Colorado Avalanche : Watching the Eagles & Grizzlies

The Colorado Eagles hockey team hosted the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in the first game of the President's Cup Finals in Loveland Friday night May 13, 2011. Karl Gehring/The Denver Post (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
The Colorado Eagles hockey team hosted the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs in the first game of the President's Cup Finals in Loveland Friday night May 13, 2011. Karl Gehring/The Denver Post (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images) /

The Colorado Avalanche made franchise history when all three levels of their organization made the playoffs in the same year. A roundup of how it went for the lower levels.

The Colorado Avalanche as an organisation for the first time in their history sent their top three tiers to the playoffs at the same time, this season.

This means that while most of us have been focusing our attentions on the fortunes of the Avalanche, during their trips to Calgary and San Jose, there was playoff hockey going on with Avalanche prospects at both the AHL and ECHL levels.

Having a minor league team reach the playoffs may not seem all that important, as far as this year’s playoffs are concerned. While that may be right, regarding the Grizzles, it can actually be a massive benefit to the Avalanche if they were to suffer an injury leading to a call-up for one of their younger players from the minors.

Let’s look at the top two minor league teams in the Avalanche organisation, starting with the Utah Grizzlies in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL)

Utah made the playoffs by putting up a record of 37-26-4, plus five losses in the shootout. Their 83 points was good for third in the Mountain division, behind the Tulsa Oilers (St Louis Blues) and Idaho Steelheads (Dallas Stars).

They would meet the Steelheads in a first round best-of-seven series, boasting five Avalanche / Eagles prospects on their roster: Center Josh Dickinson, wingers Ty Lewis and Travis Barron, plus D-men Josh Anderson and Kevin Davis. (Davis is only contracted to the Eagles at present)

The first game went really well, with the Grizzlies running out 7-1 winners. Dickinson (2G, 1A) and Lewis (3A) were among the scorers for the Grizzlies, as they earned first and second stars of the game, respectively.

Blowout wins are a great way to build momentum and an especially good way to get the crowd behind you in your building, or take them away in the opposition’s barn. However, someone never got the memo to the Idaho Steelheads.

Somehow, Idaho managed to run off a string of four straight overtime wins (3-2; 3-2; 5-4 and 2-1) to take the contest 4 games to 1.

As for the way that the prospects performed, Josh Anderson was the stand-out, with 3 goals, 4 assists and a plus-4 rating in five games of work. Travis Barron contributed a goal and a minus-2 rating, while Ty Lewis had three assists. Josh Anderson is not a scoring defenseman (think a better looking version of Duncan Siemens – remember him?) and he only put up a plus-1 rating, with no points.

Eagles prospect Kevin Davis had three assists and a minus-1 rating to complete the report on the organizational interest. Out of all of the prospects mentioned here, I think it is a reasonable conclusion that both Josh Dickinson and Kevin Davis have earned themselves a longer look at the AHL level with the Eagles next season.

As for Anderson, Lewis and Barron? Well, the playoffs weren’t kind to them, but with some more hard work, I am sure they can at least crack the Eagles roster, come October.

AHL – Colorado Eagles

The Colorado Eagles have been a revelation since they affiliated with the Avalanche in 2016. In three seasons in the ECHL, they won their division twice and won the Kelly Cup as ECHL champions in 2017 and 2018.

Stepping up to the AHL for this season, there were concerns that the Eagles were in for a steep learning curve, especially considering the fortunes of the Avalanche affiliates in North American Hockey’s second tier.

In 68 games played, the Eagles managed a record of 36-27-4, plus one shootout loss. This was good for fourth in the Pacific Division and a playoff berth against the division champion Bakersfield Condors, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers.

Black Aces

There are so many Avalanche affiliated players in the system, that I will focus on the “Black Aces”, whom the Avalanche could call upon at a moment’s notice to make the trip to suit up in Burgundy & Blue.

The term Black Aces apparently refers to the “Dead Man’s Hand” of Wild Bill Hickok – both black aces and both black eights, but in Hockey terms, it is the AHL players who are added to the roster, but don’t practice with the team or travel with the team.

For the Avalanche, we have AJ Greer; Dominic Toninato; Logan O’Connor; Anton Lindholm and Pavel Francouz as the five selected Black Aces of the Avalanche. I have also chosen to focus on Andrew Agozzino, due to his late season impact for the Avalanche.

Battle with Bakersfield

In game 1, Bakersfield drew first blood midway through the first period and left the Eagles on the back foot. Exchanging tallies in the second, the Eagles managed to tie things for a second time in the third period, before Bakersfield scored the game winner about 45 seconds later.

AJ Greer managed two assists to gain third star honours, but the Eagles fell 3-2.

Game two started off much better, with Julien Nantel scoring from Cody Bass for a first period lead and Andrew Agozzino scoring a shorthanded tally to double that lead through two periods. Bakersfield got one back early in the third, but Agozzino restored the two goal cushion with eight minutes left on the clock and he completed his hat trick with an empty net tally.

More from Mile High Sticking

Pavel Francouz turned away 29 of 30 shots for his first career AHL playoff win. The series was tied at 1-1, as the best-of five series headed to Bakersfield.

Game 3 started horribly, as Colorado allowed seventeen shots on Francouz to start the encounter. Heroically, the Czech netminder turned aside 16 of those shots, keeping the score at 1-0 condors through the first 20 minutes.

Sadly, the second period turned out worse. Bakersfield scored twice before Lindholm scored his first marker of the series from Mark Alt and Toninato. Then the Condors added two more scores, before Sheldon Dries scored a consolation tally, via Nicolas Meloche. Through 41 shots faced, Francouz did manage to turn aside 36 of them. Now trailing the series and facing elimination, the Eagles needed to regroup for game 4.

The Eagles came out ready to play in the fourth game. There were no goals through the first period and, while trailing 9-12 in shots, this ratio was much better than game 3, when they trailed 17-1 on the shot counter after 20 minutes.

Bakersfield would take the lead early in the second, but Avalanche 2018 First Round draft pick, Martin Kaut scored the game tying goal and then with time winding down in the second, Shane Bowers fed Kaut for his second, closing the second period out with a 2-1 lead. AJ Greer also assisted on the play.

The Condors tied the score shortly after the second intermission and sadly, the Avalanche organisation were once again snakebitten by a former player. Brad Malone assisted on the go-ahead goal, scored one of his own two minutes later and added a third assist in the final minute.

The Eagle’s first forray into the AHL playoffs resulted in a 4 game loss. There are things to build on, and things that looked very positive for the Avalanche’s top minor league outfit.

AJ Greer managed 3 assists, Toninato 2 assists and Lindholm 1 goal during the series. Logan O’Connor was held off the scoresheet. As for Pavel Francouz, he managed to stop 111 of 124 shots faced for a .895 Save percentage and a 3.31 GAA. For a first year goalie in North America, that looks good and I would like to see him re-sign with the organisation next term.


First and foremost, getting experience of playoff hockey for the younger members of the organisation is a must. In this arena, they are becoming accustomed to the increased level of intensity that playoff hockey brings and they are seeing first-hand what adjustments need to be made to play in the postseason at any level.

Secondly, with the Avalanche still in the playoffs, they have 9 players listed as healthy scratches – Greer, Toninato, O’Connor, Lindholm and Francouz, plus Sven Andrighetto, Ryan Graves, Mark Barberio and the now-fit Vladislav Kamenev. That is a good roster to be pulling from to fill gaps.

Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see someone like AJ Greer or Dominic Toninato getting the nod to start in Game 7, but that is playoffs plus-plus-plus-plus, so I’m not in favour of letting either player make their playoff debut in San Jose on Wednesday. Not unless there is an injury, of course.

In the playoffs, it is important to have depth, in case your first choice players go down injured. Because our five AHL players were playing postseason hockey until 10 days ago, they would have been ready to step into the series with San Jose in a somewhat prepared state.

dark. Next. Greer's 1st NHL Goal

Even if they aren’t playing playoff hockey this season, there are chances that they will make more of an impact next season and they could find themselves pressed into action in Burgundy & Blue in the 2020 postseason. That’s a long way off, so we can focus on that in time for next season, I think.