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Makar scores in NHL debut in Game 3 for Avalanche after whirlwind weekend

Played in NCAA championship Saturday before joining Colorado for series against Flames

by Rick Sadowski / Correspondent

DENVER -- Cale Makar concluded a whirlwind weekend by scoring on his first shot in his NHL debut for the Colorado Avalanche in a 6-2 win against the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round.

The 20-year-old defenseman, who was selected by the Avalanche with the No. 4 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, finished the game with two shots and two blocks in 14:19 of ice time.

"I thought I played OK," said Makar, a Calgary native who grew up cheering for the Flames. "You've got to definitely adjust to the altitude here, but there's a lot of improvements I can make and a lot of systematic things I can work on as well."


[RELATED: Complete Flames vs. Avalanche series coverage]


The Avalanche lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is at Colorado on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, ALT).

Makar's first-period goal, which turned out to be the winner, was scored with his parents, Gary and Laura Makar, in attendance.

"It's going to be special (seeing them)," he said. "I'm glad they were able to make it. They were on a pretty hectic travel schedule for the past few days."

So was he. 

Cale's goal at 10:47 p.m. ET -- 16:02 of the first period -- gave the Avalanche a 3-0 lead and capped a wild 72 hours since winning the Hobey Baker Award as the top men's player in the NCAA as a sophomore for the University of Massachusetts at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday in Buffalo.

Video: CGY@COL, Gm3: Makar scores in NHL debut

The following day, Makar and UMass played in the NCAA championship game, losing 3-0 to the University of Minnesota Duluth.

After the game, Makar signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Avalanche.

He was scheduled to fly to Denver from Buffalo on Sunday with a connecting flight in Newark, N.J., but his parents wound up driving him to Toronto, from where he took a direct flight after a 90-minute wait in customs. He landed in Denver at 8 p.m. ET and took part in the morning skate Monday.

Finally, at 10:17 p.m., he stepped onto the Pepsi Center ice for his first NHL shift, wearing No. 8.

"It was pretty weird, special," Makar said. "It's a cool moment. You've been working your whole life for this. It was pretty exciting. The nerves kind of went away after the first period, but it was fun."

Thirty minutes later, with the Avalanche leading 2-0, Makar received a drop pass from Nathan MacKinnon and skated down the right slot before scoring five-hole on Flames goalie Mike Smith.

"[MacKinnon] made a really good drop pass there and honestly, I just tried to get it inside the (defense) and try to slip one on net and hope for the rebound," Makar said. "Fortunately, it went in."

Video: Makar caps three-day run with goal in Avs' Game 3 win

MacKinnon was impressed.

"It was awesome," he said. "You can just tell his skill. He didn't just get it and shoot it or panic and give it back to me. He stopped it on his backhand, dropped his shoulder. I think he probably looked around to see if anyone was back door and then snapped it five-hole.

"I heard him too, he was calling for it. First game ever and he's screaming at me. That's great. You want a player to be aggressive, assertive, and I was really impressed by that."

Gary Makar called it a "surreal, pinch me moment all wrapped into one."

He and Laura Makar had flown from Buffalo back home to Calgary on Sunday night, not knowing for sure if Cale would be in the lineup for Game 3. They found out at noon ET on Monday and the Avalanche booked their flight to Denver. They arrived at Pepsi Center five minutes before the game started.

"It's insane, couldn't be more excited," Gary Makar said. "You just shake your head. The crowd, every time he gets the puck, he's just a kid."

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