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Playoffs, here we come … some of us, anyway

The Colorado Eagles made the jaunt from Las Vegas to Stockton safely, and the way it sounds they were able to get in a good hard practice in today in preparation for tomorrow’s Game 1 at the Stockton Arena.

The weekend wasn’t easy for Chris Stewart, who had to make decisions for a playoff roster by this afternoon. The biggest news concerning that is the addition of Damien Ketlo and the omission of Andrew Penner from the playoff roster.

Penner has been a great player and a great influence in the dressing room, make no mistake. But I can’t say that I am entirely surprised about the move. Granted, he did have quite a nice run last year during the postseason in the Central Hockey League, but Ketlo has proven in three games that he can back Kyle Jones very effectively.

I can’t say for sure, but I would imagine Ketlo’s Saturday performance against Las Vegas weighed heavily in the final decision.

Adam Chorneyko was also left off the playoff roster, but the Eagles did sign a defenseman by the name of Brennan Yadlowski. Yadlowski was playing for former Eagle Chris Hartsburg with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, and Stewart said he is a steady, shutdown defenseman much like a Jason Beatty or Ben Chiarot. He does, however, bring with him a minus-16 rating this season, so we’ll see….

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Kudos to Ketlo

Damien Ketlo passed up the opportunity to start last Saturday night for the Colorado Eagles against the Utah Grizzlies. He hadn’t practiced in a week, he said Tuesday night, and the comfort level just was not there without a few sessions of work in.

Well, consider him relaxed now. The 21-year-old netminder really stole the show on Tuesday, stopping all 27 shots he faced in his professional debut as the Eagles put together a 3-0 win over the Ontario Reign. Again, this was not Ketlo’s Eagles debut; it was his pro debut.

That’s two great opening acts in the last week, with Teegan Moore notching a goal in his first pro game just a week ago against Bakersfield. Safe to say the amateurs, with Isaac Smeltzer and Jordan Baker included, are making decisions harder for head coach Chris Stewart.

The Eagles continue to be an up-and-down team, but from what Stewart says the chemistry in the room seems to be a positive as the Eagles make that transformation from a first-season-in-the-ECHL regular season team to a hopefully-contending-for-the-Kelly-Cup playoff team.

If they can back up Tuesday’s win with a nice finish against the Reign and then maybe win one or two in Las Vegas, I’ll become a little more convinced.

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A little more on Stewie

From the emails and some comments I received lately, it seems as if people enjoyed the story on Chris Stewart and his story of how he got into coaching. I actually had fun writing it, too, and wish I would have been able to dive in a little bit more.

The piece may cost me some money because I dialed a Canadian phone number using my cell (hey, it was still 10 digits so I just wasn’t sure!), but it was worth it. Larry Mitchell, a historian who I cited in the story, sent me a fax with Stewart’s record and numbers as a player on Thursday.

People might actually be interested to know that in his final season of playing with the St. Albert Jr. Saints (1981-82), Stewie had nine goals and 34 points in 43 games. To top it off, he had 115 PIMs that season!

Not many people know that he led the Olds Grizzlys to a Centennial Cup championship in in 1994 (his team went 50-4-2 in the regular season). That actually is quite a distinguishing achievement.

Here are some other interesting numbers:
— Stewart coached the Saints from 1983-89 (missed the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons), and in four years accumulated a 108-69-7 mark.
— At Olds, he gained a record of 198-78-9 in five years (1990-1995).
— He went 84-55-16 in three seasons with Prince Albert of the WHL from 1995-98).
— He now has 449 professional wins since. That means that in regular season play, Stewart has guided his teams to 839 wins in 22-plus seasons.



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Polar opposites

Is there any better example of the way the season has gone for the Eagles than this past weekend? From one night to the next, you just don’t know what you are going to get from this squad.

Inconsistency doesn’t win 7-game playoff series, and right now the Eagles do not look like a team that will win a playoff game, let alone a series. I know that might be overstating things, but then again look at the results of the last month or so!

It’s one step forward and two steps back. A great defensive effort and great goaltending one night is followed up with battles lost, loose play in their own zone and some easy pickins around the Colorado net.

I know a lot of teams don’t win a lot of games unless they hit the “magic” three goals, but the Eagles are a stupifying 0-18-1 when they are held to two or fewer scores. Not a single win.

As defenses tighten up during the playoffs, that’s a bad, bad number going against you if you are Colorado.

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