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Eagles Take 2-0 Lead In Kelly Cup Finals

Series shifts to South Carolina after Colorado wins twice at home

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

LOVELAND, Colo.--The Colorado Eagles took care of business on home ice in the Kelly Cup Finals.

Shawn St-Amant scored midway through the third period and the Eagles defeated the South Carolina Stingrays 3-2 in Game 2 of the ECHL championship series on Sunday night at the Budweiser Events Center.

Colorado is up 2-0 in the best-of-seven matchup and is now two victories away from its first league title since winning the Central Hockey League in 2007.

"It was a tough game. We talked before the game that we had to take a lead, 2-0, so we did our job," said Colorado Avalanche prospect Sergei Boikov, an Eagles defenseman.

After squandering three power-play chances in the second period that could have extended Colorado's lead from 2-1, the Eagles were finally able to take advantage in the third as St-Amant tallied his fifth goal of the playoffs with 9:51 remaining.

From behind the goal line, Casey Pierro-Zabotel found St-Amant with space in the slot and the 20-year-old from Terrebone, Quebec, found twine on his ensuing wrist shot.

Tweet from @ECHL: Shawn St-Amant with the PP goal and the BEC is rockin as @ColoradoEagles lead @SCStingrays 3-2 with less than 10 minutes to go in Game 2

St-Amant split time this past year between the Eagles and the Avalanche's American Hockey League affiliate in San Antonio. He dressed in 28 outings with the Rampage.

After dropping Game 1 in double overtime on Friday night, the Stingrays came out with a strong first period. Though Colorado had a 12-8 shot advantage after 20 minutes, South Carolina had more attempts, 24-14, and led 1-0.

Steven McParland opened the scoring for the Stingrays four minutes into the stanza as he picked up his own rebound off a deflection and potted the puck short side past Eagles goaltender Lukas Hafner.

Colorado responded with a better second frame and recorded a pair goals in a matter of 1:03 early in the stanza.

"This is our rink, and we know how to play here. We play hard, we don't get outworked here, and that's what we did," Avs prospect Mason Geertsen said of the team's mindset after being down 1-0.

Boikov and fellow prospect Julien Nantel had the assists on Matt Garbowsky's power-play tally that knotted the game 1-1 at 3:34. Boikov fired the puck from the high slot, and Garbowsky deflected it past South Carolina goalie Parker Milner while positioning himself in front of the crease.

"After the first period, we talked to the guys that we had to be more intense and put pucks on the net because it worked out last game," Boikov said. "We tried to do what we can, and it worked."

Sean Zimmerman then scored his second of the postseason at 4:27 of the middle frame to put the Eagles ahead for the first time in the contest.

Tweet from @ECHL: Two quick goals from Matt Garbowsky & Sean Zimmerman and the @ColoradoEagles have a 2-1 lead over @SCStingrays #KellyCupFinals

That's when Colorado had a prime chance to take full control of the game with three more power plays in the period, including a 5-on-3 for 1:12, but it couldn't convert.

Those missed opportunities came back to hurt the club as Steve Weinstein tied the outing for the Stingrays during a scramble in front of the net with 51.8 seconds left in the period.

But the Eagles stuck with their game plan and scored the game-winner soon after receiving their first and only power play in the third.

"If you get enough chances on the power play, you're going to eventually score," Geertsen said. "It was just a matter of time before everything clicked. I guess it came at the right time."

Colorado finished 2-for-5 on the man advantage while holding South Carolina scoreless on its four opportunities.

In a schedule quirk, the two clubs will now have a full week off. The next three contests take place in North Charleston, South Carolina. Game 3 is Sunday, June 4.

It will be key for Colorado to try and continue the momentum it has built from being up 2-0 in the series, but it won't be easy with six days between contests.

Staying focused is nothing new for the team as the Eagles had six days between the end of their Western Conference Finals win over Toledo and the start of the Kelly Cup Finals just last week.

"The thing that is going to be really important is the practices, not being too slow in practice and just play like a game," Nantel said. "I think last week, we did a good job with that with two hard practices, and I think we're going to have the same thing this week."

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