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Colorado Eagles Win Kelly Cup

Prospects Sergei Boikov, Mason Geertsen and Julien Nantel help the Avalanche's minor-league affiliate to its first ECHL title

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

The Colorado Eagles are Kelly Cup champions.

Colorado won its first ECHL title on Monday night, defeating the South Carolina Stingrays 2-1 in Game 4 at the North Charleston Coliseum in South Carolina and completing the first four-game sweep in the Kelly Cup Finals in 15 years. Greenville was the last team to win the championship in four contests, doing so against Dayton in 2002.

It is the third title in Eagles franchise history, as they won two Ray Miron President's Cups in 2005 and 2007 while in the Central Hockey League. Colorado played its first eight years in the CHL before joining the ECHL in 2011.

The Eagles, who were in their first year of a minor-league affiliation with the Colorado Avalanche, won their final eight postseason games, tying the fourth-longest playoff winning streak in ECHL history. Despite that fact, the championship didn't come easy.

In the division finals, Colorado took down the rival Allen Americans, who had won four straight championships (two in the ECHL and two in the CHL) before defeating the ECHL regular-season champion Toledo Walleye in the conference finals. Even in the first round against the Idaho Steelheads, the Eagles dropped Game 1 at home and needed goals late in the third period and in overtime in the second contest to prevent going to Boise for the next three trailing 0-2 in the series.

Colorado also played plenty of close games that needed extra time, but the club never faltered. The Eagles were a perfect 6-0 in overtime during the postseason, which set a new ECHL record for wins that go beyond regulation in a single Kelly Cup playoff.

In Game 4 on Monday, all the scoring occurred during nearly a four-minute span at the end of the first and the beginning of the second periods. Casey Pierro-Zabotel netted the first goal of the night on the power play with 2:50 remaining in the opening stanza, but the Stingrays tied the contest 35 seconds later on Derek Arnold's tally.

The 1-1 stalemate was broken 1:19 into the middle frame as Luke Salazar buried what ended up being the game-winning goal as the Eagles held on for the championship.

Holding on might not be the right word to describe how the Eagles played in the final contest as they were playing anything but passive hockey. Colorado outshot South Carolina 44-26 in the game, including by a 37-16 margin after two periods.

The Eagles' Matt Register was named playoff MVP, becoming the first defenseman to win the award in the league's 29 years. He was named the ECHL Defenseman of the Year during the regular season.

Shawn St-Amant, who played 28 games with the San Antonio Rampage this past campaign, led Colorado in scoring during the final series with five points (one goal and four assists).

The Avalanche had three prospects on the Eagles' roster during the playoff run, and the championship marks the first for defenseman Sergei Boikov and the second for defenseman Mason Geertsen and forward Julien Nantel in recent years. Geertsen helped the Edmonton Oil Kings win the Western Hockey League in 2011, while Nantel won a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title in 2016 with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. 

Boikov, who was in his first professional season, finished third among Eagles defensemen in scoring during the ECHL playoffs with 10 points (three goals and seven assists) in 18 games. During the regular season, he contributed 16 points (three goals and 13 assists) in 63 outings with San Antonio and two points (goal and an assist) in seven contests with the Eagles.

Geertsen led Colorado with 42 penalty minutes during the postseason while also picking up four points (goal and three assists) in 19 games. He had five assists in nine contests with the Eagles and four assists in 36 outings with the Rampage during the regular season.

Nantel finished fourth on Colorado in playoff scoring with 16 points (eight goals and eight assists) and second in game-winning goals (three) after 20 games. During his first pro campaign, he had two tallies in five regular-season games with the Eagles and had five goals and three assists in 59 contests with San Antonio.

The Eagles will hold a free championship party at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

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