(WINDSOR, CO) – Colorado’s Joey Ratelle ripped off a goal, an assist, and two fighting majors for a Gordie Howe Hat Trick, and Sam Brittain stopped all but one of 20 shots on goal, pacing the defending champion Eagles to a 4-1 win over the Rapid City Rush on Friday night.
Joey Ratelle claimed the only goal of the first period to afford the defending champs a 1-0 lead after one period of play. With 6:19 left in the first period, Ratelle scored on the second Eagles power play of the game when he took a Gabriel Verpaelst pass from the far faceoff circle and zipped a wrist shot by Rush net-minder Adam Vay to give Colorado their 1-0 lead (Verpaelst and Jake Marchment assisted).
Despite a valiant second period effort offensively, the Rush failed to break the goal line of Eagles goaltender Sam Brittain, and the Eagles rode that momentum to an additional two tallies. With 5:33 played in the second, Gage Ausmus fired a wrist shot through traffic from the far wall of the Rush zone, and it eluded a screened Vay to double the Eagles lead to 2-0 (Joey Ratelle and Collin Bowman assisted). With 4:09 left in the period, Ben Storm entered the Rush zone over the blue line and dropped the puck back to Ryan Harrison, who flung a wrist shot over Vay’s glove to give the Eagles a 3-0 lead (Storm and Emil Romig assited). The third goal prompted the substitution of Vay for a second night, and this time it was Christian Frey replacing him in net for the duration of the period. Frey stopped all 3 shots he saw in relief in the second frame.
Matt Garbowsky added a fourth for the defending champs in the final five minutes of the game to expand the lead by four. With 4:33 left in the game, Garbowsky took a Michael Joly pass from the far corner of the Rush third in the high slot, and rifled a shot over Frey’s glove to make it a 4-0 advantage (Joly and Drayson Bowman assisted). Rush special teams spoiled the bid for Brittain’s shutout with 2:20 left in the game, as Marcus Ortiz slipped a sharp-angle attempt by Brittain to bring the game to its 4-1 final tally in Eagles’ favor (Andrew Miller and Josh Elmes assisted). At the end of the game, a number of skirmishes broke out, setting the table for the final matchup tomorrow night.
Adam Vay stopped 25 of 28 in 35:51 of work, suffering the loss (3-4-0). Christian Frey relieved him for the final 24:09 of the contest and stopped 8 of 9 shots.
Both teams will rematch tomorrow at the Budweiser Events Center, with puck drop slated for 7:05 p.m. MST.